It starts with the departure of friends and colleagues. Although the bulk of the turnover won’t take place until the summer, a few positions rotate earlier, and this season’s farewell parties have already started cropping up. We tried to put off thinking about our own forthcoming departure from Kigali until after our return from South Africa. Now with only about four months left in our Rwanda tour, moving anxiety is beginning to grip our household.
In one sense – and one sense only – this transition will be easier than our previous Foreign Service moves. After seven years in the FS, this will be D’s first domestic assignment, which means not only that we will be transitioning to a familiar location, but also that we’ll have our friends and family near. These are both important positives, but in pretty much every other sense this move will be considerably more challenging than our previous ones.
Unlike the UN, for example, which requires its staff to find their own housing, the State Department does a great job of smoothing its employees’ transitions overseas. Not only is our housing provided for while we serve abroad, but it is also pre-arranged prior to our arrival at post. Transitioning to a domestic assignment, on the other hand, we are on our own.
We do not own a place in the DC area and have spent very little time there, so the myriad housing decisions are already testing our nerve. Should we rent or buy? And where? How bad will the commute be and where will Munchkin go to school? The DC housing market is not for the faint of heart, and the uncertainty of S’s employment situation only adds one more stress-inducing variable to the mix. S has been doing a ton of research on housing and school options, but it feels like solving an equation in which there are too many unknowns.
Our dog is attuned to our stress levels and tends to grow anxious when she sees us pulling out suitcases and packing boxes. As we are still several months from the big move and have not physically started packing, she is still clueless about the impending upheaval in her comfortable living circumstances. The same cannot be said for Munchkin. This will be his third big move, but the first one of which he will be fully aware. He has overheard us talking about moving back to the States, and our conversations clearly have alarmed him.
Munchkin knows that “our brown house” is not really ours and that there will be another Embassy family who will occupy it after we leave. But that knowledge appears of little comfort when he contemplates the implications of the move and the friends he’ll have to leave behind. He even told us a few times that he won’t go with us if we move: “I’ll stay here in Kah-gali with Katie (our housekeeper).” As stressful as the pre-move preparations are for us, this transition is likely to be the most traumatic for the little man, who, we are beginning to realize, is not so little anymore.