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.
Posts from the ‘Foreign Service’ Category
As a general rule, we avoid political, sensitive, and potentially divisive subjects in this blog. We write about our travels, our kids, and life in the Foreign Service while steering clear of the polemics of local politics and the issues we work on overseas. Despite spending some of our Foreign Service careers in Washington, we also try to ignore Washington intrigue and rarely discuss American politics. That said, it would be intellectually dishonest to continue posting about our goings-on without writing about the ongoing government shutdown, which is now in its 24th day and has come to be a prominent feature of our careers and our lives.
“A moment of silence, please/
for those who never get the chance.
They show up to the party/
but they’re never asked to dance.”
It’s funny, this quality that certain songs possess of burrowing into the subconscious and then surfacing on a moment’s notice when their lyrics come in perfect harmony with our lives, as if they had been written for us or about us. Songs of love and loss are the most obvious examples, given the universality of these human experiences, but there are other, more off-beat matches when a song’s lyrics mysteriously fit and the totality of the music expresses one’s emotions much more perfectly than words alone ever could. The song playing on repeat in D’s mind these days is Streetlight Manifesto’s “A Moment of Silence” — a loser anthem that cuts to the core of D’s current job search frustrations despite being written about something else entirely. Read more
Yesterday was handshake day: the end of two months of nerve-wrecking lobbying for those Foreign Service Officers who received onward assignments and the beginning of the second round of stressful scrambling for those who did not. D knew well in advance of the formal announcements that he would be without a handshake, a first in his FS tenure that significantly raises the likelihood that next summer he will have a career but no job to go with it.
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.
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.
Now that we have settled into DC, the time has come to let the cat out of the bag. Our big news – which has been several years in the making – is that S also joined the State Department. She started training several weeks ago and will get sworn in along with the newest crop of America’s diplomats next month.
After one final morning in the office – to pay bills, tie up a dozen logistical loose ends, and formally hand over to his successor – D walked the 45 minutes home from the Embassy, something he had been meaning to do but never quite found the time or energy for. He got a bit of the typical mzungu treatment – an exuberant shopkeeper offered passport photos, a handful of kids recited “give-a me money” in heavily accented English, several passing moto-taxis honked to offer a ride – but mostly D was left alone with his thoughts as he soaked in the sights and smells of Kigali one last time.