Three More Months

In my last post I waxed poetically about how nice it is to be here in Northern Virginia for training in the fall. Now, I feel like I want to whine just a wee bit.

Here I am starting to settle in. We have been here eight weeks now, basically two months. C is getting settled in her “school” (i.e. daycare). She names a few people as her “friends” (turns out several of them are her teachers, but hey, that’s cool). When both C and I and my sister and her kids are free, C gets to spend time with her cousins. Most afternoons during the week my parents pick C up from childcare, so C gets several hours a week with her grandparents. C is in swim lessons. She finished up the Beginner Mommy and Me class and today started her first Advanced Mommy and Me class.

We are settled into our apartment. Sure, it’s an extended stay hotel, but it is home. Well, for a little while longer. We have thirteen weeks left, basically three months. ONLY THREE MONTHS!

It seems like we were only just packing up in Mexico. Oh, right, we were. That happened only four months ago.

I looked back at the past ten years and I have moved TEN times.

If I go back ten more years, I have moved a total of 22 times in past 20 years. (This does not include my traveling such as the 11 months I spent backpacking in 2000-2001, my two months traveling through Spain and Portugal in 2002 or our nomadic Home Leave adventure this past summer)

How about that?

(I know, I know. I chose each and every one of these opportunities.)

Even if I take out all of the pre-Foreign Service moving, I have physically moved six times in the past 3 years and 4 months!

I returned from Jakarta, Indonesia to start with the State Department and moved into an apartment at Oakwood Falls Church, Virginia in July 2012. In November 2012 I had to move out of that apartment into another one as Oakwood was renovating. Then in January 2012 I gave birth to C and moved out of that apartment to live with my aunt in Winchester, Virginia for two months (the reasons of which are complicated to go into – basically the government would not pay my per diem while on maternity leave). Then in March 2012 when C was eight weeks old, I moved back into Oakwood Falls Church. In July 2012 we headed to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico for my first tour, and then, of course, we departed there July 1 of this year, moving into our current accommodation at the very end of August. And in three short months we will be on the move again.

Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy being here. I was not making things up in my last post. Also, a certain part of me must rather like this, the regular moving. However, every once in awhile I feel overwhelmed with the moving and I question my sanity. I wonder what it would be like to stay in one place longer term…

When looking at the Foreign Service for a career, the oft quoted time frame is that an officer will move “every few years” or “every two to three years.” However, the reality is that an officer will likely move more frequently. Most often the increased frequency depends on training in Washington, DC and certain posts with shorter terms.

When you join the Foreign Service you start in Washington, DC in training at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, VA. If this is not your home before joining the FS, then the State Department will move you there. You could be in training for six weeks or six months or one year. It depends on where you are assigned. Many who are assigned a Washington, DC post for their first tour move out of the State-department provided housing into their own housing. So even if you stay in DC for the first year (most of these DC tours are just one year), then in 14 months you have moved twice, and you are likely then preparing for a third move overseas for your second tour, again depending on how long you will be in training prior to that tour. Moves are just par the course.

I am excited to get to Shanghai and set up our new place. Being the crazed list-making fool I am, I do, of course, have a list of how I will decorate C’s room in Shanghai and a list of places to visit and things to do together. After all, we get to stay there for a WHOLE TWO YEARS.

Basically, though I am tired just thinking about this next move even as I start preparing for it (it’s time for the time-honored tradition of applying for our diplomatic visas!) I am keeping in mind that right at this moment many of my FS colleagues are preparing for or in the midst of their own moves. There are friends raiding Costco for must-have food items in bulk. Others are having their final farewell parties and dinners with friends at home, in DC, or at post. Or even saying final farewells to favorite haunts and foods that will be unavailable or difficult to procure in post X. Many weighing suitcases and boxes in bids to estimate if their carry-on, Unaccompanied Baggage (UAB), or Household Effects (HHE) will meet the maximums. No move is the same, but it is comforting knowing that I am not the only one doing this. Also, that I have survived moves in the past and most probably will survive the next.


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