Friday, January 27, 2012

Foreign Service Fridays: The List, Part II

As you probably know, last week John got the bid list for the 165th A-100 class. We thought we knew what our bidding strategy was going to be, but our minds have changed a thousand times since then. We realized that we weren't actually taking everything into account as we ranked the posts. Because believe me, there is A LOT to take into account.

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!

16 comments:

Jessie Humphries said...

I have no real advice to give or helpful thoughts. I will just send really positive vibes your way cuz I think you are amazing to take such huge life choices in stride. It is quite the adventure!

alex said...

Some unsolicited advice:

The most important thing is to be honest with your rankings. Don't let anyone pressure you into putting things as highs that are really mediums or as mediums that are really lows. I know so many people who added a few more highs that they didn't really want to go to because a) they felt guilty about not having enough highs and b) they were sure they wouldn't get sent to that place anyway. Well, guess where they got sent. There are not quotas on how many highs, mediums, and lows you need, so be honest with your rankings and feel no guilt! Rant over. =)

meaghantothemax said...

Wow, the U.S. system is so interesting! I'm in the Canadian system and we basically just apply to things we're interested in. Thanks for the link to the post reports, though - my partner is internet-dependent too and that's our biggest concern!

Mara Rae said...

Thanks for the positive vibes, Jessie! We'll need 'em!

Mara Rae said...

There is no such thing as unsolicited advice - please feel free!! I really appreciate it, especially your input re: highs. I think my husband thinks we need more highs so we look flexible, but I'd rather be clear on where we really DO want to go. Every time I feel like we're on the same page, he sends me his list and he's added a high that I'm like, "Seriously??" about. Sigh.

Mara Rae said...

Wow! Imagine that - getting to go places you actually want to go! I'm jealous. I guess it makes it a little more exciting this way, but it's also terrifying. I feel like Internet should be available no matter where you go (at the gov't's expense) - it just seems like a basic link to sanity and happiness that they should want to provide to family members!

Jenny S. Morris said...

No advice since I've never done anything like this and don't know where I'd even start. But I'm with Jessie and I'll be sending positive vibes your way.

Janet Johnson said...

I remember when my friend went through this. All the research was insane! Wish I had something for you, but hoping you end up with a good one. :) (And one that has you leave AFTER March) ;)

Mike said...

I loved your post on the "B Word" blog about your nervous breakdown........all is good and you'll have another one next week. Funny! I enjoyed this one as well.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Oh my gosh-- That is SO MUCH to consider! I don't envy your decisions at all. But once you get there and the stress of everything that getting there entails is over, I hope you LOVE IT!

Alex said...

For perspective my A100 class was bigger so we had about 100 positions on the bid list. I only had 7 highs, something like 15 mediums and the rest lows. (And I ended up getting a high.)

Mara Rae said...

Thank you Jenny! I appreciate all positive vibes :)

Mara Rae said...

Me too! I am so excited for the conference!

Mara Rae said...

Thanks Mike :) I'm sure I'll have more nervous breakdowns to report back to all of you soon enough!

Mara Rae said...

Thank you Peggy! I hope I love it too - and that everyone comes to visit if we end up somewhere awesome :)

Mara Rae said...

That's really helpful advice, Alex. I passed it on to John, and I think he finally believes me that we don't need a million highs, so thank you!