Thursday, April 03, 2014

Short Timers

I'm getting excited.  Look at that number on the right.  We're into double digits now, and it gets smaller every day.

About two and a half months to go.  We've got to sell our car, among other things (and buy a right-hand drive car when we get to Thailand).

We'll have to sort through everything to decide what will be sent to storage and what will go to Thailand: our apartment in Bangkok (not yet assigned) is sure to be a significant downsize from our current house in Addis.

Not terribly excited to pack up again so soon (didn't we just do this 20-some months ago?) but it's always exciting to move on to a new assignment.  Just hoping that the next one will be more engaging.  Can't imagine it won't be -- it's Thailand, after all.

Of course, I was optimistic -- excited, even -- for our Beijing assignment, and we all know how that went.

For those of you who are in Minnesota, we plan to be there for most of the month of July.  No need for so much shopping (I'm looking at you, consumables) so our schedule should be more open compared to last time.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

By the Numbers

A picture is worth a thousand words, right?
Well, this picture also represents a total of 14,065 days.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


We're rounding the last turn, heading for the home stretch on this assignment.  Got our second (and last) consumables shipment about a month ago; hopefully it's enough to last the duration.

This was our first assignment to a post designated as a consumables post.  According to the State Department website: "A post requiring a consumables shipment is one at which conditions make it difficult to obtain locally the consumables required by employees and their eligible family members."  Thus we get "a separate weight allowance for the shipment of consumables, in addition to the Household Effects (HHE)/Household Goods (HHG) weight allowance."

Since we're about three quarters of the way done here, it's interesting to me to see how we did on our pre-arrival estimates on usage of consumables.  As I said, we'd never done it before, and we didn't have the foresight to actually keep records of how much of various consumables we use.

As it turns out, I've learned a few things.

This doesn't cover every single item, but most of the major ones.

What we depleted already from our original supply (and have acquired more):
  • Toilet paper
  • Most of our canned goods (beans, mushrooms, sauces, etc.)
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Snack foods (chips, crackers, trail mix, etc.)
  • Baby/diaper wipes
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  • Apple juice
  • Liquid soap (dish and hand)
What we don't use as much as we thought we did/would (and have quite a bit left):
  • Dental floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Bath soap
  • Deodorant/antiperspirant
  • Razor blades
  • Ziplock bags
  • Aluminum foil
  • Cling wrap
  • Batteries (AAA through D cell)
  • Cake/cookie mixes
  • Candles
What is really not good to buy too far in advance (staleness/spoilage):
  • Wheat Thins
  • Oreos
  • Graham crackers
And thanks to the embassy commissary's arrangements we are able to keep in steady supply (without these special orders we couldn't stay stocked):
  • Decent ground beef & pork
  • Frozen chicken breasts
  • Ham/bacon (not eaten in Ethiopia)
  • Whipping cream
It's definitely been different living with a storeroom full of food, toiletries, and paper goods.  Hopefully we won't have to again - the list of consumables posts includes a lot of places I'm not excited to see (a few might be okay).

Sunday, November 03, 2013

You can't have someone else do that?

What's the deal with selfies?  I took one once, in 2008, because no one was nearby to take the photo for me.  And I've never had the urge to take another one.

I think it's a symptom of having cameras on phones.  In my day, cameras were just on cameras, and you didn't have them with you all the time.  You only had one along if you were planning to take photos.  And then, if you were in dire need of a "selfie," you propped the camera somewhere and set the timer.

I guess I'm getting old.  There are more and more things, behaviors, attitudes, and more that I just don't understand.  It feels a little lame (that I'm getting "out of touch"), but I'm also sort of proud of the era in which I grew up.  I guess it happens to every generation.  Just seems like it's happening sooner to me than I feel it should be.

This, by the way, is my one and only selfie:

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Through the Grinder

We just found out that D-What wasn't chosen for her #1 or #2 bids (both in Jakarta) for her next assignment.  Huge bummer.  Huge.

