It's been an exciting week so far, and it's only Tuesday night. And it's gonna get more exciting!
Over the weekend, I researched various cities and countries so that I could try to put in my best "bid list" for my second Foreign Service posting. The first time I bid, it was a very different process, where I just designated each post on the list (~100 jobs/posts) as "high," "medium," or "low," and provided a short comment on the side to explain particular reasons for my designations.
To clarify - bidding is the term used for when we try to figure out our onward assignments in the Foreign Service. It can happen anywhere from a few years out to a few months out. In my case, I'm bidding in November 2016 for an assignment in 2018.
This bidding experience started out with (not surprisingly) confusion. I thought I wasn't supposed to bid until spring 2017, then realized at the last minute that I needed to do it now. My bidding options are limited by job type, since it's required that I do a consular tour next. This is because every Foreign Service Officer is required to do some time in the consular field within their first two assignments, and I've been doing management work in my first tour.
Anyway, once it was clear that my bidding research had to go, go, go, I dove in! The listed started out with almost 150 options, which quickly got reduced as I scratched off non-consular tours. The locations on the list varied widely across all regions and most continents, including large metropolitan cities and tiny hilly-side towns or far-flung places I had to enter into Google maps to reveal their actual locations.
The next step was figuring out "timing." This involves figuring out what month I can leave my current post (for me, March 2016) and determining how much leave and training I'd be required to take versus how much I'm allowed to take. Each post on the list includes a month and year that they want someone to show up, so my list was vastly reduced as I crossed off places marked as 2019 or 2016 (too late, too early). There's a limit on how much training one should take within their first couple years, so that knocked a few others off the list.
At the end of it all, I had 19 choices and they covered many languages (including French and English, as well as Mandarin, Spanish, Lao, Thai, Portguese, etc), regions and timings. I submitted my bid list to my Career Development Officer and now... I wait.
I'm not good at waiting, at least not patiently!
More important that bidding, I finally voted! I did my overseas vote in the presidential elections and am proud of myself for getting it in on time. Not much to say on this point, but it felt very good and it's incredibly sad that I'll miss the election results 'in the moment', because...
I'm at the airport awaiting my flight! That's right, it's finally time. I'm on my way home, at last, and I'm very excited. FAR more excited than I could have predicted six months ago. My R&R plans include resting and relaxing and catching up with my parents in Durham; visiting friends in DC; and visiting family in Miami. Also eating tons of good food (mostly from my dad's fantastic kitchen!) and trying my best not to think about work. :)
Never a dull moment... so long for now, Bamako! I'll be back!