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another countdown

Time may fly when one is having fun, but it also refuses to stand still when life feels too busy to handle. The last month has rushed by in a blur or work, last-minute language study, hockey, concerts, friends, kids’ play dates, soccer practice, and ordinary humdrum days during which the mere act of getting the kids fed and to bed sapped our energy reserves completely. We had planned to put together a 100-day countdown post, but that marker passed weeks ago. We now have less than 75 days left Stateside before our next move.

Such is the nature of the Foreign Service lifestyle – no sooner do we put down roots and begin feeling settled than the time comes to start focusing on our next move. We have been making small preparations – getting new passports, applying for visas, obtaining travel orders, updating medical clearances, and scheduling vaccinations. Now that S has completed language training and has proved her competence in Tagalog to the State Department’s satisfaction, our impending departure date has acquired a feeling of definitiveness it had previously lacked.

And while S has yearned for months to put language training behind her, the rest of us have settled down into pleasant routines. On a colleague’s suggestion, D has laced up his hockey skates for the first time in fifteen years and now plays hockey in two late-night rec leagues. Junebug, who spent weeks crying inconsolably every time we dropped her off at her nanny-share, now loves her nanny so much that she cries when S tries to take her home.

Munchkin, meanwhile, has established himself as the alpha male in his class, according to his teachers. He is not the biggest kid in his class, but he is the oldest, and in pre-K age matters, apparently. “Every day I have to comfort another kid at playtime,” Munchkin’s teacher confided to D during a recent parent-teacher conference. Munchkin directs play and, since he is in a super-hero phase, he instructs other kids to be bad guys while he and his best friends reprise the super-hero roles. “ ‘But I don’t want to be a bad guy,’ they’ll come crying to me, so I tell them to go play with another kid…‘But I want to play with him,’ they retort – there is no winning,” the teacher sighed.

The Foreign Service has its own internal timeline that is also making itself felt. The cut-off for the annual evaluation period coincides with tax day, April 15. And while business still goes on as usual, the flurry of internal activity tends to die down in proportion to the calendar’s proximity to this date, as supervisors and rank-and-file employees alike dedicate increasing amounts of time and energy to the evaluations.

Because moving during the school holidays is less disruptive to family life than moving in the middle of the school year, most FSOs gravitate toward the summer transfer window, and a wave of senioritis washes over the bureaucracy. After evaluations are complete, the real pre-departure prep begins in earnest, as more and more FSOs mentally check out from their current jobs and cast their sights toward their onward posts. We’re not quite there yet, but we will be soon.

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