Holidays in the Foreign Service

Ahh, yes, it’s that time of year again.  The Holidays.  Quite possibly the worst time to be abroad with the Foreign Service.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss the snow and cold that much, but I do miss the family and friends that we left behind to come here.

Last year wasn’t so bad for us, as my parents came down right before the holidays, and I was still holding onto the hope that my sister would be down in February.  We were also still only 4 months into the tour, and after the Winter from Hell (c) in D.C. in 2010, I wasn’t really longing for a white Christmas.

Well, this year has been completely different.  I miss everyone.  I miss my extended family, I miss my friends, I miss the crazy Christmas Day dashing from house to house to see everyone.  Being at my wit’s end with Santo Domingo doesn’t help all that much, nor does the fact that we’re going to be spending our home leave in Down-east Maine, where we’ll have little-to-no chance that anyone from my family will come visit us.  Unfortunately, it’s one of the few options available to us, as our requirements are: our own place; ocean; water views; 2+ BR; dog-friendly; relatively isolated; and under $3,500 for the month.  Almost nothing suited our needs in MA, RI, or CT, the three easiest states for my family to visit.  So Maine it is.  I’m looking forward to the peace & quiet, but my family is a little miffed at me.  I asked that they give me some other suggestions that would work with our requirements, but none were forthcoming.

Another contributing factor to my holiday malaise is the fact that during this tour, I will have missed the weddings of my four closest cousins: last December, this September, 2 weeks ago, and the one that will happen in June.  That’s tough, since my wife and I didn’t have a real wedding to celebrate with everyone (the problem with eloping for the Foreign Service), and I do love me some family weddings.

So, I find myself pining away for the ability to spend a holiday season with my family.  Luckily that happens next year, as we’ll be in D.C. for training.  After that, “home for the holidays” will involve 30+ hours by plane from Indonesia.  I’m hoping to spend the holidays in Hawaii at least once while on that side of the globe.  Hopefully some of my family can meet us there.

The moral of the story?  Serving overseas as or with an FSO is hard.  Being separated from your family is hard.  The holidays are hard.  Missing big milestones in the lives of your loved ones is hard.  On the flip side, however, the benefits we reap in this lifestyle are immense.  I have learned so much about myself, about my wife, and about the “rest of the world” in this first tour.  Watching my son come out of his shell, start speaking Spanish, and playing with his friends of every imaginable color, creed, and culture is heartwarming.  Seeing how many people in the third world live compared to what I considered a “rough life” in the States is eye-opening.

So thanks and no thanks, Foreign Service.  But Happy Holidays, nonetheless.

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