I just got back from spending an absolutely wonderful, fabulous, <insert other superlatives here> week at home in Texas. I caught up on sleep, spent time with my parents, went to Austin, spoke about the Foreign Service with new students at my alma mater, shopped, visited some excellent friends in Houston, shopped some more, went to a minor league baseball game, ate good food, shopped a little bit more, and just generally enjoyed being in a much less stressful environment. A lot of the time, I don’t realize just how much the work and the security environment here stresses me out until I get away for a few days and can just feel the stress melt away. So, it was great to be home.
It was also extra-special awesome to get to go to Houston and catch up with a few friends that I made when I worked as a co-op (kind of like an intern) in Houston while I was in grad school. These friends really made my semester there great and if the Foreign Service hadn’t worked out for me, I probably would have tried to go back there full time after finishing grad school, mainly because the people there were so nice and fun to work with and hang out with. So, it was really awesome that they made time for me and we could hang out and catch up a bit while I was home.
Anyhoo, for the sake of my bank account, it’s probably best that I’m home now and away from the excellent Austin-area outlet malls, but it was really, really great to be home.
Since I was assigned to Ottawa for my next assignment, I’ve been getting pretty excited about it. The city seems very livable, with a lot of cultural events, museums, parks, and so on. I am still a bit worried about the cold, since I’ve never lived anywhere that’s nearly as cold or that gets nearly as much snow, but I’ve reached out to friends and family members who’ve lived in cold places, am coming up with a list of things that I may need to get, and starting to do a little research on costs and options for some of the cold weather gear. Since I’ll get there in August, hopefully before winter sets in, I also plan to consult the professionals after I get there, since who would know Ottawa winters better than Ottawans! If any of you lovely readers have suggestions for winter weather gear, please share!
I was a little concerned about housing, since Ottawa is a Living Quarters Allowance (LQA) post, where the Department gives you an allowance and you go find and lease your own housing. However, after looking up the allowance and doing some research on rental costs in Ottawa, it sounds like I can find a nice place and stay within the allowance. In LQA posts, the Department doesn’t provide furniture, so I was also a little concerned about having to buy a lot of furniture since I don’t have much furniture and I don’t really want to buy a lot of furniture since I’m likely to end up in a smaller place in DC and wouldn’t have space for it all. However, after doing a bit more research, I found out that you can use part of the housing allowance to rent furniture. So, I’m a lot less worried about the expense and hassle of buying furniture that I might not use past Ottawa.
One of the best things about the assignment, however, is no more visa work! While consular work is very important to our mission overseas, it’s just not what I want to do long-term, so I’m really looking forward to getting to do something else and to get a chance to work in my career track.
So, while the initial assignment came as a surprise based on how low it was on my list and how others who had bid in previous cycles had gotten one of their top 3 choices, I’m starting to get really excited and I think it’s all going to work out well.
And the winner is Ottawa, Canada! I will be headed there for a 2-year Econ assignment. It was #9 on my list, which is relatively low for a 2nd tour bidder from CDJ, but it fits in a lot of ways and the longer I think about it, the better it sounds. All of the rest of the posts that were in my top 10 were in Europe, so that’s where I was headed mentally. So, as my GPS would say, I’m “recalculating, recalculating” from what I expected, but it will be a great opportunity to do Econ work in one of our largest trading partners and the city is very nice and, more importantly, SAFE. Also, there’s an Apple store and an IKEA in Ottawa, so what more could you want? 😉
Happy 4th of July, everyone! Well, Happy 4th of July to the three of you who actually read this. 😉 I didn’t really do anything special for the holiday today, but the Consulate did have a big 4th of July party on Friday. Pretty much every U.S. embassy and consulate in the world has some sort of 4th of July party, though sometimes it’s actually held during another part of the year if weather conditions require it. While everyone in the consulate or embassy is not necessarily required to attend, it’s generally expected that U.S. staff attend unless there is a compelling reason. So, it’s work, but so far the two that I’ve been to have been mostly fun work. The party is a chance for us to invite various contacts, like members of the host government, businesses with whom we work, and so on, to the consulate to celebrate the 4th of July and I’ve gotten to meet a few people that I would otherwise not have much contact with, since I work in the consular section and not in the political or management section. So, it’s something different and fun. This year’s party turned out really nicely and I think that most everyone had a good time.
Still no news on the bid list. We were hoping that we might hear something on Friday of last week, but no luck. Hopefully, we’ll hear something back this week. The suspense is tough, especially since we don’t know when to expect the results. It would be nice if they could give us a day when we could expect to hear so that we can manage our expectations, but I suspect that they don’t know for sure when everything will be ready so they can’t tell us.
Anyhoo, that’s the news from here. Happy 4th of July!