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a life in pieces

There are many ways in which the Foreign Service career turns life into a study in contrasts, the opportunity to immerse oneself in disparate cultures the world over being the most obvious. One of the things we find most challenging – and necessary now that we have two kids – is maintaining structure in the face of the great unknown that always lurks a year or two beyond our current assignment.

At this juncture, we know very little about what our life will look like when we land in the Philippines next summer, but at least we know where we will be for the next three years. After summer 2021, our future becomes as unknowable as the deepest reaches of a black hole. Will we be in Cairo or Kathmandu, in Cape Town or Canberra? Wherever we get assigned next, the challenge will remain the same: impose order on the myriad moving pieces of our life as quickly as possible.

Three months have now elapsed since we departed Rwanda, two since we moved into our current residence and set about trying to establish structure and develop new routines, with D starting a new job, S in long-term training, Munchkin in a new school, and Junebug with an assortment of caretakers that have made her adjustment the hardest of all. Our parents helped out a lot as we got settled, but ultimately we needed to find a childcare arrangement for the long haul, which proved far from simple.

The last time we were in DC for long-term training, we were fortunate to get a spot for Munchkin – who at that point was a few months older than Junebug is now – at the Foreign Service Institute daycare. He shed quite a few tears the first couple of weeks until he got used to his new surroundings and fell in love with daycare.

Junebug was not so lucky. There are no open spots at the FSI daycare until February, and all of the neighborhood daycares S approached were similarly full. A private nanny seemed financially out of the question, and while we’re not here long enough to arrange an au pair, we are definitely here too long for our parents to take on the burden. So we explored nanny share options.

We had a couple false starts before we happened on a family that lives a few blocks away and has similarly-aged kids. That arrangement also nearly fell through – not only was Junebug utterly distraught at being left with a total stranger, but she was also suffering from an ear infection we were late to catch. The combination made her completely miserable – and miserable to be around. “I can’t do this,” the nanny told us before we convinced her to give our child a second chance. Junebug still cries every time D drops her off, but we think we’ve turned a corner and seem to be moving in a positive direction.

The crazy thing is that in terms of the runaround we’ve undertaken to get settled, these last two months feel like two years, and yet here we are already sneaking peaks at the horizon of our DC stay less than nine months away despite not fully completing our current move. We have yet to receive our household effects, for example, which survived the long journey from Kigali a month ago, but got inexplicably entangled in bureaucratic red tape on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

At this rate, we’ll be packing our bags for Manila by the time we feel fully settled in Washington.

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