Friday, January 20, 2012

Foreign Service Fridays: The List

Hi all! I know this post is kind of late for all the East Coasters out there, but Jack's napping on West Coast time, so bear with me.

Yesterday we got THE LIST. All you Foreign Service folks out there know what I'm talking about, but for anyone who doesn't, The List is our "bid list," a spreadsheet of available posts that each A-100 class gets. That means that somewhere on that puppy is our future home. I'm not allowed to go into particulars, but let's just say it's got some great posts, some truly awful, worst-case-scenario posts, and a whole bunch of in-betweeners. John and I felt like we'd discussed everything but, as is generally the case, we were wrong.

One thing I hate about The List is that it consists of cities, not countries, and for those of us who are geographically challenged (ie, me), it's basically worthless. Fortunately, my ever-patient husband added a country column for the truly obscure ones (I still had to look up a bunch of them; bless John's little heart for thinking I know where some of these places are). In addition to the city, you get the cone (political, econ, consular, etc.), the language requirement (not as straight forward as you'd think; QB is Spanish for reasons unknown to me. In addition to the language code there's a proficiency requirement, which is generally 2/2 or 3/3, aka, pretty much fluent), the report date (ranging from mere weeks from now until early next year), the differential (sort of like a cost-of-living adjustment, only in this case you get more money the crappier a place is), the danger pay percentage (frankly I don't think an additional ten percent of John's pay is going to make up for having to drive around in an armored vehicle, but there you have it), and the size of the post.

Our particular list has very few posts that don't allow family members to accompany the FSO, although there are a handful of posts that John simply doesn't qualify for based on report date, language requirements, etc. Being in Washington has actually been a blessing in disguise, because it allowed me to have my minor freak out away from John. I was skirting a mental ledge for a few minutes there, one foot safely inside the walls of sanity and the other dangling somewhere in no man's land, but Sarah and Mommy managed to pull me back toward safety, and John and I have had several very civil discussions about the whole thing. We have almost two weeks to come up with our preferences (the list we turn in that ranks every post, including those John isn't actually eligible for, as high, medium, or low), but we have to turn in our little worksheet that basically explains our "bidding" strategy in just a few days. It turns out John and I are on the same page for this. Whew!

Essentially, John and I would prefer a post in his cone (political), in his geographic region of interest, in a place that has Internet (that is my one requirement for this whole thing. If I can't write, I'll almost certainly lose my toe-hold on sanity and plummet into the abyss). I have a feeling John and I won't get our top pick OR our worst-case scenario. It will probably be some random country that's kind of crappy but kind of cool. I can handle that. In theory. Right now it's just one step at a time. Plus, I figure the worse a place is, the better my stories will be to share with all of you. Unless we don't have Internet. In which case all bets are off.


Carrie Butler said...

Eek! Good luck with the list, Mara. I really hope you guys get one of your top picks!

Erin Kent said...

Oh wow, deep breath... this is so huge. I remember what you had said about the list but reading your words now put me right there with you, in the moment. I am both holding my breath for you and nodding in admiration of what a giant leap in adventure units this for the three of you. So impressed... way to just take a huge gnaw out of life, Rutherfords! You will have SO MUCH to write about!

Alex said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, Mara. And yes, even in the middle of nowhere we were doing just fine. I promise it's not as scary as you're imagining. =) The FS takes pretty good care of its people and makes the transition pretty easy for you, baby and all.

I happen to have snuck a peak at your husband's bid list, and if you guys are borderline about anywhere and want to run any questions by me, feel free! (You'll learn that after two years in the FS you know someone at a good number of posts around the world and have hence heard a lot about what things are like at most places.)

Good luck! Flag Day remains the most exciting day of my FS career...

Mara Rae said...

Hi Alex! Thanks for stopping by! I just might take you up on your offer - a lot of the African posts are fairly mysterious. And if you have any tips on places to avoid, please let me know!

Mara Rae said...

Thanks Erin! Yes, it will definitely be an adventure! Poor little Jack - he's going to stick out like a sore (and very pale) thumb in many of these places!