Monday, October 31, 2022

Where We're Going Next! (And a Happy Halloween!)

It's handshake day, and I just accepted a handshake to my top choice job in Dubai! I'll be a Political Officer there starting next year. (Because a few have asked: yes, I'm still planning on staying a Public Diplomacy-coned officer. It just felt like the right time to try a reporting tour.)

I could do an extensive blog post about the ups and downs and especially the last minute twists and turns of my bidding experience, but in the end we got exactly what we wanted and couldn't be more excited. As those close to us know, Dubai is M's dream post. He already started planning his perfect Dubai life in advance, and it's been so fun to watch. I think S is going to love it, too.

It will be my first time working as a reporting officer (a term used to describe Political and Economic Officers) and my first time working at a consulate instead of an embassy. I'm sure I'll learn a lot and am looking forward to it.

By coincidence, handshake day fell on Halloween this year! We did a family costume: S was a baby shark, M was attacked, and I was a lifeguard. I thought it was pretty cute. Wishing everyone a successful handshake day and happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

It's Fall, Y'all!

Fall is my favorite time of year, especially when we're back home. As a kid, I always loved it because it was the start of a new school year (nerd alert!) but also because everything about nature in autumn seems so perfect to me: the weather, the beautiful palette of trees of all different colors mixed together (best viewed from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah), crunchy leaves dancing in the wind, and the list goes on. Fall fashion and holiday hype aren't bad, either.

Since I know this time next year we'll likely be overseas again, I'm trying to make the most of the seasonal joys we have and will miss while we're gone - especially now that we've all fully recovered from COVID. S has been spending lots of time getting to know his family in the States and getting smothered with love everywhere he goes. He's also made a few new friends big and small and is loving America's spaciousness and food.

One of my favorite traditions is visiting the Cox Farms Fall Festival in Centreville, Virginia. I went when I was a kid and now I can bring my own child, which feels a bit surreal. You have to buy tickets online in advance, but they have two weekends where public service workers (including federal government employees) get a discounted rate. I highly recommend it!

In the Foreign Service, this can be a stressful time of year because even though most people have PCS'd (i.e., moved posts) by the end of summer it's still bidding season (and handshake day, where job offers known as handshakes are officially extended, is next week). I've really appreciated taking the time when I'm off duty to relax with loved ones, soaking up the precious year in DC and trusting that we will wind up exactly where we need to be.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Sometimes, Things Don't Go According to Plan

I am no stranger to professional twists and turns, from the rollercoaster start of my A-100 class to the cancellation of my Baghdad assignment and reassignment to Seoul. Still, this latest development took me by surprise. After years of successfully dodging COVID-19, including across multiple international transits, the virus finally caught up to me.

First, I tested positive and then M and S soon followed. Each day we're getting a bit better and seem to have avoided the worst symptoms - probably in part thanks to getting fully vaccinated and boosted. Unfortunately, the timing was terrible. I tested positive literally the day before I was scheduled to depart for the 9-day summit in Aspen, Colorado that is the hallmark and the highlight of the International Career Advancement Program (ICAP).

I hustled to submit my ICAP application materials early before going on maternity leave, had mentors review my application, and collected recommendation letters from some outstanding people. I was honored to be selected for one of only 20 spots in the program funded by the Department of State this year. Yet it's hard not to feel that that investment of time and energy and the Department's resources were not at least partially wasted due to my regrettably timed sickness. When I developed a fever, I was reluctant to admit I was sick at first. I think I knew deep down that I probably had COVID-19 but didn't want to consider what that would mean. As my symptoms worsened, I could deny it no longer and finally took a home test. I've taken so many tests throughout the course of the pandemic that it felt second nature at this point... But this was the first one that returned the second dreaded line.

Once I called off work sick, I spent the next day frantically working to cancel my flights and other travel bookings, return the coolers and shipping labels I'd purchased to transport milk for the baby while I was gone, and notify the Department of State ICAP contacts, the ICAP director in Colorado, and the person who was supposed to pick me up from the airport in Aspen. I also learned that I would not be considered a fellow anymore and would not be eligible for a spot in next year's cohort (as one of the requirements is to stay in DC for the following year and I am not bidding on DC jobs).

Then came the next wave of logistical challenges. As M and S tested positive later, we had to cancel and postpone a number of planned appointments including doctor's visits, registering our car, and more so we could do our part to keep others safe. We still signed on a condo (we told them about our infection and they agreed to proceed anyway) and moved from our hotel in DC to our new place in Virginia and received our first shipment of belongings from South Korea all while sick out of necessity.

Thankfully, we benefited from the kindness of family and friends and coworkers and made it in one piece to our new home. Now all we have to do is rest and recover and get over both the virus and the disappointment of roads not taken. As much as it stings in the moment, I'm sure we'll all make it out the other end just fine.