somewhere in the between
Excitement tends to be the most common emotion people ascribe to us when they hear that we’re headed to the Philippines for our next Foreign Service assignment. Nervousness comes in at a distant second. “You’re moving to Manila? That’s so exciting!” “Are you excited? You must be so excited!” We fielded similar queries from friends, relatives, and total strangers prior to departing for our first tour in Kenya, and again ahead of the move to Moldova, and also in the run-up to our assignment in Rwanda.
These questions have less to do with the destinations, of course, than with the oft-held assumption that with each move we are embarking on yet another thrilling overseas adventure. To be fair, we feel very fortunate to have been assigned to each of these countries and have enjoyed every posting. That said, excitement is too one-dimensional a mindset to describe the complex mix of emotions that accompany each move abroad, which also encompasses everything from the sadness of separation from loved ones to the anxiety of starting a new job.
Nothing in the Foreign Service happens without a set of travel orders – an official document that spells out in detail each mandatory element and authorized expense associated with an overseas posting. It is, in fact, one of the more appropriately titled elements of our bureaucracy, because while the first word connotes fun and excitement, the second underscores that each time we relocate it is at the behest of our government. We relish the opportunity to explore new countries and cultures – it is why we signed up for this career – but this shouldn’t obscure the fact that we are not masters of our own destinies nor the fact that each adventure comes with a side of hardship.
Are we excited to spend two years in the Philippines? Of course. Do we feel excited at this very moment? Not quite. Rather, our thoughts and feelings are completely jumbled, as often happens when one chapter of our lives closes while the next has yet to begin. D finished his first DC assignment on Tuesday, S wrapped up training the previous week, and we have just spent the last three days packing up our belongings. And now we are truly in the between – living out of suitcases in a mostly empty house, trying to unwind after a stressful sprint to the finish line of our DC tour while helping our kids keep their big emotions at bay.