A week after landing on the register I got an offer to join the 169th A-100 (basic diplomatic training) class on September 10. Needless to say, we are very excited about the offer but also quite nervous. I have until Wednesday to respond to the offer and I would very much like to accept it but it’s not an easy decision for a number of reasons. First and foremost, there are no guarantees that there will be a New Delhi position on my bid list and even if there is, I may not get it. If that happens, we will have to split the family and we don’t want to do that. Of course, we knew that separation was a possibility from the beginning, so it’s not a surprise but it doesn’t make our decision any easier.
The fact that this is an election year and the State Department is facing serious budget issues makes things even trickier. The September class is the last class of the fiscal year and there’s no telling what will happen after that. If I defer now, I may not get another chance to join the service, which would be a total bummer because I very much want to be a diplomat. I think it’s a challenging but also very interesting and rewarding career. In my opinion, it’s much better than having to start all over at a new place every couple of years as an EFM (Eligible Family Member or a non-FSO spouse). But I don’t want our family (especially the little ones) to suffer because of my career ambitions. We have already decided that we like the Foreign Service lifestyle but when both spouses are in and there are young children involved, it’s complicated. Of course, we are not the only ones facing this decision. We know of quite a few tandem couples (couples, in which both spouses are FSOs), some of which have been able to stay together, while others have had to separate, so we are trying to decide what’s best for our whole family.
Right now we are trying to find as much information as we possibly can before we respond to the offer. We are doing research here at post. We have also reached out to Paul’s CDO (Career Development Officer) but she was very noncommittal. This is a relatively new development. CDOs used to help tandem couples do research on bid list positions before the second person accepted an offer and that was very helpful. In our case, that would have allowed us to check whether there are New Delhi positions on the September A-100 bid list and make our decision whether to accept or defer based on that information. Unfortunately, at some point someone complained that tandem couples were getting preferential treatment because others are not allowed to look at bid lists before they accept and about a year ago the practice of CDOs helping tandems in that respect was stopped. While I can see where the complainer was coming from, this change is having a serious effect on tandem couples and their families. If I had to guess, I’d say it will probably result in more split tandem couples and that’s not good.
But if I accept, we will have to separate no matter what because I have to go to the US for training and Paul has to stay in India and hold down Consular Fort New Delhi. We are probably going to have to separate the kids too. Her Cuteness is probably going to have to stay behind with Daddy because she’s in school. And I will have to take Chutney with me to the US because at 18 months he’s too young to be without Mommy for long periods of time. I will probably have to have my Mom come to the US (again) and watch him during the day, while I am in training. Have I told you how incredibly awesome my Mom is? One in a million!!! We wouldn’t be where we are today without her help. We owe you Mom, big time!!!
And even if everything goes swimmingly with A-100 and I get posted to Delhi immediately, our bidding cycles would be off by about 7 months. In order to synch them, we are considering Paul doing an one-year unaccompanied tour in Pakistan (preferably in Lahore because it’s on the border with India), while I stay on and finish my two years in Delhi. This way we could see each other more often than if we are each on different continents. Plus Urdu and Hindi are very close, so Paul could use his language some too. If someone had broached an idea like that to us two years ago, we’d have said “No way!” but now even the then inconceivable is starting to look conceivable. Isn’t it interesting what a difference a couple of years make.
So as you can see, we have a lot to think about but hopefully, we’ll make the right decision. Stay tuned…
In other news our driver quit this week, which was good in a way because if he hadn’t quit, we would have had to fire him. There was just too much drama there but that’s done and now we have to find a new one. We also had minor flooding in our downstairs bathroom but we caught it before it did any serious damage. A washer in the toilet tank broke and the tank was overflowing but we turned off the water at the main and called maintenance. By the time they came our housekeeper and I were able to mop up the inch or so of water that had pooled in the bathroom and was heading in the direction of the living room and kitchen. Maintenance fixed the problem quickly and now everything’s OK.