Bidmania ends!

I just sent in my bid list to my CDO and now its all up to karma, I guess.  I’ve felt kind of like Forrest Gump in this whole process, just being myself and things have worked out splendidly.  Even if I don’t get my most desired post, I’ve got a good strategy in place that should produce something relatively in line with expectations, regardless.  I’ll be happy no matter where I end up, and there’s no guarantee that your first selection is going to be roses and candy.

It was an interesting process, really.  I found out today that I’m off language probation, so I’m free from that issue in the near term.  Language is still going to be a big consideration for me in the future and I’ll likely learn Chinese, maybe Spanish/Portugese eventually.  But for now, I’m hoping for a non-language, early departure post.

Initially in the process I went through and eliminated all the posts that I was simply ineligible for simply due to the language requirements and the timing of the post. There’s no way I’m going to learn (Spanish/ Portugese/ German/ Dutch/ Russian/ Chinese/ InsertRandomLanguage here) by the summer. After that, I was extremely flexible, ready and willing to go anywhere.

I broached the subject of a possible hardship post with the Emminent Wife and we began to consider the implications of extending our family separation (NOTE: this is not a legal or marital separation, it’s just the term used when FSO live apart from their families) through the first post.  The more the Emminent Wife thought about it, the more she realized that while it entailed significant hardship heartache, it had some significant benefits for the Emminent Child and her continued cultural development.

Once we leave Japan entirely, she’ll be out of the Japanese cultural system probably for good. Even if we get posted back there, she’ll most likely attend an international school.  Two more years of elementary school would really go a long way for building a solid core and foundation in a cultural sense that is more likely to persevere. It would be great for her to still have that Japanese sense of self that she could tap into in the future, but if they moved out now, it’s unlikely to be but a whisper and a memory in a deep cultural sense.

Although this request represented essentially my worst case scenario and the one situation I’d sought to avoid at all costs, when the EW makes up her mind, fighting her on it only makes it worse.  I trust her enough that I don’t think she did this deliberately. As much as you try to think things through, you can’t really make a real decision until you actually have it in front of you. We felt it when I got the invitation letter and it changed the moving calculation as well.

So yeah, it’s pretty crappy that I’m going to be living alone for the next two years with occasional visit from the two Emminences, hopefully it works out as we’re envisioning it.

Now that’s a pretty huge diversion from the topic at hand though, which is bidding strategy.  As I started to say, I was super flexible, almost to a fault, and this change of perspective really helped me to focus my plan. I formulated a strategy based around in-cone positions at posts with a high hardship differential.  This gets me into the main work I’ll be doing for my career early on and forces me to take my consular tour in the second round.  But if I get posted to a place with a high differential, I’ll get to choose my second post a little bit before others, giving me a slight advantage in choosing a place ideally suited for the reunited family. As additional frosting on the cake, consular positions typically work more regular hours so I’ll be around a little bit more, perhaps, or at least with more reliability and predictability than a political position.  That’s the theory at least.

So now its just a matter of waiting about 3 more weeks.  Hopefully I’m leaving almost immediately thereafter for a hardship post in my cone, but it’s essential I keep in mind the still very real possibility I might spend the next 10 months studying Chinese in D.C.

More words to live by

I think these would make a good mission statement for this blog:

I have no doubt that I often speak of things which are better treated by the masters of the craft, and with more truth. This is simply a trail of my natural faculties, and not of my acquired ones.  If anyone catches me in ignorance, he will score no triumph over me, since I can hardly be answerable to another for my reasonings, when I am not answerable for them to myself, and am never satisfied with them…. These are my fancies, in which I make no attempt to convey information about things, only about myself.  I may have some objective knowledge one day, or may perhaps have had it in the past when I happened to light on passages the explained things.  But I have forgotten it all; for though I am a man of some reading, I am one who retains nothing.

Words to live by

No prudent man dared to be too certain of exactly who he was or what he was about; everyone had to be prepared to become someone else.  To be ready for such perilous transmigrations was to become an American.

Seems like a pretty good motto for where I’m at and where I’m going (not to mention for getting me here).

And thus ends the first week!

This last week has been one of the best ones of my life. I think I’ve successfully met almost everyone in the class. I think I know everyone’s name and there might be a couple whom I’ve only been able to get a basic “Hey, what’s up?” to. It’s hard with a group this big, but it’s exciting. The entire group is amazing and I often catch myself wondering when the Foreign Service is going to realize what an imposter I am and yank me back into civilian life. Truly, one of the greatest rewards of this job is knowing that I’ve been judged as deserving of working with the incredible people around me.

It’s pretty popular to bash the government for waste, inefficiency, and bureaucracy and much of it is deserved. But let me tell you that the Foreign Service is is a professional and high quality as it gets. A-100 is an orientation, not a training session, and the amount of content they get into us is intense. There isn’t a wasted moment in the day and while there is a lot of info, learning about how to function as an employee, learning about the history and structure of the Department of State, getting some introductory information on the rules, roles, and responsibilities of the jobs we’ll be taking in a few short weeks, it’s accessible, efficient, and extremely enjoyable.

The Foreign Service is a pretty small department, just a few thousand officers scattered throughout the world. Considering the shared interests that we have, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that one of the people who is running the orientation is a friend of mine from graduate school or that one of my classmates is a long-time buddy of a guy I met through political blogging. Still, one can’t help but be a little amazed at the small-world connections you discover.

The highlight of the week of course was getting our bid list. 94 different jobs on every continent (well, none in Antarctica, alas). We’ve got 2 weeks to run through them and rank them before submitting them to the magic box which will produce an assignment in 4 weeks time. Huzzah! The best advice we got was to “Hope for the best, expect something from the middle, and prepare for the worst”. I don’t know how others are planning their bid strategies, but for me, I’m really excited to go just about anywhere. I’d like to learn a new language, preferably one that is more rather than less common, but whatever. Some of the posts without language requirements begin almost immediately after class finishes while others have 3, 6, 9 months of language training here in D.C.

I really want to get my family back together but I’m coming to terms with the possible extended separation if I get sent to a post that isn’t the most supportive of the family. There are very few posts where families can’t go, but we have the luxury of choosing to stay in Japan. It sucks being apart but some posts kind of suck to live at, especially for non-US citizen spouses and young kids. We’ll just see what happens. Maybe I can convince the Eminent Wife to let the Eminent child stay with me. Doubtful though.