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Archive for January, 2007

The adventure continues!

We turned in our bid list on Monday.  We had to cut our highs down significantly due to government policies on having a baby abroad. We will spare you all of the crazy details. On Thursday, Seth heard from someone on the decision-making committee that no one was assigned to a post that they rated low. So, you can look at our list and know that we will end up at one of the medium or high posts. It feel like more info would bring clarity but it is still pretty unclear where we will end up and when. It is still possible that Seth will have to head to post before the baby is cleared which could mean that he would be leaving 3-4 weeks before us (but still after the baby is born). We are praying that the government will extend his training if we are in that situation. Mexico City and San Jose would both start in October so we are really hoping for one of those! We are praying against Juarez and Nogales if you want to join in!  Although the decision has been made we will not know where we are going until Feb 15th and we will for sure let you know when we know! The adventure continues! By the way, the baby is handling everything quite well!

Highs:
Bogota, Mexico City, San Jose

Mediums:
Belgrade, Bucharest, Caracas, Ciudad Juarez (2), Kuala Lumpur, Nogales, Seoul, Tel Aviv (2)

Lows: (the # means how many positions are open)
Abidjan, Ashgabat, Astana (2, Sorry Graham!), Baghdad (2), Beirut, Bridgetown, Chengdu, Chennai (3), Ciudad Juarez, Conakry, Dhaka, Guadalajara, Guangzhou, Guatemala City, Ho Chi Minh, Iraq, Islamabad (2), Jakarta, Jeddah (2), Jerusalem, Khartoum, Kinshasa, La Paz, Lima (2), Majuro, Matamoros, Mbabane, Mexico City, Monrovia, Monterrey (3), Moscow, Mumbai, New Delhi, Nouakchott, Nuevo Laredo, Ouagadougou, Panama City, Paris, Port Au Prince, Port of Spain, Rabat, Riyadh (2), San Salvador, Sanaa (2), Santo Domingo, Shanghai, Suva, Tbilisi, Tegucigalpa, Tijuana, Tirana

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Fine Dining

We ventured out to Outback Steakhouse a few evenings ago to get a bite to eat. We were exhausted from our day and relieved to sit down. Half way through the meal the waiter came and brought a water pitcher to refill our glasses. As he stepped away I picked up my  heavy “beer mug ” water glass which exploded on me! It made the most bizarre sound and for a good 30 seconds I couldn’t figure out what had hit me! The waiter was in a panic and ran out with ten towels to help dry me off.  Although I was soaked through every layer of clothing we decided it was worth it to stay and finish our dinner.  A free dessert, free appetizer and an hour later as we walked out into the winter chill, my clothes were still drenched.

The next evening we decided to take a step up in society and join some friends for dinner at The Peking Gourmet Inn which just so happens to be one of the top 10 Chinese restaurants in the nation according to USA Today.  They are famous for Peking duck which we had never had before. Surprisingly, it was quite tasty, and expensive I might add! We’re no food critics but we highly recommend this restaurant if you are in the neighborhood. The walls are covered with pictures of famous people who have dined there!  Unfortunately they were out of film and had to take a rain check on photographing us.  Somehow I think that they don’t just run out of film when people like George Stepanopoulos come in (by the way we bumped into him in Georgetown when we were talking a walk!) We have yet to run in to the President but we will blog about it for sure when it happens!

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Representing You Abroad

I’ve been learning a TON in my orientation so far.  We go all day from 8-5 with anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour for lunch, but normally we have brown bag lunch sessions, so it’s not that relaxing.  We get a few 15 minute breaks during the day.  But otherwise I’m in training the whole time.  Whether we’re learning about how to process a voucher or how to bid or what the State Department’s mission and structure is.   I believe next week we’ll be having an overview of US politics and diplomatic history.  And to whet your appetite, in the coming weeks the Undersecretary of Political Affairs, R. Nicolas Burns, will be speaking to us.  If you don’t know who he is, he’s the #3 in the State Department, behind the Secretary and Deputy Secretary.

Yesterday, we learned about all the different types/numbers of “embassies,”  meaning embassies, consulates, etc.

I found it very interesting, so I thought I’d share here.  Hopefully you’ll learn something as well.

167 Embassies – Almost exclusively based in the country’s capital city

64 Consulates General – In between an embassy and consulate

21 Consulates – Based in areas of importance to Americans, such as business centers

10 Missions and Delegations – Such as our Permanent Mission to the UN or NATO

1 Interest Section – This is the Swiss Embassy – US Interest Section in Havana, Cuba

53 Consular Agencies – Non-paid employees (not necessarily American) who assist Americans overseas

6 Branch Offices –  Offices in for example Kosovo where we want representation but doesn’t process visas or other things

5 American Presence Posts – 1-person posts where we have a business interest – mostly in France

16 Virtual Presence Posts – Either on the web or traveling consulates

? US Liaison Office – An intermediary post before an embassy is created – an example is Tripoli, Libya

1 American Institute – An NGO in Virginia and Taipei, Taiwan – we don’t have formal diplomatic relations with the country

We have diplomatic relations with 189 countries, with the largest embassy being Cairo, Egypt.  I believe Mexico City is #2.

