Remember our whole housing / per diem fiasco? After a very stressful week of obsessively calling and emailing a number of people, we finally got some news at 5 p.m. on Friday:
Yes, we would have to move out of our government-provided housing when my training ended. Yes, we’d have to do this even though my training ended in only a week and a half. No, it didn’t matter that this isn’t what we’d previously been told, and that we’d done everything we could to stay on top of things and make sure not to end up in a situation exactly like this one.
But wait. It gets even more fun. We were presented with two options:
- In a week and a half or so, find and move into a new apartment that we’d stay in while I worked a bridge assignment at Main State. Not ideal, but not a total surprise after our talks with people last week.
And then, the curve ball:
- In a week and a half or so, leave for Benin.
Yes, you read that correctly. We’d stay in Benin for about a month before I’d fly back to the US at 34 weeks pregnant. Then I’d do the bridge assignment thing, but this time, having been MedEvac-ed, I’d definitely get to be on per diem.
Clearly, there were some problems with this new option. Transferring to post is not just like picking up and going on vacation on a whim. In addition to the usual packing and such, there’s tons of administrative stuff that needs to be done, as many other bloggers have described, like for instance here and here. Could we do it all in a week and a half, while still in ConGen full-time? We weren’t so sure.
There were a number of advantages to going to Benin right away, though. It’d be kind of great to be able to settle in and size things up, just the two of us. I don’t know about you, but arriving in a totally foreign place and starting a completely new job all the while trying to keep alive a tiny baby we barely know how to take care of yet sounds pretty terrifying to me, frankly. Getting a head start on acclimating to the job and locale before having the baby in tow didn’t sound so bad. Plus, my two years in Benin would start ticking in February, not July. That means I’d go to my next post around February 2013, not July 2013. That means Andy would get to start his Foreign Service career about a half-year sooner.
But of course, there were downsides. In addition to the logistical difficulties, there were medical concerns too — as my mom was very quick to remind me. Even though I’d be coming back to the US at 34 weeks pregnant, what if something went wrong before then? As you can imagine, Benin’s medical care isn’t exactly exceptional.
So we had a lot to think about over the weekend. In the meantime, we started apartment hunting just in case. We looked at a bunch of places but fell in love with a tiny two-bedroom townhouse in Georgetown, located in an old converted paper mill.
Andy loved that it’s right by the C&O canal path where he bikes and runs. I loved that it felt not like corporate housing or a dumpy sublet, but like a real home, somewhere I’d be totally comfortable spending the first month or so of our baby’s life. We both loved that it’s in a great neighborhood with lots of shops, restaurants and foot traffic (the sort of place we might actually get some use out of our stroller).
The problem? We still weren’t clear about our eligibility for medical per diem, and if we weren’t eligible, we weren’t sure this place was going to work for us. Could we technically afford it? Sure. Could we justify paying as much as it cost? Questionable.
Yesterday, I contacted the medical office again, and… Good news! I confirmed with two separate people that, yes, I’m eligible for medical per diem. (Well, at least for three of the four months we’ll be in DC. But that’s good enough for us. Paying out of pocket for a month isn’t so bad.) It seems the confusion was coming from a recent rule change. Under the old code, I wasn’t eligible. Under the new code, I am. I have this in writing. From several people. On several different occasions. Of course I’ll continue to be a tiny bit nervous until the reimbursement money arrives in my bank account, but it sounds like as sure of a thing as these things can be.
So, that decided it for us. We signed the lease this morning and will get the keys later this week.
In a way, it’s too bad. I actually would have loved the chance to spend a month in Benin before having the baby. I asked about this possibility when we first found out we were pregnant, but I guess at the time it wasn’t allowed. At some point since then, the rules have changed. I wish we’d heard about that change a few months ago. Or even a few weeks ago. We definitely could have swung it. But a week and a half? Maybe if I wasn’t pregnant and we didn’t have a dog to factor in. I guess we’re getting older and less adventurous.
Nevertheless, we’re psyched about moving to Georgetown. No offense Arlington, but we’re over you. I’m also psyched that, being in my third trimester, I think I’m totally justified in delegating most of the actual moving to my husband. Tough luck Andy.