Things happened very quickly after more than a year of progress being measured in geologic-time. I was placed on the Management Register on January 18th and became number 12 of 54 candidates waiting for an invitation to begin work. I'd spoken to Pat (the controller of the Register) and Don (somebody who answered her phone one day) and had that information confirmed. I was also told that it was probable, but not guaranteed, that I would be invited to join the class beginning on April 30th. That suited me just fine. It would give me a couple of months to find a place to live and I could do a bit of traveling in the meantime. High on my list of plans were trips to NYC, Hawaii and Portland, OR. Joining the April 30th intake would also give me almost fifteen weeks in the gym and I could use the work!! By far and away, however, the most important aspect of being assured of a spot in the April 30th group was that I could stop sitting at my computer hitting the Get Mail button over and over, waiting impatiently for any word from the State Department. There was nothing left for me to do. After testing and interviewing and filling in forms and working through clearance processes, all that was left for me to do was wait.
It was relaxing and I felt some of the stress of the process melt away now that the ball was firmly in the State Department's court. I made a list of books I wanted to read and hit the local library. I began to put together a "to-do" list to prepare for an eventual move to Washington DC. I solved the New York Times crossword with a pen. Then, five days after I'd been put on the Register, I received an email inviting me to join the March 5th class! Enough people, who were on the Register ahead of me, opted to defer their invitations that Pat worked the list all the way down to my name.
I've accepted that invitation and will become a member of the 133rd A100 Foreign Service Officer Class. The classes are called "A100" classes after the room in which they were originally held. The group I'll become part of will be one of the smaller classes, having only eight representatives from each of the five career tracks.
Oh, and you can just rachet the stress level right back up, if you please. Now I had less than five weeks to get ready, find and rent a place to live, move my stuff out of Illinois, finalize my hiring details (salary determination), arrange to see my sons and get a haircut. I had seen a lot of advice on various living arrangements and mulled over my options. I could find a 'corporate' apartment which would be very expensive, but extremely convenient. They are close to the training center in Arlington, VA, are furnished and function much like hotels in that you don't need to sign a long term lease. A second option would be to rent an unfurnished apartment and then either rent furniture or move some of my own into it. This is a much less expensive option, but requires a lease. The problem with signing a lease is that I'll be in Washington for an indeterminate length of time. Orientation will last seven weeks. During that time I'll receive my first overseas appointment and that will determine the amount of training I'll need before departure. Typically, there will be from three to nine months of additional training required after Orientation. So, I'll be in Washington anywhere from five months to almost a year. Signing a lease, therefore, becomes a bit tricky. There are also private residences and properties available to rent and each is unique and so are the terms of rental.
I know nothing at all about the Washington DC area. Our training will take place in Arlington and it appears as though Foreign Service personnel live throughout the entire greater metropolitan area. People live in DC and Arlington and Ballston and Falls Church. There are pros and cons for each and in the end I decided to just go with the most convenient option to start. I've rented a furnished one-bedroom apartment in Arlington that is about a twenty minute walk to the training center. My plan is to settle into it with a minimum of fuss and then get focussed on the training and orientation without any outside distractions. After I learn where I'll be going I'll have a much better idea of how long I'll be in training, I'll know the area much better and will begin to look around for a less expensive place to sleep. The building has a secure garage so I've decided to take the Mustang down and leave the Volvo with my folks. I got a new suit and I've shined my shoes. All I need now is to get that haircut and I'm set.
My paperwork should arrive this week from the State Department. There are, apparently, a couple of forms I'll have to fill out and send in. So, until then, see you in Washington!!