City living

This week is a pretty big deal for us.  A lot is happening: some of our best friends are moving to Arkansas, our floors are getting refinished, I become fully vested on Friday (which sounds like I get to wear a full-body vest, which would be awesome/interesting), and Friday is Flag Day (!!!).

On Sunday we moved all the little things in our house into the basement and the upstairs bathroom (I had no idea it was possible to fit so. much. stuff. into a bathroom) so that the flooring contractor could move the big furniture on Monday and get started on the floors. That afternoon we headed to Nate’s parents condo in Old Town, where we are staying this week.  It’s like a mini-vacation!  There’s cable, restaurants and shops in walking distance, and beautiful parks along the waterfront.

Athena isn’t used to city living.  She’s used sniffing around the yard, basking in the sun, rolling in the grass and chasing squirrels. That said, she’s adapting really well.  She stands by the door and stares at us when she needs to go outside, and she knows which door to enter when go into the condo building.  Interestingly, she knows which door is her’s in a directional sense, but  not spatially: she knows it’s the first door on the left, but doesn’t understand that she needs to keep going up the steps because it is on the third floor.  Every time we pass that first door on the left she stops and sits.

She’s been very enthusiastic about her new digs, and when she’s tired she plops down on her dog bed with her blanket.  She’s not used to hearing noise coming from the hallway, or the living space next door, so she barks and looks at us for reassurance.  We quietly tell her “no” and she’s figuring out she doesn’t need to bark and that she can just relax.  Apartment living with a 45 lb energetic dog isn’t ideal, but we make it work.  If Athena approaches each new post with as much excitement and adaptability as she’s shown over the past few days (and every other time we’ve taken her to stay someplace new), she won’t have any problems adjusting to life as a Foreign Service puppy!

Waiting sucks

I didn’t even know it was possible for time to go by this slowly.  I now understand why most blogs tend to taper off during A-100: after you submit your bid list, it’s all you can think about, and waiting for Flag Day is the pits, but most people probably don’t want to read like five posts on you day dreaming about getting sent to one of your highs, especially since, OMG, you already handed in the stupid list, and whatever happens happens so get over it already.

Anyways, Nate is at a class retreat in West Virginia, and I’m not really sure what that entails.  I’m imagining a ropes course, trust falls, grilling hot-dogs over a campfire, and bunk beds in log cabins.

I’m traveling to North Carolina for a work training this afternoon.  I’m staying at a hotel by the airport, and if there’s anything I’ve learned over my years of traveling, it’s that there’s never anything fun near the hotels by the airport.

Other than that, not much is happening.  Athena saw me come down the steps with my suitcase in hand, and she started running around, wagging her tail.  She probably thinks we’re going to Canada again, poor girl.  She got her most recent BarkBox in the mail last Friday, which was a momentous occasion for her.  This was a particularly good box: 4 different kinds of treats and a squeaky toy!


Signed, sealed, and emailed

Guess what we did today?!

We submitted our bid list!

Thank God.  I’m glad it’s over.  It’s out of our hands now, and whatever happens, happens.

We had 12 days to rank all the posts high, medium, or low, and towards the end I was ready to just be done with it.  It’s an exciting, fun, overwhelming, and sometimes disappointing process (“Did you know such-and-such-a-place has a some-large-number day dog quarantine, during which time the vet can do whatever it wants to your dog, including euthanizing it, and they don’t even need your authorization?!”).

There are dreams of perfect posts, expectations you hope will be met, and wonderings about how you’d cope with a low post.  You talk about your bid list with other FSOs and their EFMs, careful not to talk up a post too much because maybe then they’ll bid it high too (which sounds terrible and evil, I know).  You worry you spend too much time talking about The List with your non-FSO friends and that they’re getting tired of hearing about it.

Well, what’s done is done, and now the waiting game continues.  But at least I don’t feel like I need to be doing more post research in the mean-time.

On joining the Foreign Service

Last week I had lunch with a friend I haven’t seen in several months, and I mentioned that Nate joined the Foreign Service.  She gave a knowing laugh and said, “Nate didn’t join the Foreign Service– you both joined the Foreign Service.”

I’m coming to realize how true this is.  It’s also a little frustrating, and difficult to put into words.

We both (well, ideally both of us) are going to go live where ever the State Dept decides we should go.  We both will be packing our belongings, uprooting our lives, leaving friends and family, and starting a new life someplace else.  And this is going to happen every 2 years or so for the foreseeable future.  It’s going to be exciting, challenging, fun, and also a little frustrating.

The thing is, while we both are living this lifestyle, very much together, Nate is the one who’s an FSO.  I am an EFM, “Nate’s wife,” or, even worse, a trailing spouse.  But that is not me.  I feel like my identity is getting lost in the shuffle.

At the FSI and during A-100, they do a good job of including EFMs.  There are EFM trainings, we are invited to happy hours and social events, I was included in Nate’s meeting with the Career Development Officer, and we even get some happy hours that are specifically for us.  There seems to be a strong understanding of the fact that us EFMs are important in our own right, and without our support the whole moving-around-the-world-every-2-years thing wouldn’t happen.  But even so, it’s like we’re support staff for the main act.

Initially I was excited by the idea that I might not be able to work full time, depending on our post.  It would give me an opportunity to focus on photography or to tackle all those kitchen projects I’ve been dying to try but haven’t had the time (like making croissants and bagels).  Now I’m worried that won’t be enough.

I don’t want to lose myself to the grandiosity of the FSO, because we are both in the Foreign Service.  We are doing this together.



The what-do-you-mean-we-only-get-one-I-want-15 list…

… also known as the the I-could-definitely-handle-living-there-for-2-years list, the It-will-never-be-as-bad-as-Peace-Corps list, or the Our-low-picks-ban-pits list.

Any of those descriptors sum up our bid list.  There are so many really, really awesome posts (some of which we bid high because when you see something like that how can you *not* bid it high? And then others that we didn’t bid high because they ban certain dog breeds) and it’s overwhelming thinking that we will get just one of them.  I mean, obviously we can’t have all our top choices, but what if some of these amazing posts never show up on a bid list again?  I would be really sad if I never had a chance to live in some of these countries.

For instance, one top choice is in a tropical area where we would have a house (with a yard!  You know we love yards!), and maybe even fruit trees, and I would have employment opportunities.  But if we got that post we wouldn’t be able to go hiking in the mountains on the weekends, and the climate would be hot all the time.  If we got the post near the mountains then we would only get produce that is seasonal and winters could be crappy.

Are there any places with a USA embassy or consulate that are on an ocean/major body of water, have mountains close by, local tropical produce and temperate climate all year long, we would live in a single-family home, is relatively safe and dog-friendly,  and have no major air pollution, and good travel opportunities?

I can’t think of any.

How to pick?

We just got Nate’s bid list, which is the list of all the potential places we could be sent.  There are lots of people in the class, so there are lots of places on the list.  It’s a little overwhelming.

We can’t share exactly what’s on the list, so I won’t go into specifics.  However, I will say this: there are very few places on the list that would truly suck.  Some would be downright awesome, and others would be interesting (in a “that’s interesting…” way).  Our major deciding factors are safety and whether or not we could bring Athena, who is a mutt of unspecified geneology.

Ultimately where we (or Nate) go will be determined by the State Department’s needs.  He is, after all, worldwide available.  Maybe this whole process is just a way of convincing ourselves that we have more say in the location of our first post than we actually do.  Who knows?  We won’t find out until August 1, which can’t get here soon enough!