Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I know you can't drive to Guam.

I'm sitting in a hotel (of sorts) in Falls Church, Virginia right now. Almost two weeks ago I was in Athens, Georgia, and two weeks before that, Atlanta. In a couple of months, I could be almost anywhere in the world. Almost anywhere. Probably not Guam.

Last year around this time, I was ecstatic (in a relaxed way, which might seem improbable, but truly isn't). I had just finished a year of teaching Japanese language to a bunch of ungrateful middle schoolers, and because I was not able to become certified to teach long-term in the state of Georgia, suddenly a burden was lifted from my shoulders. Many people would be stressed out about suddenly becoming unemployed and not really having any idea what they would be doing. That year was so stressful and tense that I was simply pleased for it to be over. I hope that none of you ever have to go through a year of knowing that success means having to do what you hate for the rest of your life. I would rather live on a substitute teacher's salary than be responsible for a passel of Beiber-loving/hating tweens ever again.

Because things were a bit up in the air, my wife Susan and I began looking for new opportunities. Although we didn't really know what all might be available, we had both lived in Japan for two years and we had been back in the U.S. for long enough that going back abroad seemed like it would be nice. Susie at this time was gainfully employed, and she knew how terrible the preceding year had been on my confidence and love for teaching, so we both began looking for things that we could do to go back to Japan... or really anywhere that wasn't the United States. It's surprising how many options there are, but one we both kept coming back to was the Foreign Service, a section of the U.S. State Department that handles all kinds of international relations.

Throughout the next year, we worked our way through the slow and marvelously in-depth application process to work for the American government. A good friend of ours had joined while I was getting my Master's degree, and we leaned heavily on her during these months, especially while she was back in the U.S. for some R&R and language training. Although neither Susie nor I were able to successfully pass all of the necessary poking and prodding assessments of our intellect, self-confidence, and ability to send emails that is required for Foreign Service Generalist positions, Susie did pass through the equally arduous process that allowed her to become an FS Specialist.

So here I am. Most of what we own is in storage certainly feet from where the Ark of the Covenant is hidden while we wait to find out where the U.S. government will need her specific specialized specificities, and Susie is out daily, learning what not to tell people, what not to write down and what fork not to use on desserts while being hosted at an event. But I am seven stories in the air with little more than a laptop, and when it's not too hot, I am wandering around the truly despicable roads of the Virginia/DC area trying not to get too bored with the tension of a never-ending wait.

Whatever we end up doing, wherever we end up going, I want to try and keep a synchronous record of it. I want family and friends to know what we are doing and how we are doing it, but I don't want to have to answer the same dozen questions every time I see someone online or call them on the phone for $0.10 a minute (thanks 1-800-COLLECT). And lastly, while we were trying to figure out whatever we could about the Foreign Service during the application process, we found a lot through blogs. While we are trying to anticipate all of the things we will face as Susie's career progresses (especially through its beginning phases), we are finding the stories of past State Department employees invaluable. Here is one more that will go on the list, I suppose. I will keep track of our life so anyone who is doing the same thing can know how it worked for us.

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