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t-minus 21 days

We’re down to three weeks, and while our transfer and home leave plans are still a bit up in the air, it is no longer possible to duck the rapidly approaching reality of our imminent departure from Rwanda.

There are several theories on how best to approach a Foreign Service move given that the State Department provides packers and transports all of our household effects. The minimalist school argues that one should just let the packers do their job and get out of the way. We are closer to the other side of the spectrum, doing a ton of sorting and pre-packing, and keeping a careful log of what goes in which box – an approach that served us well when we wound up spending five months of our Moldova tour in temporary housing.

Compared to the preparations for our previous moves, we’re quite a ways behind the curve. For one, D only got his travel orders authorized a week ago, which is cutting it close, even by State Department standards. They had been sitting with the budget office for several months and it took multiple weeks of emails and phone calls for D to finally dislodge them. After calling half a dozen different people, D finally got through to someone who took all of 45 seconds to complete the final step, affixing the missing approval while D was on the phone.

Without travel orders we could not pack out our belongings, book airplane tickets, or reserve cargo space to fly our dog back home. So even though all concerned parties had approved D’s departure date and transfer timing in March, we still spent months stuck in bureaucratic limbo, awaiting funding authorization. The relief of finally receiving our travel orders was therefore tinged with a modest dose of frustration at the governmental inefficiencies that plague our lives.

The closer FSOs are to their departure date, the more they tend to let their carefully managed diplomatic veneer drop and allow the frustrations accumulated over years spent in a foreign country to show through. We see it in ourselves, and we notice it in our friends and colleagues who are departing soon too. This year, D has opted to channel his negative energy into preparing for our move, decompressing every evening by turning up the stereo and doing some light packing. Every box packed feels one step closer to home.

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