Can it be July 23rd already? Can I be on a plane with the Dominican Republic in my rear-view mirror para nunca volver?
Departing post is both awesome and the worst-imaginable hell all tied up in one convoluted ball of stress and emotions. There hasn’t been a day in the past 2 weeks where I haven’t been on the verge of tears and/or an emotional breakdown at some point. My wife’s work is, well, a little hectic right now, and she’s kind of unavailable for helping with the leg-work for the transition out of here. So every phone call, email, frantic Google search to find a solution to the myriad new problems and issues that arise on a daily basis kind of falls into my lap.
Words of advice:
1) Don’t have a pet in the Foreign Service. Yes, the continuity of having your cat/dog/whatever with you at each post is nice, and it sure does help the kiddos out with the transitions every 2-3 years, but the stress and expenses of transporting animals around the globe with airlines bent on making the process as cumbersome and headache-inducing as humanly possible is really and truly a test of both spirit and will. You want to find out if you have what it takes to accomplish anything? Try to arrange transportation for 2 dogs out of a Spanish-speaking country with zero customer service skills. Add a degree of difficulty: each time you call you’re told something completely different from the previous time. If you don’t go insane and smash your head into a concrete wall repeatedly, you just might be invincible.
2) Don’t buy or sell cars in the Foreign Service. Selling our car has become a horrific nightmare, and there’s a real possibility of having to bring it back to the States with us to sell there. Great, just what I want… 3 cars. You’d think at a large post with several people arriving these days that someone might want to buy my car because it’s so easy, but you’d be wrong. I’ve resorted to the private, non-Mission market, and now have to worry about security concerns whilst showing the vehicle to prospective buyers such as being shot or stabbed and having the vehicle be stolen from me, while negotiating a fair price in Spanish to people who think that offering $6,000 or more LESS than my asking price is a good strategy. “Entiendo, pero es el precio americano, no es dominicano.”
2a) Don’t buy a car for home leave and training sight-unseen in a state in which you do not reside. Registering it in your state is a new circle of hell involving several back-and-forth trips between your state of residence’s DMV and the state of the seller. Luckily they’re small states and neighbors (CT and RI), but still, ugh.
3) Don’t have any possessions. Organizing them and culling them in preparation for pack-out is just a really daunting task. Get rid of all your crap before you take that invite into A-100. We are truly nomads in the FS, and you shouldn’t have more stuff that can fit into 2 under-50-pound suitcases per member of your family. Yes, the gov’t packs and unpacks your things for you and sends them to the far corners of the globe for you, but it’s a giant pain in the ass when it comes time to uproot again.
4) Don’t expect anyone to care. Friends and family offer “support” in their own ways, but since everyone has their own problems, griping about the procedural mountains between you and wheels-up for the last time will win you no sympathy. Also don’t expect that your efforts to make your transition as painless for your family and friends in the States will be met with anything but unnecessary complications and hurt feelings. I don’t think it’s in the non-FS emotional intelligence to understand just how difficult the transition process is, and you come off as being whiny or unappreciative when you vent your frustrations.
5) Don’t expect anything to happen on time or to be correct the first time. Expect to have to follow up regularly with anyone on whom you need to rely in order to get something departure-related accomplished. Travel orders are usually delayed, sometimes wrong, and it throws a huge wrench into the gears when you’re waiting for amended orders so you can, you know, buy your plane ticket and try to plan your arrival with whomever is picking you up at the airport. Paperwork gets held up on its way through the bureaucratic process, and can sometimes be stopped dead for whatever reason. So you have to figure out where it stopped and get it moving again. It’s your problem when someone else drops the ball.
I could go on and on and on. I’m not really meaning to sound as whiny as I’m sure I do. This blog is my catharsis. If I can write about it, it makes me feel better. I also use this blog to procrastinate, apparently, as I’m realizing how much more I need to accomplish today.
Until next time, dear readers…