Regardless of the title, the fact is clear: OH MY GOODNESS I HAVE LESS THAN 100 DAYS LEFT IN SHANGHAI!! Um, excuse me. I panicked for a little bit there. <throat clearing> I mean <in my most diplomatic voice> I have precious little time to do the host of things necessary before I depart this post. It is just that it caught me off guard. I received the handshake for my next post (Malawi) in early November. In mid November I began looking at the training I need. In late November my HR Assignment Officer contacted me to confirm the months of my departure from Shanghai and arrival in Malawi and suggest probable training. Improbably, just a few days later in early December I was approved (“paneled”) for the position and received the official cable notifying me of my transfer. I reached out to the incumbent to learn of his projected departure date. I reached out to my next post to lay out some options for my arrival. Then went on vacation to Mauritius.
Then suddenly it is January 2017 and it hits me: this year is going to be one crazy roller coaster. Three and a half months in Shanghai. Then three and a half months in the US divided between home leave and training. Two intercontinental travel days in which time is suspended. And five months in Malawi. Yep, one crazy roller coaster and I am already strapped into the car rolling out of the station.
First is the Shanghai portion, the 100 days. And in that time all I have to do is organize getting myself, my daughter, our two pets and all our stuff from Post A (Shanghai) to Post B (Lilongwe) via home leave and training at the Foreign Service Institute. Oh, if only it were so easy. Naturally it is on top of my regular full time work. It is as if I have acquired a second, part time job.
I am by no means alone in this; I know my situation is not unique. There are Foreign Service Officers all over the world preparing to transfer this summer. While it is comforting that the majority of us will get it done, it does not make this process any easier. I often find myself lying awake at night fervently hoping that I will love living and working in Malawi so that I can extend and put off this next time I take part in this fabulous migration activity. Geez, if I just kinda like my job I will do what I can to prolong my tour and postpone the next PCS (Permanent Change of Station). I daydream about what it must be like to have an adult EFM (eligible family member) to be my partner in move preparation. (Applications currently available. No deadline. Rolling acceptance. Open until filled)
Just this week I did the following: Completed and submitted my proposed travel itinerary from Shanghai to Malawi and in-between. Filled out and emailed registration forms for my daughter’s school in Malawi. Filled out the paperwork to renew my daughter’s medical clearance. Scheduled a doctor’s appointment for my daughter in relation to her 5 year old well appointment. Contacted the State Department lodging office regarding housing during my training and secured a reservation. Completed and submitted the housing and community questionnaire for Malawi. Secured child care for my daughter for the week that I am in training in West Virginia. Firmed up my reservations with a friend at Walt Disney World for during our home leave. A great start, but it barely scratches the surface.
There are vaccinations. Plane tickets. Check-ups and exit paperwork and plane reservations for the cats. Figuring out the buying of a car in Japan and getting it to Malawi and financing that whole shebang. Child care for during the rest of my training in Arlington. More home leave planning. Organizing our stuff into what we leave behind, what we give away, what we put in the suitcases, and the UAB (unaccompanied air baggage) that will be delivered during training, and the HHE (household effects) that we will not see again until Malawi.
You know. Just a few things.
And I mentioned this before this is of course on top of my regular job and all the other regular life kind of things. Like filing my taxes. Completing my one year work evaluation- due April 15 just like the taxes. And organizing my daughter’s 5th birthday party this month. And sleeping. I have had a bit of trouble with that last one of late so I think it important to remind myself it is something I should be doing.
I think the biggest shock to my system regarding how much time we have left was when I opened my cabinets at the very beginning of the month. From the huge amount of food items I saw staring back at me I knew I had been in denial for awhile. Why in the world did I buy myself another box of cereal and more of my breakfast smoothie mix just before Mauritius when the other packages were nearly done? Seriously? I already had 20 packs of instant oatmeal too. And peanut butter. I seem to have A LOT of peanut butter (not pictured because you do not need to see that kind of thing). Guess what the kids at C’s birthday party are going to be eating? PB&J sandwiches for everyone! (eat up kids and take the extras home)
Finally, I have to prepare to say goodbye to Shanghai, our home for the past two plus years. This is where C went from being a 3 year old, a newly minted “preschooler” to a 5 year old ready to begin Kindergarten at our next post. She has gone from saying “hello” and “watermelon” in Chinese to having full on Mandarin conversations with the nanny. I too have grown a lot in these two years at work and as a mom. We have lived here and Shanghai is a part of us. Also, I still have things left on the bucket list because are just too many things to see and do in this city! Ok, Shanghai, just stop being so chock full of activities already. I cannot keep up.
And all of it has to be done in this first quarter of the year. Whew.
*In reality there there are only 88 days and counting as of today. It took me 12 days to get my sh*t together to write this. And I was committed to this title I tell you.