Monthly Archives: August 2011

…Google Voice, Part 2

For several months, I’ve extolled the virtues of Google Voice (via GoogleChat) to everyone I meet. Calls to the US were free, the sound quality was good, it didn’t require additional equipment… the only limitation was that it only really worked for outgoing calls. Our friends and family back home had to reach us by email or Skype if they wanted to initiate the conversation.

But, ALAS! They’ve just changed things, slightly. Calls to the US (or Canada) from abroad are now $.01 per minute (yes, a whole red cent). That’s a far cry from the $.52 per minute I paid my first year in college to SBI to call home occasionally, and from whatever insanity I paid to Sprint and various other companies to call home while on study abroad or other international travel in those years. But… I’m used to free calls, and I haven’t gotten over the shock yet.

Week 20

Well, we’re half-way there on the pregnancy front, and I am starting to feel the tiniest bit better. But, of course, every time I think that, I get hit with something. Today it’s a migraine. Bleh. But, week 20 is marked by all sorts of other news too… because it’s bidding time.

Entry level generalists in the foreign service bid on their second post similarly to how they bid on their first post in A-100. However, instead of the 100 posts we were faced with researching and debating then, there are several hundred now. In fact, there are so many bidders, that the folks down at State break the “summer” bids into two groups based on their approximate time of departing their current post. As we’re leaving in October 2012, we’re considered the end of summer, and therefore we are bidding in the second group.

Assignments for these entry-level, second-tour posts are based on a combination of the preference list you submit and the amount of bidding equity you have, with considerations for ensuring that you finish all the requirements of tenure (language testing and consular work). Bidding equity is a combination of whether your current first-tour post has a danger or hardship differential, whether it’s generally hard to staff, etc. Mr. Adventure has already fulfilled all the basic requirements for tenure, and we’re serving at a moderately high equity post (for comparison, Afghanistan would be higher, Toronto would be lower). So, we’re hoping to get someplace on our preference list. There is the little caveat that the future post must align well with the timing of the departure from the current post (considering training and home leave time as well), which puts the kibosh on some of the cool jobs.

We ranked posts by whether they’d have meaningful work for both of us (I’d like to use my PhD somewhat, he’d like to do something in his career track); whether the city was convenient, conducive to a young family, and visitable by friends and relatives; whether the language was known, or learnable; and in consideration of the comments about the post made by current or past officers stationed there. This last bit is a great service provided by State’s Overseas Briefing Center. On the State intranet, there are post summaries of policies and protocol relevant to the particular consulate or embassy, details on housing, furnishings, etc., information on schools attended by embassy kids, and reviews of the city and life at post. It’s a very useful resource. I can’t imagine what trying to bid would have been like in the days before these and other internet resources. A bit like throwing darts, with some hearsay and rumor thrown in, I guess.

The bid list can be turned in to the assignments committee a week early for their review and comments. If they notice something glaring about how you’ve ranked your preferences, or a mistake, they’ll send you a memo advising you how to correct it. That’s where we are right now, our draft list went to the committee a few days ago, and we’re waiting for their response. Then, we’ll have a few days to revise and make last minute changes based on gut feeling and intuition before we submit the final list. So, the question is… not knowing anything about the possibilities on our list, where do you think we should go, and why? Everything’s a possibility (and looking at the list, it feels like that is the case, there are so many options!)