21 January 2017

Reconciliation, Goodwill and Honor

The Historian left DC this weekend in favor of visiting historical sites.  Today he was in Appomattox, where, after losing a battle against Lt. General Grant, General Lee signed documents of surrender that effectively ended the American Civil War.  I'm posting some of his remarks and photos here with permission.  

Appropriate today of all days, Appomattox County Courthouse National Historical Park continues to stand as a testament to the ideals of national reconciliation, goodwill, and honor and respect for others.  It marked the end of a devastating conflict, and was the first step in the reconstruction of a divided nation and the passage of the 14th and 15th amendments, which established the basis of racial equality in the United States.  A goal we still strive for.

The Peers House. Some of the last shots of the conflict were fired from the house's front yard.

The McLean House where General Robert E. Lee negotiated the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.

Slave quarters behind the McLean House. The Mclean's had as many as 15 or more slaves. He was a wealthy sugar importer.

A replica of the desk where General Grant wrote out the terms of the surrender.

14 January 2017

Six Months In

I am nearing six months in Jamaica, and it is odd to think that time has passed so quickly looking back, but looking ahead to when the Historian and I will be in the same place again seems to be merely crawling.  As much as I am enjoying this current position, I am anxious to be done as it means our little family will all be together again.

Still working on her video conference skills.

It helps to have milestones to which to look forward - I am rotating into a new position soon, and will be acting unit chief for a while, so am heading back to DC for a week's worth of training in February.  By happy coincidence I'll be there for both the Academy Awards and the Historian's birthday.  April and May will be significant as we are planning to head to Ireland for some much needed time in rainy weather and ability to go for a walk without the Embassy RSO (Regional Security Officer) telling us how it isn't safe to do so.  

I'll also be bidding on my second tour around that time.  So again, time going slowly and quickly all at once. Second tour bidding is slightly more complicated than first tour.  We will rank order a list of thirty positions, taking into consideration of a myriad of requirements as well as our personal preferences - kitties, climate, good internet...probability of elephant sightings.  The list of options will be much longer, and so for a few days it really will seem that the world is our oyster and any-Where is possible!

Lots of countries left to uncover.

Reality though is that I am as yet nontenured, and will not be eligible for tenure until I meet two conditions - a minimum of 12 months as a Consular officer (this tour will cover that) and to be off language probation.  The latter means that my second tour must be foreign language-designated, and that I have to test to the required proficiency in order to qualify for tenure.  

So, needing a language already eliminates some of the options on the bid list - all English-designated posts and anything in DC are off the table.  

I am also limited by timing.  Timing is the PhD-level calculus by which I have to determine when to take home leave, what training courses are needed for each position, when they are, and what that means for when I can leave Jamaica and arrive at our next post.  This is the part that I'm most worried about - because I have to account for every day in the gap between posts, based on what I think is needed and what my best guess is about when the courses will be offered at the Foreign Service Institute. Figuring out the timing is all on us, and it makes me miss corporate America.  The private sector would have paid an in-house developer to build a tool to sort through the options for the hundreds of individuals who need this every year.  But government bureaucracy is not meant to be logical or efficient so I'm keeping a stiff upper lip and relying Excel and the Historian for mapping it all out.  

I would also like to work in my professional cone - Public Diplomacy.  This is the specialization that deals with the press and cultural affairs, and, along with the Ambassador, is the public voice of the embassy.  Unfortunately, the State Department has not been able to ensure that there are sufficient positions available for all nontenured officers to work in the cone for which we were hired.  It is especially hard for PD officers - in the last cycle it was the only cone that didn't have enough positions for people who needed them.  So I'm hoping for a PD tour, but including Consular posts that we'd be happy at in case nothing is available in PD. 

Finally, each of my bids will be rated based on whether or not it is valid.  "Valid" bids mean I leave when Jamaica expects me to (July 2018) and arrive when my gaining post wants me to (variable), and that I've figured out the timing, language training, etc.  "Imperfect" bids include me leaving or arriving early/late, etc.  And "invalid" ones are not considered at all, so as much as the Historian might want to live in Vienna, if the timing calculus doesn't work out then we'll have to hope it is an option at a later date.  

All of this will narrow the list even more, maybe taking out options with elephants, but including some we may not otherwise have considered.  

Putting our list together may overlap with our trip to Ireland, the upside being that this might be our research room.  So, so grateful for this life. 

Garavan's Bar, Galway