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.
Posts tagged ‘training’
Azure, still waters of an alpine lake, shimmering under the glare of the noontime sun, cold as the snow-melt that feeds it. The craggy contour of jagged mountains, dappled in snow, ringed by evergreens. The flutter of a bird-wing and its owner’s clarion song — nature’s calling cards, beckoning us toward adventure. These are the mementos from our home leave road trip this past summer, and the images that fill our imagination in planning our next sojourn out West over the winter holidays.
Growing up, there is no question that the winter holidays were our favorite: Hanukkah for S, New Year’s for D. Sweets, festive decorations, and lots of presents – it’s easy to win a kid’s heart over with these. Now that we have children of our own, we’ve come to appreciate other holidays a lot more. Any holiday that gives us a three-day weekend is to be celebrated, but the ones, like this past Veterans Day, when we get the day off from work while schools remain open feel particularly valuable. Of the holidays we miss being stateside the most, Thanksgiving tops the list: there is simply no substitute for family and home-cooked, traditional meals when one is serving overseas.
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.
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.
One of the more memorable modules from D’s orientation training half a dozen years ago was called “composure under fire.” The exercise consisted of a barrage of difficult questions regarding U.S. foreign policy in a particular country; the goal was to maintain one’s cool while avoiding saying anything that might make front-page news in a less-than-friendly publication.
Today marks one month since we left the United States, tomorrow – a month since we arrived in Rwanda. It’s hard to believe how fast the days have flown by, but in the grand scheme of things one month is a relatively short period of time – and it is certainly a woefully inadequate time to evaluate whether we like Kigali enough to extend our tour here. And yet, that is precisely the decision we have to make in the coming weeks.
When does the inevitable become truly real? At what point does the near future undeniably intrude on the present and color every moment leading up to its imminent arrival? When did our move to Rwanda morph from being the next chapter in our Foreign Service career, which could be compartmentalized and vaguely ignored, to a fact of life as undeniable as an onrushing Mack truck?
If you’ve read D’s previous tribute to sports superstition and the pain of fandom, then you’ll understand why there is currently so much relief and jubilation in our household.