Friday, August 20, 2010

Here we go!

I've decided to blog for a couple of reasons.  First, we have a lot of friends and family that we are going to be out of contact with, and want to keep them up on what is going on with us.  As we share our experiences, I hope that you will respond with how things are going for you too!  Next, it is to assist anyone who may consider making this step into the Foreign Service, or has a family member who is.  It's been a very different process filled with so much confusion and anticipation, blogs and groups of current FS members were very helpful to us and I'd like to return the favor.

Ok:  It's August 20th, 2010 and I'm playing catch-up.  If my intent is to cover the entire process of the FS experience, I should have started in May of 2009.  I'll attempt to bring you up to speed in a very brief manner.

I was married to Sarah Baugher on March 21st 2009 after a two month engagement, where I usually have to specify that no one was pregnant!  :)  We had already planned a trip to Italy, and decided to make it our honeymoon so we pushed up the date.  On this trip, we reflected on our love for travel, and Sarah off-handedly made a comment about representatives from the Foreign Service visiting her college years ago.  They promised a life of glorified travel with occasional responsibilities.  How could we pass that up?!  We could travel for a living!  Sure, there's that whole work thing (for her), but we could be doing what we love!  While she didn't meet the experience qualifications right out of college, she had been a Physician Assistant at a family practice for 6 years and there was nothing stopping me from pushing her to apply.

The application process is very arduous.  Work history since birth, references, addresses and phone numbers for places that no longer exist, etc.  There was a lot of stuff, to put it mildly.  As soon as we got back from Italy, she started on the application.  I stood on the sidelines where none of the real work is done, and gently pushed and prodded her to finish.  We sent it in the beginning of May 2009.  From that point, it was simply a "what if" topic of occasional conversation for the next 4 months when we heard back that her application had been reviewed, and she was deemed qualified for a position.  Yeah!  Next she had to answer some essay medical questions or something, which being a genius and scholar, she obviously crushed.  She was officially invited for an oral interview in Washington DC!  We made a trip of it in November, and planned a few extra days for sight-seeing.  Unfortunately, she came down with a terrible stomach flu and was barely able to crawl to the interview, let alone anything else.  Through that terrible sickness, she still managed to ace the interview and they offered a "conditional offer of employment" on the spot!  Things were starting to get interesting...

The next process was possibly the worst of all because it wasn't something that we could simply forget about and let someone in DC take care of.  We had to both pass medical clearances, which required a doctors visit and lots of paperwork.  I hadn't been to a doctor since my pediatrician and had to find a new doctor to poke and prod and take tens of blood samples from my arm.  It was seriously a pain in the butt.  They gave us a scare by finding a spot on my lung, but after 3 x-rays and a CT scan, it magically disappeared and we both passed for worldwide availability.  Next came the security clearance.  Now you'd think they'd just keep all the information from the application and work from that, right?  Nope.  She had to fill out this ridiculously long document asking for the same things as the application, but with more references and travel information, etc. 

We had all but forgotten about the process when Sarah got an email from the FS offering her a position to start in the May training class at the end of March...  This ticked us off a little bit.  We were under the understanding that we would be told we passed the security clearance before they offered the position, so we were not ready at all.  At that point, after all that work, it was finally real.  And it somehow managed to surprise the crap out of us and make us evaluate whether or not it was really something we really wanted to do.  We had some long discussions about our future, and came to the conclusion that we would turn it down for now, but they give you the option of deferring the invitation to a later date.  Putting off the life-decision was the best option.  We thought about it for a couple of months, and somehow came to the conclusion that we wanted to sell our nice little house and move out of our home for our entire lives to travel to poor and not-so-poor countries across the world for a few years.  WTF were we thinking?!

It was the right decision, beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Everything we worried about worked out better than we had ever planned.  We sold our house in 9 days.  We sold my truck in a day.  We were able to quit our jobs a month early and take an extended road trip around the country before we had to be in DC on August 2nd.  Life is good.

That brings us to the present.  I think I have had enough typing for the day, so hopefully someday soon I'll get the whim to pick up where I left off.  There's a really good chance that I'll be bad at this whole blogging thing and not look at this site for another few months, but let's hope for the best!

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