Well, the Foreign Service bid list came out last week, and I have mulled and culled, and came up with a list of about 9 that I’ve bid on. They span the far corners of the earth. I’ve sent out emails to my top choices and would be happy with any of them. I’ve talked to Mr. Wright about my choices, and that I don’t want to be without him. I told him I want him to come with me. He wants to be with me too, and said he’ll be happy wherever we go. So I’ve started bidding and have heard back from a number of jobs already. I’m hoping I get an early handshake in the next few weeks so I don’t have to worry about it for much longer, but we will see. My top three choices all have multiple bidders, but I think I make a strong candidate for any of them. Really, I would be happy anywhere I go – top choice or not. I want to see the world – and I want to see it with my love. I’ll keep you updated on where I end up!
One question that’s always asked when living overseas is “Where is home for you?” This is always a hard question for me. Where is home? It reminds me of an American Forces Network commercial. “Do you mean where I was born, or where I lived the longest, or maybe you mean where I live now?” If it’s a foreigner asking, it’s easy enough to say “the United States.” But for others, who want to know where in the U.S., it’s a little more difficult.
I was born in California, but that’s never been home. I grew up in Minnesota, and my family has moved back there from Vegas, but it doesn’t really feel like home anymore. I lived in Las Vegas for seven years before I joined the Foreign Service, but I don’t have very many ties to Vegas anymore, so that doesn’t feel like home either. Home, in my mind, is where I live at any particular time.
The first time I realized this was about a year after joining the Foreign Service. I remember chatting online with my niece one day back in 2008. I was living in Nigeria. I had come back on my R & R to the states for a visit. I had gone to Las Vegas to visit my then-husband and other friends and relatives, then up to Minnesota to visit the family, including this niece. I flew back to Nigeria; a few days later I was chatting with her, and she asked me if I was home. I said yes. She asked me when I was going back to Africa. I told her, no, I mean I’m at home in Africa. It was this moment that I realized what the definition of home was to me. I realized how quickly my concept of home had changed. Home, for better or for worse, is where I sleep at night. It’s where I work. It’s the friends I have lunch with. It’s where I feel comfortable. Abuja was home; Brussels is home; Baghdad will be too. And wherever I go from there. Home is where the Foreign Service sends me.
But really, home is more of an idea than a place. Home is where you can laugh and hug and catch up with friends and family. Home is in the arms of someone you care about. Home is where you are loved; home is all over the world, as long as your friends are there!
Where is home for you?
To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season. As I write this, I have 12 days left in Brussels. I’ve had to say à bientôt to a few people in the last few days, and will say the same to many more in the coming ones. Such is the life of the Foreign Service. But with every ending comes a new beginning.
This summer I’ll be going back to the U.S. for home leave and training before I run off to the sandbox. Yes, my next post is Baghdad. I’m always interested in people’s reactions when they ask where I’m going next. Some don’t react – most of those are women. The women, especially ones that have served in posts like Baghdad, understand. For many the conversation goes like this:
“Wow! Did you volunteer for that? Why?? Won’t you have to wear a burqa all the time?”
The answer is yes, I bid for this position and was selected from a number of applicants. Believe me, if I hadn’t taken it, someone else would have. And no, I won’t have to wear a burqa. As far as why? There are a number of reasons. The need to challenge myself is one. The incentive pay is another. The close-knit community in places like that is a big reason too. And, let’s face it – it’s not easy being a single woman in the Foreign Service, so the fact that the male to female ratio skews in my favor doesn’t hurt either. Do I expect someone to sweep me off my feet? No. Do I expect some companionship? Yes.
I look forward to my next 12 days in Brussels. I’ll miss friends that I leave behind, as well as friends that scatter to other parts of the world. I’ll miss my lunch buddy, and my co-workers, my neighbors, and the smell of the waffle trucks parked on the sidewalks. But as this chapter ends, a new one begins. I look forward to new experiences, new challenges, and new friends. Here’s to fond farewells and new beginnings!