Of Visas, Vaccinations, Our Villa, and Vogmasks (or A Wee Bit More than Halfway to China)

I know I am a Foreign Service Officer and moving is part of the job.

I knew I was headed to Shanghai in January 2015 to work before I even arrived in Juarez.

Yet each move still feels strange and crazy and unreal until it happens. I just have to keep moving forward with the preparations.

Just a few hours after I pushed “publish” on my last I received a phone call from the Special Issuance Agency to let me know our Chinese diplomatic visas were ready for pick-up. Whoa, that was fast! It took only two weeks. My classmate’s visa application took a month and I figured, given my own experience working on visas, that with the holidays approaching it might take longer. Nope.

I drove to pick up the visas, my fingers crossed on the steering wheel, willing there to be no mistakes on the visas. And wouldn’t you know it, they were just right! Hooray! Visas, check!

On Wednesday, I also heard from the training center clinic that C and I are up-to-date on all our required vaccinations for China. There are some ones we do not have which are recommended but we can get those at the Consulate clinic after our arrival in Shanghai. For example, C is recommended for the rabies shot, but as it is a 3 stage vaccination that needs to be administered within specific time sequences, I do not feel like coordinating her transport to and from the FSI or State Department clinics and home while trying to balance my language schedule. Doing so might be enough to drive me over the edge. Required vaccinations, check!

Just before I departed FSI to pick up the visas I thought, hey, I should check my official email and see if by chance my housing has been assigned. And there was the email, letting me know I had been assigned my first choice!

Housing is such a big issue. Wherever you are, you want your home to be a place where you feel comfortable and safe. When overseas, housing can take on even greater importance. It is a refuge from all the unknowns outside the door and can be your slice of the home HOME (reminders of the U.S.A. and family) wherever you might be. Whether you are in a place where physical security is a daily preoccupation or you just need the occasional break from the barrage of cultural differences, our housing can sometimes make or break an assignment.

I have been pretty lucky with my housing so far. In both Jakarta and Juarez I lived within walking distance of work. Now that I am a 50-minute one-way commuter, this means even more to me. Both places were spacious and had good storage space. In Jakarta I looked out large windows from my third floor walk-up onto a big, beautiful mango tree. Pineapples grew in the shrubbery. My two-story, two car-garage single- family home in Juarez was also very welcoming. That does not mean I did not sometimes suffer “housing envy” when visiting others. I admit it; I did, especially in Jakarta. The “grass is always greener” complex can be strong when it comes to housing.

In Shanghai, we will be living in a “premium” high-rise apartment complex just a 10 minute walk from my workplace. In fact, according to the website the place was the “winner best overall serviced apartment in 2013.” There is an on-site health club, a pool, pre-school, kid’s club, and Shanghai’s largest bouncing castle. It is hard for me not to feel crazy giddy about living here, especially as I expect to spend a bit more time at home due to C’s age and the air quality. Place to call home, check.

Speaking of the air quality, I also made an important purchase yesterday: C and I will soon be the proud owners of our very own Vogmasks! (plus two for guests – if you did not find our housing assignment enough of a temptation to visit then surely an opportunity to wear one of these hot little numbers will tip the scale!). According to the website “Vogmask is the first stylish, high efficiency, well-fitting, comfortable and reusable filtering face mask in the world.” It also comes in a lot of fab colors and patterns. Whoo-hoo! Check them out here: http://www.vogmask.com/collections/all. (We need the ones with the air filters) I was just thinking the other day I needed some kind of ornamentation for my face to really feel hip these days.

OK, I am trying to make light of the fact that these masks are necessary for living in Shanghai. When a contact emailed me the link and told me to get at least one for myself and for my daughter, I admit, I thought these were overkill. That was until another friend in Shanghai also sent me a private message urging me to make the purchase. I bought Lapis, Sahara, Slate Grey in adult size and Dragon print for C. We are going to rock these Vogmasks. Air filter face masks for crappy Shanghai air, check!

This move to Shanghai thing just got a bit more real.

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