We’re not really preparing to go to Guadalajara just yet. In fact, I’m not even half way done with my tour in DC and our furniture isn’t even back from Benin. But such is the nature of the Foreign Service that I often find myself thinking about what Guadalajara will be like. I heard there’s a Wal-Mart and a Home Depot and a Costco. In fact, I’ve not just heard about these things, but I’ve seen them using Google Streetview. There are museums and restaurants, most of which have websites. You could buy entire books filled with things to do in the region.
It is such a contrast to when we were preparing to go to Cotonou. Two years ago we would scour the internet for any information about Cotonou we could find. We heard there was a big grocery store, but couldn’t find the website for months. We watched the same YouTube video of someone driving through Cotonou a dozen times. Alex would excitedly tell me “I found someone from Cotonou with a blog. And there are photos!” We would eat up any scraps we could.
With Guadalajara, well, it seems there’s just so much more information readily available.
None of this is to say that Guadalajara will necessarily be better than Cotonou (although high-speed internet access would beg to differ), only that it may be a very different experience. It makes me think about how cheap cialis uk much Cotonou has colored our view of the Foreign Service. This is natural since it was our first and, so far, only tour. To us, the Foreign Service means substandard medical care, foreign languages, undeveloped cities, guards outside your house at night, affordable household help, slow internet, challenging time differences, long flights, grocery stores with a limited selection that changes from day to day, and chaotic streets. We only know the small embassy in Cotonou. The one without an employee association or commissary. To us, that is normal in the Foreign Service.
When I met with friends who had served at other posts after arriving back to Washington, it was amazing the things we all took for granted from our first posts. I was shocked to hear them casually talk about roadblocks and neighborhoods getting shut down because of gang wars. And then I laughed when they complained that they had to drive over an hour into Texas to get to a hospital they would consider “good.” In turn, they were surprised when I said we had no commissary and had to ship any American goods we wanted from back home (not including glass or liquids, because we didn’t even have a DPO). And they laughed when I would complain that our first housekeeper wasn’t the best (but our second housekeeper, gardener, and nanny were top notch).
We’re anxious to see how living in Guadalajara will make us view the Foreign Service. When we’re in a place with familiar chain stores, and in a time zone that will help, not hinder, my ability to watch a lot of football on the weekends, how will we think about the Foreign Service? Will it still feel exotic? Will it still feel like we’re being deprived the comforts we’re used to in the US? Will we still look forward to every trip back home in the same way? Or will all of that have changed? Will the Foreign Service feel more like a regular job and not quite the huge lifestyle change it felt like in Benin? Maybe it will be a combination of the two. Or maybe I’m underestimating how challenging Guadalajara will be, or how much less of a hardship it will feel like than Cotonou.
No matter what it’s like, we’re looking forward to it. But in the meantime, we’re still enjoying our time in DC, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our furniture (and also a baby).