Department of State bidding (at least at the entry-level) is much like naming a baby. Yes, I know this may seem like a far-fetched simile, but it is pretty darn accurate. Being an obsessive planner, I always figured if I had a kid, I would scour the baby name books and have a short list of options picked out before the freedom ending trip to the hospital (I mean, birth), but it would be shared with no one beyond Thad. It is just too easy for names to be picked apart:
-“Not Donatello! I knew a Donatello and he was an obnoxious stinkbug, living in the sewers and eating pizza all day!”
-“Medusa? Are you serious? You’re tempting the follicle fates with a name like that!”
-“Pumpernickel?!” She’ll be called Bread-Head by the mean kids at school!”
You see, even the most well-meaning friends and family feel the need to weigh in on the moniker of the yet-to-take-a-breath child, passing judgment (always negative, for some reason!) upon the name by which they will be known for their entire lives. So, rather than have to hear all the worst possible mutations of any selected name, I think I’ll just lock the options away in the vault, only making the announcement once the name is officially inked on the birth certificate, making it the chosen name, for better or worse.
Bidding is exactly the same! Rather than perusing book after book of baby names and meanings, we downloaded a giant list of over 250 possible posts, sorting them into a shorter and shorter list of possibilities. But, just like a baby name, that short list was kept top secret, as everyone has an opinion to share (or at least an eyebrow to raise) about whatever tops the list:
-“Cuba? But internet costs $500 a month!”
-“London!?” Are you sure? I hear the morale at that post is terrible!”
-“Really? Calgary? But Canada is just America’s hat and you’re not really a hat-girl.”
Again, you see, even the most well-meaning people are overwhelmed with the need to share what they “know” about the posts ranked high on your bid list. (The problem with what people “know,” is it is often from the friend of a cousin of an officer who served at that post twenty years ago; or even better, it comes from a Personal Post Insight survey that was obviously filled out by the most bitter, jaded officer on her worst day in the country, where if a hug from a koala bear were paired with a bookstore shopping spree, the post would still earn a negative rating; or, sadly, maybe just a bored, unhappy EFM who doesn’t want to be a part of his community. Any way you cut it, the “known” advice is often not the best advice.)
The LIST came out a few weeks ago, was narrowed down and submitted for an initial review by Thad’s CDO (career development officer) in Washington DC. She came back with some suggestions; the list was reworked and resubmitted for final consideration a week later. (That makes it sound like the list was only revised a single time. Sooo untrue! We went over that list time after time, as dark horses like Ljubljana took the lead and initial frontrunners like London dropped into the teen spots.)
In the end, our list (okay, Thad’s, but I consider it mine too, since I also have to live with the assigned results) went to DC and then we waited. One day…two days…three days…eleven days! In reality, eleven days is a pretty quick turnaround when it comes to an assignment, but it seemed more like nine months of gestation while we waited, checked the email and waited some more.
But, the bundle of joy has arrived! A bouncing baby boy? A giggly little girl? Nope! Rather, a balmy two years in KUALA LUMPUR, starting summer 2014!
And, much like with a newly named baby, I’ve been privy to all sorts of opinions and ideas on our new post, but they’ve all been positive. “Bethesda is such a cute name!” and “Oh, Reginald fits him perfectly!” are translated to “What a great place for travel!” and “You’ll love the embassy there!”
With some serious secretive list-making skills being fully honed, we are ready for the next round of high level information security. No, not baby naming (don’t get your hopes up on that one!), but winter R&R planning!
A few pictures from last time we were in KL, on vacation with friends.