Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's Manila!

Pam and I got the word today - we're going to Manila! There'll be a much shorter time in DC this round - probably only a month of training (area studies and a bit more consular training). We'll also have a month of home leave, location(s) TBD, before arriving in Manila in March 2011. We'll still have to figure out exactly when we leave Hyderabad, but something right around the new year is most likely. Back for Christmas? Maybe. We'll have to work out the precise dates.

Anyway, the most important thing is that we're going the same place at the same time, and that we can take the boys and the dog. Both of us will be doing consular jobs, which, while not ideal, is also not the end of the world. We both like the (relatively) regular schedule. And in Manila there's much more immigrant visa work and American Citizen Services, so there should be some change from the straight non-immigrant visa work we do in India.

One more day of training before we move on to Maryland for the weekend, then Pennsylvania next week. It's nice to be home, even for a few days!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

3 weeks? That's nothing!

If it's been three weeks since Pam posted, it must be close to six months for me. And we have friends coming over for dinner in 20 minutes, so this post won't be long, either.

But what I will say is that we're starting to get excited about coming home for a few weeks. I'm not sure we know why. We've become so accustomed to Indian ways that I'm not sure we remember just how different it is. I suspect the reverse culture shock will be significant. But we're definitely looking forward to seeing friends and family, and of course to having a few weeks off work.

I think the most interesting thing will be seeing how Sarwari does. Will she be as much work as the kids? Will she adjust easily? Will she be too nervous to leave the house? Heck, we have to teach her to do simple things like cross the street - there are no walk/don't walk signs here. We did get her a whole pile of Hindi and Telugu movies to help her while away her hours in PA and TX when she's not technically working. Which will be another interesting thing - will she be able to understand that she can be around us and not working? Is it worth the effort to try to get her to understand? She'll be treated like a real person in the US, not just a servant, and I think that will be a shock for her at times.

Updates to come, hopefully less than six months later.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Bid List

I can't believe it's been almost three weeks since I've posted. I've had drafts of three posts ... but some how between William and Patrick I just never finished them. So they will be relegated to the trash and I'm just going to start afresh.

We have two-fold excitement in the house this week: leaving for the US in a few days and bidding on our next post. I don't think I need to say much more about getting on a plane for 30 hours ... so I'll tell a little bit about the bidding process.

As untenured officers, our assignments are "directed" - that is, they give us a list of jobs, we rank 20 of them, then they assign. As a tenured officer, the process is much more like finding a normal job -- you see what positions each bureau has available, you send in your resume and "lobby" (aka network), and then a "handshake" is offered. That's for later, though. For now we're still being directed.

The Winter 2010 bid list was just issued on Friday (after the first tranche of people in difficult places like Af-Pak-Iraq were given their jobs). For us, the revised list didn't matter so much. Some of our colleagues were upset that Berlin and Auckland were gone, but those were never options for us to begin with.

Even though the list contained about 300 jobs, realistically, we only had 4 (or maybe 8) cities to choose from. Our criteria: (1) two jobs together where we can take kids (and hopefully Bagwelle!) and (2) jobs with training requirements that fit the rules. Because we had a year of training before coming here (all that Telugu!), we are only eligible for an additional 6 months of training before our next post, which basically rules out learning another language - and rules out a significant number of potential jobs.

This has left us with jobs in Manila and Washington as "perfect" fits (meaning, we leave Hyderabad in January, as scheduled) and Kingston (Jamaica) and Kampala (Uganda) as "imperfect fits (meaning, we leave sometime between December and March). That's the whole kit and kaboodle. Not very much considering the list had 300 positions on it!

Now, we're not complaining; we're mostly just surprised at how short the options are. Both Manila and Kampala are reportedly good places for families. And we have a lot of friends in DC (not to mention family in the US) - though I would prefer not to have to pay for two kids full time in day care! Kingston is less appealing because of the significant crime and the difficulty of consular work there (no, we would not be living on an all-inclusive island resort!).

For awhile we thought we might be able to swing some bids on jobs in Tunis, Singapore and Frankfurt. Tunis and Frankfurt if they bent the time-in-training for one of us (Greg would learn French or me German). Singapore if they let one of us arrive early. But, as it turns out, the training rule is hard and fast. And if we ask for an exception for Singapore, we'd also have to add Lagos and Abuja (both in Nigeria) to the list ... a risk we're not so thrilled to take.

Assignments will likely happen the end of March or early April. Stay tuned ...