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 ‘thoughts’
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.
Self-help books, mindfulness blogs, and mental health articles abound with exhortations to live in the moment and advice on how to make the most of each day. Aside from the clichés of squeezing every drop of joy out of each unique experience we accumulate when serving overseas, being able to focus on the present while relentlessly planning for the future is a requisite skill for the Foreign Service. Considering how often we relocate, the temptation is always there to cast our sights toward the next assignment, the next move, or the next country – to envision the possibilities and continuously stress about the unknown. Without a firm grip on the present one can easily descend into madness.
June is just around the corner, marking the end of D’s first Washington assignment and the beginning of S’s first tour as a Foreign Service Officer. The last eleven months represent the longest stretch of time we have spent Stateside since embarking on this whirlwind Foreign Service adventure eight years ago. It feels as if we have just settled into a good groove in the District, but this chapter is almost over, and the next adventure – in the Philippines – beckons.
7:12p.m. Giggles and tears. Junebug, who has recently learned to use the potty, darts out of the bathroom in which she and Munchkin had just enclosed themselves. Her own pants around her ankles, she is clutching a bundle of clothes, which are soon revealed to be Munchkin’s. “Give me back my pants,” he whines from the bathroom doorway, undecided as to whether he should run after her or go back to the toilet. She scampers away and he gives chase, wresting away his shorts and underwear after a brief tussle that ends with Junebug crying at the injustice of having her scheme foiled. We watch helplessly – S because she is torn between trying to help Munchkin recover his clothing on the one hand and protecting Junebug on the other, and D because he is doubled over with laughter.
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.
We are not yet at the point of measuring our own elderliness by our kids’ ages, but those days are not far off. Junebug reset the clock for us, so we can still think of ourselves as “young parents” for a few more years by virtue of having young children. Meanwhile Munchkin turned five last month – an age that straddles the little between early childhood and the self-sufficient realm of school-age big kids.
We only spent ten days away from our kids. It’s not much, but in the life of a toddler ten days is a lot. Junebug seemed a lot more grown up when we returned, and over the course of the subsequent weeks she has developed so many new mannerisms that we hardly recognize the girl we left at home with nana in mid-December at the start of our Southwest holiday road trip.
Somewhere between the haphazard backpacking days of our youth and the meticulously planned vacations our parents favor lies the perfect balance of trip planning. Showing up in a new town without pre-arranged lodging or definite plans and only a vague timeline for departure still seems conceptually exciting but is no longer practical, especially when we travel with two little rugrats in tow. After years of travel we’ve learned to throw together a pretty good trip at the last minute with only minimal research — an approach that is not without drawbacks.
A friend of ours is fond of saying that there is no such thing as cold weather; rather, the problem lies in poor clothing choices. Junebug, for one, disagrees with this sentiment. It does not matter how warmly we dress her or how much we play up the fun to be had with fresh powdery snow. The last few months she got her first taste of a proper winter – with snow and temperatures in the teens during our Thanksgiving trip to Maine and a snowstorm in DC this weekend. To say that she did not enjoy her exposure to the frosty weather would be an understatement.