I also learned about the employee breakdown of the State Department.

There are 56,000 State employees, with 79% based overseas (mainly FSNs) and 21% domestic:

  • 6,700 Foreign Service Officers – that’s me!
  • 4,400 Foreign Service Specialists – some like an engineer or HR specialist
  • 7,900 Civil Service employees – based in the US
  • 37,000 Foreign Service Nationals – host-country employees who maintain the continuity of the post and provide invaluable expertise

On a side note, all those 6,700 FSOs are as many as the Department of Defense has in its band!  Yep, we’re lean and mean!

That’s just a little of what I’ve learned.

During my 1st week,  I’ve heard from 4 or 5 ambassadors.  Pretty cool!

We’re enjoying our 3-day weekend.  We have done some more research on posts today, plan on checking out a church tomorrow, and walking around DC on Monday.

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Updated bid list

So we have narrowed the list considerably since we got the list. Here are the cities that we are now considering. It doesn’t mean we really want to go to these cities, it means that these are our only options that fit within the date range that we need, in other words these posts start after August 2007.

Astana (2)

Belgrade

Bogota

Bucharest

Caracas

Chengdu

Dhaka

Guangzhou

Jakarta

Kuala Lumpur

Mexico City

New Delhi

Nogales

Port Au Prince

San Jose

Seoul

Shanghai

Tel Aviv (2)

Tijuana

Tirana

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We know some of you are enjoying living vicariously through our current experiences.  So in order to prevent any outcry over us not sharing the bid list, the 76 posts are listed below.  Note that some have multiple openings and some are reserved for Foreign Service employed couples, i.e. tandems.

While we have to bid High, Medium or Low on every single one of these posts, there are other limits and qualifications that go along with them, particularly the start date (i.e. July or November) and the language proficiency needed (i.e. professional proficiency in Russian or Urdu).

We have already narrowed the list considerably since we don’t want to go to post until after the baby is born, which is July 20th.  That requirement knocks out approximately 60% of the posts.

We’ll keep you updated as we narrow our posts and rank them.  Until then, break out your globe and enjoy!

Abidjan Ashgabat Astana (2)
Baghdad (2) Beirut Belgrade
Bogota (tandem) Bogota Bridgetown
Bucharest Caracas Chengdu
Chennai (3) Ciudad Juarez (3) Conakry
Dhaka Guadalajara Guangzhou
Guatemala City Iraq Islamabad (2)
Jakarta Jeddah (2) Jerusalem
Khartoum Kinshasa Kuala Lumpur
La Paz Lima (2) Majuro Matamoros
Mbabane Mexico City (2) Monrovia
Monterrey (3) Moscow Mumbai
New Delhi Nogales Mouakchott
Neuvo Laredo Ouagadougou Panama
Paris Port Au Prince Port of Spain
Rabat Riyadh (2) San Jose
San Salvador Sanaa (2) Santo Domingo
Seoul Shanghai Suva
Tashkent (tandem) (2) Tegucigalpa Tel Aviv (2)
Tijuana Tirana

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In hot pursuit

Turns  out that it is impossible to find a fan in the city of DC until sometime in March. We know this because we live in an apt where the complex either turns on heat or AC. Yes, it is January so you would assume heat would be the norm. We happen to have arrived during an unseasonably warm time when an oscillating fan would be wonderful! We hunted at a few stores for a fan and thought that maybe the use of the word “oscillating” was confusing because how could then not sell us a fan?!  The word may have still been too complex for some people, however the bottom line was we had no success finding a fan. We thought we would be dodging the Texas heat and bundling up to face the cold. Oh well. We’ll have to wait until March for a fan.

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Today we drove up to our temporary home in Falls Church, VA. There were tears shed as we pulled up the hill and our new home became visible through the trees. Coming from Dallas where things at least appear to be nice we were slightly disappointed by the outer appearance. In addition, it backs up to a cemetery. I am not a superstitious person but really who wants to live next to a cemetery. At least they’ll be quiet neighbors!

Next door neighborsOutside of ApartmentOur Living RoomMaster Bedroom

The inside of our apartment happens to be much nicer than it appears on the outside. It feels as though we are living in a hotel which will take some getting used to. We hung a wreath on our front door so that I could at least pretend to make it “homey”! Foreign Service training starts on Monday and then the bidding begins.

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