Travel::Kids::Tech::Foreign Service

I’ve been here almost exactly a month, so it was right on schedule.  Things have been piling up, and yesterday I hit the breaking point of “screw this place, I want to go home.”  I’m familiar with my adjustment patterns to moving, so I’m more mellow today, more in the “flow like water” mode, but dang.

One of the reasons I’ve been blogging (along with trying to get Mal to keep a journal) is that I’m lazy, and writing stuff up one time is easier than writing it over and over in letters to friends and family.  But because this blog is out here for anyone to find, I’m self-censoring a bit, and not complaining about things that could reflect poorly on me or my family as representatives of the US here.  I’m going to keep doing that, and not go into huge detail, but I am going to lay out a list of the difficulties in working for one government and living in another.

Power.  It’s been sketchy.  Which means that once again, I was unable to submit my timesheet back to my company in the States when it was due, because I didn’t have internet.  This is a Thing with me, because even in the best of cases I’m flaky about timesheets.  I find my company’s schedule and rules for them almost impossible to fit into my brain.  So I feel bad.  But I also feel ridiculous for worrying about a timesheet that’s worth ZERO dollars to me, since it’s not like I’m working here.  I had been trying for months to find a way to keep my job, or at least keep working for my company (which has an international presence) for about a year before I moved.  In fact, the imminent move was one of the reasons I came to this company a couple years ago, rather than staying with the small, local one I’d been working for.  I thought I had things pretty squared away; there didn’t seem to be any reason I *couldn’t* work here, but after I moved, someone in management at my prospective client decided against it.

I have many work options here.  The problem is that they are mostly low-skill and low-pay.  There are a couple that are better, but they still don’t come close to where I’m at professionally either responsibility-wise or salary-wise.  My DH and I make about the same amount of money, and my benefits really help us prepare for Mal’s college and our retirement, so having one of us quit is not a good plan, not when we’re as close to retirement as we are.

All of this, combined with the constant rumors of an ordered departure for spouses and children, convinced us that as painful as it is, Mal and I should return to the States where I can go back to work.  In a complete and total blessing, I can get my old job back, a job I love like crazy with a wonderful team.  This is far better than being evacuated with no job to go to.

But it feels like losing, and I hate losing.

And it leaves the DH here by himself, which is awful, and it splits up the family again, which is awful.  We decided Mal would come back with me, even though I won’t be moving back into our house (we can’t kick the renters out) so he won’t be on familiar turf, but Mal wanted to stay here with his dad.  This is in part because he was with me for two months while his dad was here, and in part because he loves the school here, and in part because he’s been preparing mentally for this move for a year and doesn’t want to recalibrate.  So we took a good hard look at how life would work for the DH as a single father at post.

There’s a reason there are almost no single parents in the Foreign Service.

Everyone at the embassy has been super-supportive.  But the security situation here is such that the bus will only drop the kids off at their homes, and then only if a parent or nanny is right there waiting.  The DH would have to leave work every afternoon to meet the bus, and because of traffic, there’s a two-hour swing of when the bus arrives.  On Tuesday, Mal left school at 3:40 and the bus got here at 5:15.  It’s about 1000 meters away as the Andean Vulture flies, and 3.5 km as the roads go.  It takes 8 minutes without traffic.  This meant, for me, that I had to wait downstairs in the courtyard for one hour and 20 minutes.  A working person can’t do that.  I don’t know how I would manage it if I was working here as planned.

In other places, we’d hire household help, who would be at home to pick him up.  However, due to the security situation, maids and nannies will not stay in our neighborhood past 3:30, as they need to get home before dark.

Anyway, while I was hanging out waiting, the vigilante (think sentry or guard) told me I should wait inside my apartment and watch the window, and he’d call when the bus arrived.

So that’s what I did on Wednesday.  But we had a substitute vigilante, and he didn’t call.  The driver called the school, the school called me but didn’t have the right number, so no one answered.  Another women who lives in the building arrived at this time, and told the vigilante to call me, and which apartment I was in.  He did, I said I was coming down…but when I got out of all of our security doors and gates, the bus was gone with Mal still on it.  I asked the vigilante why he’d let the bus leave, and got a shrug, “You took too long.”

This is when I had officially HAD IT.

Anyway, it got sorted – I called the school, let them know I was on my way, then walked to the embassy and got my car, drove to the school and picked Mal up.  He’d been freaked out and terrified – all the American kids are scared of being kidnapped or robbed, and you can’t tell them “Oh, it won’t happen” – but was doing his homework in the office.  We did a big solid hug, and I apologized, and we talked about how he’s safe with the school.  On the way home, I said, “You know, just when I think we’re getting settled and doing OK here, something bad happens,” and Mal responded, “Yes, but whenever I think it’s awful here, something good happens.  So let’s not jinx it.”

He’s being surprisingly mellow considering he’s trying to fit into a new school (and one of the other new kids kinda bullied him this week).  I am less mellow.  But what else could go wrong?

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