In early August, I received news that my return to Senegal from Global Authorized Departure had been approved. While COVID definitely was not gone from Senegal, I think the entire world was coming to grips that this wasn’t going away and we needed to learn to live with it as best we could.
Now, I had also been in a different kind of purgatory while waiting for my return to Senegal. In February, before COVID blew up, I had requested an extension to stay in Senegal until next May 2021. But of course, when corona hit, things got more complicated. So I did not know whether I would be able to stay in Senegal for only a few months or somewhat longer.
At the beginning of September, during a one week time span, I…..
- Said goodbye to my diplokitties, who are staying with my parents, as well as my family
- Flew to Washington DC to get a COVID test (since Georgia’s results were unpredictable)
- Found out I got promoted to an 03
- Flew back to Senegal and began a 2 week quarantine in my apartment
- Found out my extension to stay in Senegal was not approved
- Found out I needed to bid on positions immediately since I would be leaving Senegal around December
To say it’s been a whirlwind week is an understatement. I should probably back up a little bit and explain some of the above.
Diplokitties: One of the reasons that I mentioned previously for evacuating from Senegal was my cats. I wanted to get them somewhere safe in case things did get worse. And when I started my return to Senegal, I had no idea how long the rest of my tour would be. So I made the difficult decision to leave them with my parents. I spent a couple of weeks living at my parents house (away from the AirBNB) to get them settled in. I have become so used to having them follow me around, and snuggle both at night and in the morning, that this was not an easy decision. But bringing them to Senegal only to ship them right back to the U.S. seemed cruel. They do not like travel and Senegal isn’t exactly right next door. I do not regret this decision, especially now that I know I will not be staying very long. But this apartment still feels really empty without them.
COVID Test: Senegal requires a negative COVID test within 7 days before entering into the country. And looking at Georgia’s labs and testing sites had me panicking. “6-10 days, but higher during peak times” was not reassuring. So I finagled my way into stopping in D.C. on my way back to Senegal. Our medical unit had things worked out and ran like a well oiled machine. I had my results within 24 hours (negative!) which was a huge peace of mind. I was even able to make a brief stop to check out the National Zoo!
Promotion: On the night before I was supposed to fly to Senegal, the promotion cables came out. And lo and behold, my name was on the 03 list. I’ve been an 04 since I started the Foreign Service, and have been up for promotion a few times now. Every year, a panel gets together and reads our evaluation reports, and decides if we are worthy or not. Last year I was quite obsessed with waiting for the cable to come out, but this year I had too much on my mind to worry too much. But it was sure nice to see my name!
Return to Senegal: To minimize our time in the air, I drove with close Embassy friends from DC to JFK. We arrived in JFK to find the terminal nearly completely shut down. So much for duty free! At the gate, at least 20 other colleagues were there waiting for the same flight. Delta has a direct flight from JFK to Dakar, and they are only filling up to 60% capacity. I was able to upgrade to economy plus and then actually had a row of 3 all to myself, with nobody in front or behind me. Quite a pleasant flight all in all. And I missed the ocean! Once my two week quarantine is over, I will be able to go into the Embassy and work from there a few days a week, which means I will have to put on real pants for the first time in about six months. Guess I should go try on my work wardrobe to see if I still fit.
Extension/Bidding: I had been waiting for news on this extension since February, in hopes that I could stay in Senegal a little longer and also to get on the summer bid cycle, which has more bidding options (i.e. places to go). Since unfortunately they were not able to approve me, it means that I will be bidding on the NOW positions, or those that aren’t in any normal bidding cycle. It either means that somebody curtailed or quit that position, or they just have not been able to fill them. Some of the positions are exciting though, so it is time to gung-ho pursue them (well, past time really). Cross your fingers for me that I’m successful! One of the most exciting and yet also the most headachy parts of the Foreign Service is finding a new job every 2-3 years. And when you throw covid and a failed extension into the mix…well, this should be interesting.
While I was in purgatory for five months, I was able to spend a lot of time with my family. In addition to binge watching a lot of shows, we also went bike riding. We biked over 500 miles – we even made treks to Tennessee and Alabama to explore the trails there. It was a very enjoyable way to spend my time and I will miss it!
Stay tuned to see where I end up for my third tour – I will officially be a mid-level officer.