20 June 2017

6583 miles, 10,595 kilometers away

So there we were, in the little coastal town of Kilkee, Ireland having dinner at a local pub.  I checked my email for the 11,000th time, and finally!  An email about our next assignment.  

We're heading to Nicosia, Cyprus!   Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and is just south of Turkey and east of Syria.  



It is a popular regional tourist destination, and has very little crime.  A member state of the European Union, Cyprus is currently divided as Turkish Cypriots control the northern third of the island.  The UN maintains a buffer zone between the two sides, and is currently trying to negotiate reunification.  This video offers some of the history.  

Cyprus also participates in the spectacle that is Eurovision and now I will have to root for Cypriot performers forever.  Their entry from 2017 was really good

The Historian and I are very excited.  I am intrigued by the work I will be doing, and all of our research indicates that this will be a great post for us.  Cyprus hits all of my career priorities - embassy size, level of responsibility, a language, and PD.  Personally it is also everything we'd wanted for this tour - it will be the Historian's first time living overseas, and Cyprus is a good fit for him given its many layers of history.  Happily it is a cat-friendly country as we just need to meet EU standards for transit.  There is even a monastery devoted to cats under the patronage of St. Helena, the Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas of the Cats.  

I will be learning Turkish, and we'll arrive in July of 2019, insha'Allah.    





16 June 2017

Hurry up and wait

I did a Skype call with a college student who is considering pursuing a job in the Foreign Service.  One of the things we talked about is how long it takes to get in - at least eight months worth of various tests, then several months of background checks, then your name goes on a list based on what score you earned, then, maybe, if your score is high enough, they'll call you for one of the few orientation classes they have every year.  It is the cycle of things in this life.

The Historian and I have been marking our own hurry up and wait milestones - him coming here, me going there, our vacation to Ireland, and ultimately my leaving Jamaica and ending this separation.  

But now we've one more - we know where we'll be in 2019!  My second tour is the last tour that is "directed" - meaning I give my Career Development Officer (CDO) a bid list of preferred posts, and then a team assigns one to me.  

This time was much more complicated than the last, as we had to consider both our personal priorities (quality of life, ease of bringing the kitties, etc.) and my career priorities (a Public Diplomacy job, embassy size, bureau).  I also had to consider mandatory things like meeting my language requirement for tenure and timing.  A "perfect" bid would have me leaving Jamaica two years after arriving (July 2018) and arriving at my next post when they wanted me, with enough time in between to learn a language, take home leave, and take any other training required for my job.

If this all sounds complicated, it was.  Incredibly!  (Corporate America would have built an app for this in half a day.)  But we did a practice run on an old list, and The Historian came up with a clever way to map out all of the dates for each post we considered so we could see if the timing worked.   Of the 350 or so on the initial list, we eliminated many right away as they were either not PD or the timing was impossible.  I also qualified for the first round of bidders because of Jamaica's hardship differential, which meant we could also set aside places that didn't meet our personal priorities.  

It was an amazing feeling to look at the remaining posts and think about the possibility of living in each of them.  Eventually we winnowed our options down to 19, submitted the list, and left for Ireland to wait with bated breath for news...





11 June 2017

Pride

Work has been coming along, there is not too much upon which I can remark.  

We rotate responsibilities in the Consular section.  I spent my first seven months in the nonimmigrant visa section (NIV) adjudicating visas for those who wish to travel temporarily to the United States - students, farm workers, tourists.  It was interesting getting to talk with ordinary Jamaicans from all walks of life, and an opportunity to sometimes satisfy my curiosity about things here.  For example, we wondered idly during the morning commute if it is legal to turn left on a red light.  And then I interviewed a driving instructor and asked him (it is illegal, but rarely enforced.)

In March I started working the the Fraud Prevention Unit.  It was an abrupt change of pace - I am the only entry level officer in the unit, its quiet case work, focus on a few cases versus hundreds a week.  Bonus:  I was sent back to DC for a week's worth of training.  Time with The Historian, and the Department didn't have to pay for my hotel lodging, win-win!

One unexpected highlight is that I helped hang the pride flag over the embassy last week.  I happened to walk by when another officer was heading out to hang the flag - alone - and offered to help.  My job was to keep Old Glory from touching the ground while he attached the pride flag.  A small thing in the long run, but I'm glad that I could participate in this important and symbolic gesture.