Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Homeward Bound

My combination training/leave time in the states is winding down. I will fly back to Muscat, Oman on Friday and I am really ready to get home!  I've done my shopping, attended my classes and am now ready to get back to work and my normal routine.

No visit home would be complete without seeing my Dad in Fort Worth. At 96, he is still sharp as a tack and as stubborn as ever.  While I was there, Texas was experiencing a heat wave with many days in a row over 100 degrees.  This tough old bird insisted on spending hours in the garage in the heat of the afternoon, working at his workbench. He loves making walking sticks out of bamboo that grows along the driveway.
My sweet 96 year young Dad
We tried to get him to come in during those hot afternoons but he insisted on going out in the garage.  The day after I left for Washington, he became severely confused and after a visit to the emergency room and a battery of tests, the doctor said he had suffered a heat stroke.  Maybe now he will wait for cooler weather to resume his hobby.

It's been great seeing old friends here at the Foreign Service Institute.  Everywhere I turn, I see someone I went to training with or someone I met in Honduras.  You realize that it is really a very small world. It also makes you see how being a part of the Foreign Service family affords you the opportunity to meet so very many people...people who become friends for life.  Just think...I have friends all over the world.  After I retire, if I could afford to get there, I will have friends to stay with just about anywhere!!  Just one more benefit of this job.

The bid list has come out and I do have some interesting choices.  The process goes like this.  I pick 5-6 places I would love to serve.  I then campaign for the position...or, to put it differently, I do everything I can to convince those people at my chose places to offer me the position.  Unlike the first 2 assignments where I was directed, I must find my next job on my own.  As soon as I get back to Oman, I can begin the process of emailing the section head (for me it will be the Regional Security Officer).  I will also contact the Management Officers of the Embassy, as well as the person who holds the position I am interested in.  I'll also look up all the information on the posts which will include housing, weather, safety and the reports from those who have served there.  Those reports are usually very blunt and honest and can really help you make up your mind.  The places I am interested in so far are Berlin, Vienna, Jerusalem and Tijuana.  Tijuana, you ask????  How did that one make it in there???  Well, since this will be my final tour, Tijuana caught my eye for a number of reasons.  I would save lots of money on regional travel.  If I went to Vienna or Berlin or Jerusalem, I would have to see Italy, Greece, get my point.  Tijuana is a 3-4 hour flight to Hawaii where my son and his wife and my 3 grandsons live, so I would be able to see them fairly often.  It's also about the same flight to see Dad in Texas.  I grew up in Coronado, just across the border from Tijuana.  And I love Mexican food. And I speak Spanish.  It may not be Europe, but I could be happy there.  But...who knows.  It's very early in the process and I haven't begun really to make my move.  As of right now, they are all my #1 choices!

Friday, August 05, 2011

Training Tips, Hot Weather and Bidding

The nighttime view from my apartment
I'm not sure just what strings I pulled or what magic words I used, but I snagged some great training away from post this year.  In June, it was Bangkok.  And now in August, I'm here for training in Washington DC.  It's a great thing that training is offered and even better when you are lucky enough to be approved to fly home to attend some...even during difficult economic times.

While in DC for almost 4 weeks, I'm staying in an apartment in Arlington, VA, about a 5 minute drive to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) where my training takes place.  Since weight is always a consideration when you travel, I came with nothing and shopped for new clothes, which will fill my 2 suitcases when it comes time to pack. What I don't want to shop for are things I need in the kitchen since I won't have room in my suitcases to take them back to Muscat.  With this in mind, you really have to be creative.  Sure, the apartment is fully furnished and there is a limited supply of kitchen tools to work with. But there are no zip lock bags, no saran wrap, no storage containers (ie Tupperware for us old folks) or other little things that when at home, we just take for granted.  So, you learn to be creative.  Tonight I made a yummy pot roast with potatoes and carrots and onions. Obviously, there are leftovers.  So, I dug the plastic produce bag out of the trash and used it like saran wrap, covering the meat and veggies in the bowl with it. I refuse to buy a box of zip lock bags (call me El Cheapo) so I wash and reuse 2 bags that I had in my suitcase that had small bottles of hand lotion in them.  I did have to give in and buy a corkscrew since I just couldn't find any way to get the cork out of the wine bottle without destroying it! It was, however, the lighter of the 2 that I looked at!

I took a few annual leave days prior to going to Washington to stop in Fort Worth, Texas to see my Dad. I was really looking forward to escaping, for just a little while, the heat of the Middle East.  No way was that happening this summer!  Texas is hotter than a firecracker this summer and it barely dipped below 100 degrees the entire time I was there.  The biggest challenge was keeping my 96 year old father inside the house instead of out in the garage, sitting at his workbench.  The day after I left, he ended up in the emergency room with heat stroke.  Did he learn his lesson?  I doubt it...he loves tinkering in his workshop, even at his advanced age.

The other bit of very reportable news is that the bid list is now out.  This list, basically, is the list of openings for us Foreign Service people who will move to another embassy next summer. It's up to each of us to select 6-8 from the list, weigh the pros and cons of each one and then submit our choices. All things need to be taken into consideration...a new job, the stress of moving from one place to another, lots of new faces, new cultures, new opportunities. It may sound like a very stressful time but these are the reasons we all signed on the dotted line.  I, for one, thrive on this kind of challenge.  I have some great places on my list but the ones that I am looking at very seriously are Vienna, Berlin, Dubai, Tunis, Jerusalem, Moscow and Bogota.  They all sound wonderful and once I can do my research, I'm sure one of them will rise above the rest.  Or not. They are, at this time, all tied for 1st choice.

As you can see, there's lots on my plate right now. I hope to pass the test tomorrow and get my certification in Microsoft Outlook.  I hope the stock market recovers and stops dropping like a rock. I hope to be under 50 pounds in each of my 2 suitcases when I fly home on the 19th. I hope I can make really good informed decisions on my bid list. And I really hope my Dad stays out of the hot garage.