I’ve been at post for over 8 months now, and its definitely been a whirlwind. Earthquakes, terrorist attacks, dengue fever, and more. My time so far in Dhaka has been eventful, and I still struggle sometimes to reconcile my current life with my previous. Christmas time here at post seems especially strange, with a large chunk of the Embassy gone on vacation. Things will be quiet at the Embassy, and hopefully quiet in Dhaka as well!
Since my last blog post, I visited Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with friends and had a wonderful time. It was lovely to just walk around and be normal people. Nobody stared at us, we could walk the streets freely, eat in delicious restaurants, and have a normal-fun-person-time. I’m looking forward to my first R&R in January, when I will travel to meet my parents and friend in Kenya and Tanzania for a 2 week long safari!
A few weeks ago, I was sent a list of about 70 cities to bid on for my next assignment. This time around felt quite different than A-100 bidding. I at least knew a little bit more about how the State Department works, and a little more about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ posts. A few places popped out to me immediately, and I was surprised to see that I would statistically most likely be learning another language, as most of the posts were language designated.
Bidding for your second Foreign Service assignment is pretty complicated, because unlike in A-100, you are given start dates and you know when you will leave your current post, but you have to work out your own training schedule that has to fit in between those two dates perfectlyl. And you have limits on how much training you can take in your first 5 years, so this adds further complication. Plus you have to work in 20 days of home leave. Since I’d already spent 11 months at FSI, I had to be careful to bid on posts that did not put me over the limit. We were given about 2 weeks to research, so I had a lot on my plate. Finding posts that worked with my training timeline, were consular-coned, could accomodate my cat, and most importantly, allowed me freedom of movement, reduced me to tears a number of times. But I narrowed the list down to a top 10, held my breath, and pushed the submit button.
On November 22nd, I woke up around 3:00am to my phone buzzing. I had a dozen text messages asking “Where are you going??” Apparently, assignments were out. Being at home, I had to remotely log into our system to check my email. My computer decided it didn’t like to do that, and it took me a good 30 minutes (interspersed with a lot of cursing) to log in. I had just woken up from a dream that I’d been assigned to a post that I didn’t really want to go to, so my heart was definitely in my throat. I found the email from my Career Development Officer, scrolled down, and smiled.
It was my number #1 choice! The timing works perfectly with my schedule, I get to learn French for 6 months at FSI. There are so many reasons that I chose Senegal. When I turned in my bid list, my top choice surprised many (who may not know me all that well) in my office. With my equity from Dhaka, most thought I should try for Paris or London. But for me, Dakar ticks off a lot of boxes. Great food, fantastic music scene, an Embassy directly on the ocean, interesting consular work, minimal pet import restrictions and freedom of movement. Furthermore, it is a travel hub for West and North Africa and easy to get to Europe and the US. Plus, there is a 20% differential to help with travelling expenses, and a large expat community to hang with (plus awesome locals too of course). Senegal itself is a great country – relatively safe, lovely beaches and some nice parks…I can’t be more happy. I’ll be heading out of Dhaka in April 2018 to go back to FSI. It’s a long way off, but a nice something to look forward to.
Until next time!