Monday, September 30, 2013

Zee What I Mean?

The simple fact that you are reading this (You are reading this, right?  Validate my life, people!) means that I have successfully overcome the trauma that occurs when one finds oneself without home Internet for a month’s time.  Okay, so I haven’t blogged much since leaving Mexico, regardless of my Internet status.  Truth be told, DC kinda bores me.  Good news, folks!  I’m in Jerusalem now, and that’s FAR from boring!  Bad news, folks!  You gotta suffer through some non-Jerusalem blogs first.  I slacked, and now we must all be punished.  Don’t worry, we’ll get there.  I’ve got two years to paint this picture for you.


On the afternoon of August 29th, I completed the six week class PC530: Basic Consular Course, otherwise known as ConGen.  It is a long, exhausting, highly beneficial class that teaches you the policies and best practices of the department through our dealings with The Republic of Z, an imaginary land constructed specifically for this class (because in real life, laws and regulations change all the time and they wanted course content to be consistent and accurate).  The course, mandatory for consular officers but optional (and, like language training, unpaid) for Eligible Family Members, prepares our diplomats for conducting visa interviews and providing a wide range of services to our American citizens living and/or traveling overseas.  For EFMs like myself, the course provides the necessary skills to apply for positions at post similar to, but more better-er, than the one I occupied in Guadalajara. Apparently it worked...pending the processing of some paperwork, I should be starting up next week!

On that sunny, happy Thursday afternoon in late August I walked the halls of the Foreign Service Institute with my diploma in one hand and my peer-voted Zoscars awards in the other ("Best Actor in a Role Play," for my dazzling portrayal of a Zian gangster, and "Most Likely to Run for President of Z," which I would like to think means I am knowledgeable due to my prior job assignment overseas but probably means I talk too much...), saying my goodbyes and see-you-laters, and looking toward the future.  In less than three weeks' time, we would be arriving in Israel.  

But before that?  VACATION.  ORLANDO.  HOME.  WHEEE!

The department mandates one month of home leave between overseas assignments (or every two years spent overseas, whichever is shorter) regardless of your length of domestic training in the interim.  There are many reasons for this, I am sure, but the big one seems to be that the powers that be want us to remember where we come from.  We may live most of our lives abroad, but we are Americans serving American interests and need to maintain an American perspective.

Sounds cool in theory.  Home leave either begins after your departure from your previous overseas assignment, or immediately following any domestic training leading into your next overseas assignment.  Timing depends on your training schedule, and you can spend your leave anywhere you wish, so long as it is in the United States.  For TJ, home leave fell at the end of training.  This means that we were, for all practical purposes, evicted from our government sponsored Oakwood housing the day his training ended.  Okay.  We had planned on spending that time in Orlando anyway.  No problem!

Wait.  Problem?  Oh.  You see, the only constant is change, and TJ's training ended earlier than we had anticipated when I signed up for my six week ConGen course.  We got the boot when I had exactly two weeks of class left.  Oops.

Ever ready to take advantage of an unfortunate situation, we used the opportunity to find a hotel in Alexandria, which we had never really explored despite its proximity to Falls Church (approx. 9 mi SE).  We stayed in the historic downtown district and, thanks to the architecture, shops, restaurants, parks and waterfront, found ourselves falling in love with the area for the first time in the combined 20 months that we had spent in Northern Virginia since early 2010.  In fact, we are viewing Alexandria as a potential contender for residence should work or training prompt a return to the states in the future.

We explored at night.  During the day TJ did laundry and watched TV and met friends for coffee.  I studied and envied him his break.  He would tell you, and has told me, that he did more productive things than that, and I'm sure he did.  But this is my blog and it's more fun to poke at him.  Besides, I'm sure it's a lovely contrast to now, when TJ is working and I am doing laundry and watching TV and making plans with an EFM neighbor while I wait for the okay to start my job.

That's neither here nor there.  The important thing is that ConGen was over.  Next stop:  ORLANDO!