With Labor Day approaching, we initially planned to take advantage of our first long weekend in DC to go hiking in Shenandoah National Park. Given the 100-degree heat this past week, however, we’ve thought better of it. Hiking, as we discovered to our chagrin a couple of months ago, is not Munchkin’s strong suit anyway.
After our hike in the Sawtooth Wilderness, which proved a little more hardcore than perhaps was advisable, we enjoyed a rest day in Sun Valley. It was the Fourth of July – a rare opportunity to celebrate this most American of holidays on American soil, only the third time we have been able to do so (out of eight potential Independence Day celebrations) since D joined the State Department.
While the Grand Tetons get top billing, we found Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains not only every bit as spectacular, but also much more sparsely frequented. Whereas the Tetons were swarming with visitors, we did not see more than a couple dozen people on the trail in the Sawtooth Wilderness. Our first hike there – a five-mile ascent to the Wilderness’ eponymous lake – proved the most memorable of our home leave adventures.
Since returning home from Kigali, we had been in a state of limbo. Naturally, we took advantage of D’s home leave to go exploring out west, but S was forced to cut her travels short, returning to DC for the start of her Foreign Service Orientation. The opaqueness of the assignments process and the temporary lodging she took up in Virginia while D stayed out west only served to further underscore the sense of suspense and uncertainty. Should we settle in and get comfortable? Or would DC serve as but a brief stopover before our next overseas destination? Until Flag Day, it was impossible to tell.
The most highly anticipated day of S’s training came and went in a flash of nervous apprehension and high-energy excitement. With parents, spouses, children, and friends crowded into a big auditorium at the Foreign Service Institute, the entire Flag Day ceremony lasted barely half an hour. A few speeches were made, which were greeted alternatively with big cheers and nervous titters. Then the first flag flashed on the big screen, and the rest of the ceremony raced by in an exuberant blur.
Flag Day – the exhilarating, nerve-wrecking, and slightly ridiculous ceremony in which new Foreign Service Officers’ first assignments are revealed – is almost upon us. On Friday S will learn her fate along with that of her 81 classmates, and we will start laying the groundwork for our next overseas move. Assignments are typically finalized a couple of weeks ahead of Flag Day, making the wait for the grand reveal all the more excruciating. Yet compared to the long, tortuous path leading up to this moment, the next five days will last little more than the blink of an eye.
Given the upheaval of the last few months – the move from Kigali, the jet lag-plagued road trip out West, a stint in a temporary apartment in Virginia, and another move, this time to a more permanent abode in the District – it comes as no surprise that our kids’ clinginess level has spiked.