Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Good-bye Maine, Hello DC

There have been a million little details to take care of before I wander off into the wide wide world once again. Fill in forms from the State Department, assemble a 'business' wardrobe, register my Mustang in Maine, arrange for the pack-out of my belongings from the storage shed in St. Charles, fill in more forms, rent an apartment in Arlington, get a root canal, find a dentist in Arlington to complete the half-finished root canal, and fill in a few more forms. Well, as of today, I'm all set.

I'll be driving to Arlington, so I don't have to worry about plane tickets or excess baggage. Of course, I'll need to hire a team of Sherpas to get my stuff down to the car. I have managed to squeeze everything into two extra large LL Bean duffel bags, one extra large American Tourister foldover suitcase, two green overnight bags and my large backpack. The extra stuff will travel in an assortment of bags, folders, cases and miscellaneous bits of wrapping materials. Travel light, that's my motto!

So, on Saturday, after spending five very pleasant months at the beach in Maine, through one of the mildest Winters on record, I'll begin driving down to Washington. Actually, the Foreign Service Institute is in Arlington, VA and my apartment is about five minutes away by car. Many of my colleagues in the 133rd A-100 (our intake class) have elected to stay at the Oakwood apartments in Falls Church which is a little farther away. The State Department has a trial program underway with that property to provide housing for Foreign Service Officers while they're in training. You can opt to take an apartment there in lieu of receiving a housing allowance and finding a place on your own. The problem for me is that, as a single, I would only qualify for a studio apartment. I don't mind the small space at all, it's the 'murphy' bed that's a deal breaker. I'll be in training for anywhere from five months to a year and I don't want to have to put up and take down my bed every day for all that time. It also doesn't seem to make sense to me to go out and find a woman and marry her just to qualify for a one-bedroom apartment. So I'll stay at the other Oakwood and pay rent.

I had planned to buy a new Mac laptop before starting work, but I had a root canal instead. This was somewhat less than a voluntary choice. A root canal is generally preceeded by an enormous amount of substantial pain in your jaw. I realized that a root canal would help alleviate that pain while the new Mac would only sit there and not help my jaw at all. The new Mac would have cost about $2800 and, once the crown is made and set in place, the root canal will cost about $2800 too. The man at my health plan sounded absolutely chipper when he said that, "nope, you don't have any dental coverage and we can't cover any of the expenses. Bye now." So, while my new tooth does not have high speed internet access, a fifteen inch screen or 180 gigabytes of memory, it also does not have any pain.

The 131st A-100 is, by tradition, the group that mentors our class. They have been very helpful in answering questions, providing a wealth of information and setting up a welcoming get-together for the Sunday night before we begin work. This will give us an opportunity to get acquainted with each other in somewhat informal surroundings. I know that there are only forty of us in our group and that several of us are RPCVs (returned Peace Corps Volunteers). Beyond that, I'll just have to wait until next week to find out more.

Monday, March 5th, will be our first day at work. I'm told that we'll receive the 'bid list' that day and will be told to begin identifying the posts we're most interested in. For the next seven weeks we'll be in orientation training and, during that time, we'll learn where we're each headed and what our own jobs will be. After the seven week orientation program, each of us will be given further training based on the country and job we're assigned. Some folks will leave for post after relatively short training programs while others will stay in Washington for almost another year. We'll each know what's in store for us as soon as we're given our first posts.

Yesterday, my belongings were pulled out of a storage shed in Illinois and today they're on their way to the Federal storage warehouse in Maryland. Just prior to my departure overseas, I'll be allowed to visit the warehouse to designate which things I want left in storage and which I want shipped to me. I haven't seen any of this stuff in almost three years so I'm sort of curious about what's there.

That's about it for now. I'll try to update this journal periodically in the same way I kept the journal of my Peace Corps experience. The Peace Corps was the most fun I'd had in many years and I'm really excited about the opportunity I've just been given to live and work abroad once again!

These pictures, by the way, are of York Beach in the Winter. This place is always beautiful!!