This post has been a long time coming.
It’s been over three years since Andy started the process to become a Foreign Service Officer himself, and that whole time the question has been hanging over us: Will this whole thing really work out? Will we really manage to be posted somewhere together? There have been many points along the way when we believed the answer to be “no.”
Here’s a refresher:
- After Andy passed the oral assessment and found himself on the Management Register, we were told our best option was for him to defer until after I finished my tour in Cotonou; syncing up our tours then would be no problem, we were assured. As soon as I knew where I was going next the powers that be would tell Andy when he should join himself in order to get a post at the same place, which would be reserved for him.
- After French, maternity leave, and some months in Cotonou, the rules about tandem assignments changed. Now there would be a problem syncing up our tours. Maybe we would get the same post. Maybe we wouldn’t. There were no guarantees. Andy would just have to join and see what happened.
- Andy got cancer, so we forgot about the whole tandem quest for a while.
- Andy got better.
- I bid on my second tour, with the added complication of Andy not having a full medical clearance. Still, all the regulations led us to believe he would have it back in time for my next tour, so our strategy: getting me a post with tandem potential. I did not get a post with much tandem potential. Things did not look good.
- Andy fought to get his full medical clearance back, which he’d need in order to join the Foreign Service himself — worldwide availability, and all. He was denied, he appealed, and after a lot of headaches and stress, finally won.
- Despite the slim odds of being posted together, we decided not to give up just yet. Andy would join and we would see if there was still a way to make it work — knowing that one or both of us might resign if it didn’t. We waited for the timing to be right to give us the best possible chance.
- A few months before Andy wanted to join, he gave the powers that be a heads up. Well actually, they told him, despite the fact that you’ve been working in an embassy and have an active security clearance, we’re going to need to do your security clearance again. It might take a while.
- Meanwhile, the federal budget was in shambles and there were no guarantees about future Foreign Service hiring. If Andy didn’t get in this particular class, who knew when the next opportunity would be (and with later classes the odds of being able to sync up our timing grew more and more slim).
- Luckily, several wonderful colleagues helped usher Andy’s new security clearance through just in time. He started getting ready for A100.
- We found out I was pregnant. This made us even less willing to settle for a posting apart.
- Andy started A100 and got the good news that the CDOs wanted to help us. In fact, they were even proactive and determined which posts would work for us before our first official meeting. They would break my assignment and assign us somewhere together. The fact that me being pregnant wouldn’t allow me to arrive at that original assignment on time anyway probably didn’t hurt things, either. Unfortunately, the options about where we could be assigned together turned out to be limited and came with long separations and no guarantee that Andy would be able to be there for the birth of baby #2. I’ve known couples who have made this sacrifice, but to us, it just felt like too much.
- Andy’s CDO presented a new idea: he could do a one-year job in D.C. and we could bid later off of a new list with different options. This wasn’t the best plan career-wise for me, as it involved a lot of time floating around in temporary assignments, but we decided it was still the best call for our family. We’d both be in D.C. for baby #2’s birth and my maternity leave, and we’d probably be able to go somewhere together after that. But still, no promises.
- A month or so into Andy’s D.C. gig, our new bid list came out. Things looked like they just might turn out okay after all. There were a surprisingly large number of options for us. We bid, we waited hopefully, and that brings us to now…
After all this, and after six months of separation in order for a tandem posting to even be a possibility, we’ll be reunited in D.C. for Spanish training and after that, next summer/fall, we’ll be going TOGETHER, both as consular officers, to…
We actually bid this #1. It took us a while to get to that point because it’s not as flashy as some of our other options, but we think it’s a great fit for our family at this stage in our lives: culturally interesting, but still full of plenty of modern comforts. And close to home.