Now we have to cross our fingers and hope for #3.  If that and #4 fall through, we're pretty much screwed.

I can't do another shitty post.  The last 5 years have been brutal in terms of happiness and confidence; I need a decent place where I will enjoy living.

Wish us luck.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Life Back Home - 10 Years Out

As a tangent to my previous post, I've also been thinking about what we've given up in service to the U.S.A.

What I think about the most: family and friends.  We've missed out on 10+ years worth of hanging out.  Chatting, partying, gaming, whatever.  Weddings.  Holidays.  Sure, we cram in a little of it when we can on visits back to the U.S., but it's so little.  At least our friends are awesome, and are still our friends.

What I think about next most: the "what if" life.  What if we hadn't joined the Foreign Service?  Where would we be?  What would we be doing?  Would we have a house, kids, etc.?

Then there's the sense of having missed the last decade of almost everything in the U.S. -- media, technology, politics, attitudes... it feels like I'm stuck in a snapshot taken in 2003.  Yes, the Internet helps keep us more connected, but it's definitely not the same when you have to seek it out to learn about it rather than being surrounded/immersed/inundated with it.

And then comes the feeling of being stuck on this course whether we like it or not.  I mean, our prior careers were just starting and I dropped mine entirely with no real connections to make it portable.  I've done okay finding jobs overseas (until this assignment), but my "career" is just a hodgepodge of mostly unrelated positions with no continuity.  Even D-What, who has had continuity in the sense of being a Foreign Service Officer (though working in different capacities), may be hard pressed to find work back in the States if we decide we're done with the overseas business.

Well.  Hoping for a nice place to live (that offers more to do and is a closer approximation of the cushy life back home) for our next assignment, so I don't think so much about what we've given up.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Our Foreign Service - 10 Years In

It occurred to me today that almost exactly 10 years ago (give or take a week; I don't remember the exact date) that D-What and I landed in Seoul -- the true start of our Foreign Service adventure.  (Yes, we had left Minnesota one year earlier for Washington DC, a place nearly as foreign as those we've seen overseas, but it wasn't the real plunge.)

I clearly recall finding a K-Pop radio channel during the flight to Seoul and doing my best to remember my favorite song: 자~엉덩이 by 원투 (video here).  Much to my delight, one of the local staff on D-What's newly-joined team knew what I wanted and told me I could find it almost next door to the embassy at Kyobo bookstore.

From there, we made some great friends with some of the best people I know (shouts out to Bumsuk, Jane, Soojung, Jongsol, Jaewon, Jinyoung, and Hoonjung).  That assignment was full of awesome.  We traveled around many parts of Korea, and managed some excellent trips in the region as well.  We found gamers in the Foreign Service (Bryant, Tom, Doug, and Jules) and had a decent Dungeons & Dragons campaign (if I do say so myself as DM).  I made some awesome friends over Saturday morning games as well, though sadly I've lost contact with Go Kyung Oh and the rest of the crew, as Koreans tend to change their e-mail accounts frequently.

D-What's second directed assignment was back in DC, so that doesn't really count.

For the third assignment, we were excited about Beijing and what China might offer, but it didn't go nearly as well as we had envisioned (based on our time in Korea) -- though we did leave there with two pretty neat little guys.

And unfortunately the timing of bidding on assignments and learning about promotions is backward in the Foreign Service, so instead of taking it (relatively) easy in Barbados for assignment #4 we're here in Ethiopia for a job that was intended to get D-What a promotion that it turns out she got right *after* getting the Ethiopia assignment.  So for this stretch between promotions (there's a block of time you can't be promoted after getting one) we could have been on the beach in the Caribbean.  Ah, well.

So here we are, 10 years after touching down in Korea.  We're bidding right now, and I have my fingers crossed that we get something we really like again.  I'm still optimistic, but these last two assignments have taken their toll.  Maybe I'm just weary from dealing with difficult places, but I hold out hope for more of that magic we found in Seoul.