July 25, 2012

How Big is Your Neighborhood?

One of the great things about a career in the Foreign Service is that you get to travel the world—that includes living in several different countries. When most people talk about possibilities of living in different sections of a neighborhood or a city—for Foreign Service Officers we visit a country and we talk about the possibility of living there someday—truly keeping life a mystery.

As you know, Lady Hiva and I have been living in Manila, Philippines for the past year. We are here on a two year assignment so they try to get us assigned to our next post early so they, and we, can prepare. So way back in June the “bid list”  or a list of all the available positions around the world next year, came out. The first two tours in the State Department are what they call “directed tours” meaning you rank a list of countries from high to low and they assign you from that list. It is our second tour so we had to do this one more time. It is kind of exciting…you put the list together, send it in and then stew and speculate over it for a few weeks while Washington, DC decides, then you get an email of where you are going.

Lady Hiva and I spent hours and hours looking through all the countries, research what it is like to live there, what kind of job I would have etc. Then we sorted and listed, listed then sorted. Sorted. Sorted. Listed, and sorted some more. Eventually, after bartering with each other which order we wanted the list (not an easy task by the way…not only do we both have to agree but we have to satisfy all these detailed rules of bidding too) and we sent it off for assignment.

We based our criteria on three things: 1- It was a post a family could come (some posts don’t allow family because of security or health concerns) 2- I would have a management position and 3- that I could learn another language if possible. We made the list based on that, knowing full well that I was lucky enough to get Tagalog so chances were I may not get a language and if I did it would be an easier language like Spanish. But we were both alright with that.

So our top 10 of 30 looked something like this in the end:
1.      Bern Switzerland, German
2.      Geneva Switzerland, English
3.      Guatemala City, Guatemala, Spanish
4.      London England, English
5.      Auckland New Zealand, English
6.      Brussels Belgium, English
7.      Istanbul Turkey, Turkish
8.      La Paz Bolivia, Spanish
9.      Brussels Belgium, English
10.  Montevideo Uruguay, Spanish

We knew that realistically we would not get the London or Auckland or Brussels as they are highly competitive, but we added them anyway. Of the top ten 1,2,3, and 7 were management positions. Turkish is a hard language and German training is long too, so I really thought we were going to Guatemala. I would have bet money on it (although I don’t bet, thankfully because I would have been wrong)

We submitted our list and whisked off to Hawaii and Florida to be with our families. That was a great distraction from constantly conspiring about what will happen. There are so many folklore stories about if you do this you will get the post you want, or if you do that you will at least get something high on your list. We just waited.

In the midst of all of this is when we found out Lady’s brother died. So we landed in Manila and then four hours later took the exact same plane back to Hawaii. (Little did we know when we had left June 15 that one or the other of us was going to be in the States from then until July 23! YIKES)

The long awaited email came when we least expected it. Our phones have email, however they are not American carriers so if there is no wireless we cannot use the internet. We happened to be in a conference room choosing a burial plot when I saw a sign in the corner with the wireless password to the building. I logged in and VIOLA! The email was there! I was SO excited…but kept my excitement to myself due to the situation we were in. I even had the self-control to wait to tell Lady Hiva until we went outside.

We are going to ISTANBUL TURKEY! So I guess I will learn Turkish now. Hopefully this time Lady Hiva can take classes with me. Over the last few weeks we have been constantly excited about the assignment. Some of our really good friends are from there and they were the ones that introduced us to Turkish food when we lived in Washington, DC and there seems to be plenty of people that have either been there or are going soon for a holiday. There is a small congregation there so we can go to church, that made me happy. Lady Hiva has been doing research and gets REALLY REALLY excited about “all the things we can do there” I have to reminder her we still have almost a year left here in Manila, plus the training time in DC…we will not be in Istanbul for quite some time! HAHAHA…but I am glad that she is happy. That makes moving her around the world again easier.

So here is to another adventure! (I say that too much I think)….Well, in a year anyway! HAHA


  1. I love living vicariously through your adventures. And I love our reunions when all of us even better.

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