Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Update

It's happened again - two months went by without my posting a thing. And there's much to tell! So from the beginning...

November 2016 saw me return to the U.S. for my first ever "R&R". This a type of leave that the Foreign Service grants where I use my regularly earned annual leave but the State Department pays for my airline ticket. Every post is different in terms of whether you earn an R&R or not. In Mali, we earn three for a two-year tour. I took three weeks of leave and used my ticket to fly to Durham, NC, where I visited my parents. During that time, I also zipped up to DC to get some doctor's appointments out of the way and to visit friends there; and down to Miami to visit my grandmother, aunt and cousin. The trip was exactly what I wanted it to be: relaxing, somewhat social, but not terribly busy. During my stay we celebrated my mom's birthday as well as Thanksgiving, for which my brother and sister-in-law drove in. Getting to see everyone was really fulfilling and reassuring for me, somehow.

After my R&R, I headed to Johannesburg, South Africa, for a leadership workshop, which was very useful and also gave me the opportunity to see familiar faces from training. It also eased me back into the work mindset. My class organized a trip to a nearby safari park and I got to see giraffes (those goofy, oddly graceful, lovable animals!) and hungry lions, as well as a wildebeest!

And finally, it was time to return to Bamako. Aside from one of my suitcases getting mysteriously separated from the other and going to Ethiopia, the trip home was pretty smooth (and the suitcase arrived three days later, intact). Just as I got back, many others went on holiday leave, so my last few weeks have been curiously calm. Still busy, of course, and still filled with a variety of tasks and challenges that keep things interesting, but minus the manic feeling I've gotten used to. A not-too-small part of me hopes that I can hold onto this calm!

In other news, I found out about my next assignment. In 2018, after going back to DC for consular training, I will be heading out to experience the thrills and chills and joys and challenges of...

Paris, France!

I'm incredibly excited, obviously! Paris will be 180 degrees from Bamako in just about every sense. About half the people I tell warn me about how difficult it will be, how unhappy most are there, how crazy the work schedule gets, etc. And I believe them to some extent: it's a large embassy and will probably not have much of the cohesion that I love so much here in Bamako. My section alone will have fourteen people in it and we will live in different places in the city. Consular work can be difficult and Paris is Paris, so there are tons of high-profile visits, which for a junior officer means lots of 'volunteering' to do things like babysit luggage. Also, Parisians are notoriously difficult to befriend.

However. If I cannot enjoy two years in Paris, it seems to me I'm doomed. My hope is that in the time up to summer 2018, I can do enough research and reaching out to find groups, hobbies, adventures, etc, to keep me occupied and meeting people. It seems to me that if I get lonely/bored, I can invite friends from all over to come see me. I will take a day trip to Marseilles, or Brussels, or Prague, or anywhere I want.

So that's my news! 

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