In my last post I wrote about how the school year starting was a bold reminder of the friends who have moved on and of how different life is without them. In the last couple of weeks, we lost several more. All these farewell receptions/dinners at the Ambassador's residence have left me seriously aware of my lack of dressy clothes! As many of you know, life in the foreign service is full of transitions. This is our third two-year tour, which basically means that every year, we have to begin thinking about the bidding process and where we will end up next. It seems like we are always in transition mode, and I think that helps us keep things in perspective, but also prevents us from putting down stronger roots. Since it is summer, we are indeed bidding again. It is both an exciting and stressful time!
For those of you unfamiliar with the process, it basically works like this:
1. The department provides a list of positions available for each speciality/position at each grade(promotion)level. Chris is required to bid on at least 6 jobs, and they must be in at least 3 different geographical areas--i.e. Europe, Western Hemphisphere, East Asia, Middle East, etc. He may add as many additional jobs to the bid list as he likes, but those original 6 must be in his particular position and at his current rank. Because we are currently serving at a hardship post, he is permitted to bid up one rank as well, qualifying for a higher level post.
2. I get to do what I love...researching countries we are interested in. Looking at schools, crime levels, housing issues, shopping opportunities, etc. to determine whether or not the post is adequate for our family's needs can be extremely fun for me. I enjoy learning about new places and I think people are foolish if they don't properly explore the options thoroughly. I don't ever want to end up somewhere with bugs as big as my foot or where I will have to get 5 kids to choke down anti-malarials everyday! We talk about what I have discovered and balance the kid's needs with what will help further Chris' career most effectively and come up with a list of preferences.
3. Once he submits his list, it is up to him to actively pursue the positions he is most interested in. After all, all those posts available have someone leaving and those people are also interested in the same places we are...so basically he has to sell himself to potential posts. He does this by relaying his experience, his abilities, and by providing references from current and previous bosses and co-workers. It definitely helps to know people who know people!!
4. Then, we wait, and this is the stressful part. A post will select Chris and the regional bureau of that post will give it's approval of their decision and assign him accordingly. Hopefully, Chris will be offered a handshake deal on a post sometime in October and we will have some idea where we will end up next year. Techically, handshakes cannot be issued prior to October, but we have noticed some on the bid reporting sheet already, probably officers coming out of Iraq who get special compensation by receiving early notification. We are just praying that the place we want most will still be available when the jobs get panneled!
This particular bidding cycle has been challenging for us, as we have a lot more details to consider this time. We have been focusing on language designated posts, meaning that Chris would have to learn another new language prior to starting his overseas assignment. That would allow us a year in the US to complete Collier's surgery and post-op follow ups and would be the ideal situation. However, that would mean Christopher would end up attending 4 high schools in 4 years, which is dreadful, though he swears he doesn't mind. Can you believe he will be off to college during our next posting???? That is dreadful!!!!! Plus, all of the other little things like should we pursue another hardship, and enjoy the extra money, or take a "dream" post, which will definitely strain the bank account instead of filling it? Ultimately, we are hoping for Budapest, which takes care of the language detail, is a step up in responsibility for my husband, has a FANTASTIC school, and is generally a beautiful place to live. We are certainly interested in many others, including nearby Belgrade, cold but cozy Vilnius, as well as neighboring Tallinn and Riga, and exotic Tunisia. In fact, this is probably the best bid list we've ever had with great options like Ljubljana, Baku, and Munich too. I am sure we will be happy wherever we get placed! I just hate waiting to find out!!