Handshakes and Contests

Two years ago when I was preparing to leave my beloved Denver and head off to DC for some brief training, and then on to Destination Unknown, we agreed that we would be gone for one two-year tour. At the time, that sounded like adventure enough. (Little did we know what was to come….)

But somehow, about mid-way in, the idea of a second posting, a second two-year tour, presented itself. It did so in the form of a preliminary list of possible second posts. And before we knew what was happening, and much to even our own surprise, the conversation turned from if to where.

Randy says he clearly remembers the moment. His view was that I/we were being “robbed” of a fair experience because of the crisis and chaos, so he thought we should try one more time for a “real” experience.

Me? I’m not so sure. My memory is that the process stretched out over a long period of time, and at some point, we crossed over. I’m not even sure I can articulate why or how that crossover occurred, but of course, that won’t keep me from trying. So here goes a stab at recording a few reasons why I think we decided to give it another go:

  1. There is a great need. Worldwide, we are still about a dozen providers short. This means foreign service officers and their families are going into places with little to no health care available locally with no in-house medical provider. In turn, this adds to the difficulty of attracting quality officers to serve in those places. It’s hard to say no to the need, plus it’s nice to be needed.
  2. I’m qualified and available. There’s something to be said for the right man for the job, and my training, experience, and personality make me suitable for the work. Plus I’m not sure what other realistic thing I’d be interested in doing at this point.
  3. I’ve learned so much these past two years it feels wasteful to stop now. And I don’t just mean about medicine, but about so very many other things as well–state department policies, diplomacy, bureaucracy, politics, government, crisis management, geography, African history, African politics (President for Life 3.0), alternate views, living outside the bubble, missionaries on the ground, and so much more. It feels right to continue.
  4. It’s an opportunity to serve. Opportunities to serve abound, including opportunities in your own home, your own family, your own back yard, your own city, your own country. But it’s certainly worth noting when a unique and specific opportunity presents itself directly to you. I guess you could say I feel called.
  5. I’m not going to lie: I love to travel. When I see a map, my eyes light up and my heart races. I want to go there and often it doesn’t even matter where! There’s even been some research about this being wired into our DNA. This is no endorsement of the scientific validity of the findings, but this article even identifies the mutation of the gene. Whatever. I just think the suitcase should be stored in a convenient place and the vacuum cleaner less so. Now I know there are those reading this that get it, and likely share this passion. And there are those who don’t–at all. Let’s just celebrate that it takes all kinds of people to make a world, and I’m glad I’m me and you’re you!!
  6. I’m not going to lie, Part Deux: I love having someone else pay for my travel. Oh, yea, and meet me at the airport with my name on a placard. Boom.
  7. And lastly, I’m not ready to hang it up, nor am I quite ready to tackle a whole new thing at this point. So it just makes sense to Keep Calm and Carry On, with apologies to the British WWII propaganda machine.

All that to say, we’re considering a second two-year assignment. As you can probably imagine, there’s a prolonged, bureaucratic process for this. For me, as a soon-to-be second tour MED officer, it goes something like this:*

First the list comes out. It’s a preliminary list, subject to many potentially heartbreaking changes, but it’s a list. What follows is a scurry of research. Lists are made. Incumbents are contacted. The inside, off-the-record scoop is sought. Maps are consulted. (Of course, maps are consulted, because likely most of the places on the list are strange, unfamiliar places, as the state department, in all its wisdom, only refers to posts by cities, never countries.) As more information is gained, graphs are made; potential locations fall on and off the list; options are ranked according to criteria like climate, city and embassy size, length of commute, dog and runner friendly, housing, availability of household help (yes, we put that on the ranking list–coming home every day to a clean house, ironed clothes, and a cooked meal are perks this non-Suzy-Homemaker gal can embrace), job satisfaction, and overall quality of life, as far as it can be predicted from the research.

Eventually a list is finalized, called the “Bid List“. Submitting this prioritized list of six places you’d be willing to spend your next two years is exciting and filled with trepidation. What am I thinking?, you ask yourself. I just said I’d be willing to go where? A month ago I had never even heard of that place. But the list is submitted nonetheless.

And then comes the part I’ve never been good at, but am getting much better at due to much practice: you wait for someone else to decide your fate.

That’s where we are today. Waiting. The euphemistic term for the disseminating of this information is called “handshakes”–referring to an unofficial offer of your next post. We were due to receive our handshakes a couple of weeks ago, but were informed it would be Thanksgiving week. In an effort to manage my expectations, I’m gearing up to hear the news by Christmas, just to avoid the continual disappointment of inevitable postponements.

When said handshake is received, I shall sponsor a contest, as I did the first time. It costs nothing to enter, and you may enter as many times as you’d like. Winner gets free room and board when they come to visit. I jest: everyone gets free room and board when they come to visit, but enter the contest anyway. (Don’t laugh; we had seven visitors to Buj!! Two even came twice!) When I announce the contest, which of course could be any day now, I’ll offer hints, but in the meantime, you can be thinking about your guesses. The potential winning answer could be anywhere listed on the map below! (Wishing you all the best in reading the fine print!)

World map of embassies

So stay tuned! It could be any day between now and Christmas!


*At least, this is the process for me. As they always say, “MED does things differently”, so other foreign service officers’ experience may vary greatly.

6 thoughts on “Handshakes and Contests

  1. You should add ‘writer’ to that impressive resume. Your posts are so interesting, I look forward to reading your autobiography in a few years. Happy thanksgiving and all the best!

  2. Wishing you and Randy a great experience. You’re doing great work. Await your next post. Prayers for your health and safety

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