How does one describe the joy and terror of Flag Day? There’s nothing else like it, really. There are other, maybe more profound, stories out there (I recommend taking a look at 75 Flag Day Stories), but here is my own. Flag Day is the day when newly minted Foreign Service Officers find out where they will be spending their first tour (i.e. the next 2 years of their life). This is determined by a flag being held up and the city and job announced. Kind of like the Hogwart’s Sorting Hat. Whether you want to go to that country or not, you smile and get your flag from the presenter. Worldwide availability…
I did not sleep very well the night before Flag Day, but was determined to make the best of it. My parents had arrived the night before from my hometown, and they made it to FSI just as my class was coming back from a field trip. We had about an hour to feel extremely jittery and try to take our minds off the coming event as best as possible.
At 3:30pm, we were in our seats and anxiously awaiting the start of the ceremony. The flags came in and it was time! A few China’s were called, and I breathed a small sigh of relief each time my name was not called. Ghana, one of my highest-highs came up, and somebody else got called. I scratched it off my list and tried to stay optimistic. More positions were called, and each time I thought “That wouldn’t be so bad” or “No, please no.” Then this flag came up.
I’ll be honest and tell you that I do NOT know my flags. I get them all mixed up, and I had never really seen this one. Then the city name Dhaka was called. I remembered it was one of my highs. I had prepped my parents for the possibility of Bangladesh. When Dhaka was called out, somehow I just had a feeling….
Yup, there was my name! I was out of my seat, hearing my classmates cheer, and trying not to trip over my own feet on my way to the presenter. A photo was taken, I think, but my mind was completely blank. I picked up my folder with all my training materials and headed back to my seat, clutching the flag in my hand and grinning.
When I returned to my seat, I opened up my folder and saw that my leave date is April 2016, since I will be learning Bengali. That was a shock – I hadn’t remembered that Bangladesh was a language post. It looks like a challenging language, but I’m really excited to learn. I’ll be joined by THREE of my A-100 classmates, which is pretty exciting. I like all of them and I’m a bit relieved not to be going at this alone.
My parents seem to be dealing ok and they are excited that I am hanging around the U.S. for awhile and also that they can come visit me in Bangladesh. Overall, I am thrilled. The country looks fascinating, and there are opportunities to travel throughout the region. Still trying to process that it is really-real, that this wasn’t all make believe, and that I will really be going to a real Embassy.
Today was a good day.