After trying and failing to secure a position in Manila to align with S’s directed assignment to the Philippines, D moved on to Plan B – searching for a Washington-based job that he could perform remotely, known as a DETO in Foreign Service parlance. Just a couple of weeks into the search, it became abundantly clear that securing a DETO would be an uphill battle. After six months in which D spent about as much time and energy on the job search as on performing his actual job, he began to think of DETOs as the State Department’s unicorns – rumored to exist but impossible to find and pin down.
Posts tagged ‘diplomacy’
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.
“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.
It seems only natural that, having met on the backpacker circuit in Ecuador, we would spend our life together indulging our joint passion for globetrotting. Although we have now been to 31 countries together (not counting the ones we have both visited, but separately), we have also traveled individually at times – S with her parents when D was unable to get away from work, D on various work trips to several countries well off the typical tourist circuit. This has enabled us to keep up a friendly, although admittedly one-sided, competition (D keeps meticulous lists; S has lost track of the number of countries she has visited).
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.
Despite moving to DC in July, we’ve written very little about our time thus far in the nation’s capital. It’s not for lack of things to write about either. On the contrary, we’ve been so busy that sometimes sitting down with a book in the evening feels like a guilty pleasure because of how much there is to research and take care of. From purchasing a car to arranging childcare, finding new doctors, and adjusting our finances, it’s taken a lot of adulting to get us settled in our new home.
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.