After our meeting with John's career development officer (I think that's what he's called - I joined in via conference call) yesterday morning, our strategy has changed even more. One helpful thing we learned: you can put short notes next to some (not all!) of the posts with your reasoning for ranking it a certain way. For example, if a place is known to have crap Internet, you can make a note of that (something along the lines of, "wife is writer; needs Internet.") Whether or not they actually take that into account (I'm guessing not), it at least helps explain your bidding strategy, and one thing they're looking for is consistency. Our priorities are 1) cone (political) 2) region of interest 3) safety. So it would make sense for us to rank a political job in a safe city in John's region of interest high. It would not make as much sense to rank a political job in a safe city not in John's region of interest high, or a consular job in any city high. BUT, we could put those as mediums. We can even indicate mediums we'd prefer over other mediums in the notes. And you can indicate your highest highs as well. They did stress to keep the notes to a minimum. But if there's a city that seems to meet our other criteria and doesn't have Internet, we could rank it lower and make a note. You get the idea. I hope.
Originally we only had a few highs. We've had to rethink that as we've done more research and realized that some places we might have overlooked at first actually have a very good quality of life based on personal post reports. If you'd like to check out any country yourself, just go to talesmag.com, then to RPRs (real post reports). Not every report is made by a Foreign Service officer (I think any expat can contribute), but there is a lot of useful information, including what the public transportation is like, how expensive (and reliable) Internet is, how safe the city is, what not to take with you, and what you absolutely should take with you. Obviously a lot of it is completely subjective, but it gives you a good feel for what living in the city would be like.
|Packing "list" of realist painter Adolf Konrad (1915-2003)|
There are also posts that look good at first glance, but turn out to either be less safe, or more remote, or less interesting, than you might assume. That's why it's important to research every single post on there (unless there are certain jobs you simply don't want no matter where they are). Even if you think you know a city well (maybe you've been there before, or you know someone who has), living somewhere for two years is extremely different from visiting for two weeks. What might seem like minor irritations (public transportation) or even benefits (lack of fast food restaurants) could become real hassles over time. I'm not big on McDonald's, but after eating goulash for months, I might start to crave those french fries. Even living in London ten years ago, I was always happy to visit a nearby Starbucks. A vanilla soy latte can do a lot to boost your mood when you're feeling homesick. Like I said, there's a lot to consider, and only a little time left to do it. Our bid list is due early next week.
If any of you have any thoughts, please weigh in in the comments! We need all the help we can get!