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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Flag Day

(or the terrific, the painful and the downright unmentionable)

First, the spoiler – I got New Delhi and we are all thrilled. Chutney and I are going back to Delhi and will be together with Paul and Nia for at least a year and a half (that’s how long Paul has left of his tour in Delhi). We lucked out this time but after that who knows… We get to do this every couple of years for the rest of our careers and hope we end up together more often than not. Crazy, no?

I got a two-year consular position, so I will be working in the same section as Paul. I leave soon. My A-100 (initial training) is over on Oct. 19. Then I have a two-day security overseas class and five days for consultations and pack out. Hopefully, by then my new diplo passport and Indian visa will be ready, so we can be on our merry way. Why do I need new ones, you may wonder. Didn’t I just get a diplo passport and visa to go to India earlier this year? Why, yes, I did but in my existing diplo passport it says that I am the spouse of a diplomat and my visa is aligned with my husband’s tour. But now that I am a diplomat myself, I need my very own diplo passport and visa, so here’s hoping that the Indian Embassy will process my visa speedy quick. They have been known to take anywhere between 5 days and 5 weeks, so we’ll see.

But back to Flag Day. It  is always an exciting event but when you have constraints such as tandem and children issues, it can be an absolute emotional roller-coaster. I thought I was all cool and under control. I kept telling myself that even if I didn’t get Delhi, we’d be OK. We’d still make the best of it. I had even almost convinced myself because I was cruising along my classes and things were fine. Until the night before Flag Day, when I couldn’t sleep. I kept tossing and turning and thinking about what the future might look like.

Sleep wasn’t happening anyway, so I got up and updated my facebook status with something about it being Flag Day. Several wonderful friends responded with very supportive comments, which made my morning. I got ready and caught the shuttle to FSI. I was listening to some uplifting music on my way, when I found myself sobbing. Uncontrollably. And I didn’t know why. I was so frustrated with myself. I thought I was all strong and OK with whatever flag they handed me on Flag Day, so why was I crying and why couldn’t I stop?!!! I cried for a good 15 minutes but thank goodness nobody on the almost empty shuttle noticed or if they did, they pretended they didn’t. I guess that was my way of coming to terms with the possibility of not being posted in Delhi but by the time we got to FSI I was mostly OK.

I walked into the cafeteria and chatted with some of my classmates. We had a classified briefing until 2 p.m., so we had to surrender all of our electronics, which was just as well because otherwise, we’d be too tempted to text, call family and friends or facebook. The briefing was very interesting but we were all eager to get our assignments. The ceremony was held in a large conference room at FSI (the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington).

My Mom, Chutney, my brother-in-law, John, and a couple of friends came to see the ceremony. The dignitaries, my classmates and I sat towards the front of the room and the guests, towards the back. It was neat to see all of my classmates filing in with their families and friends. Everyone was chatting nervously in anticipation of the big news.  There were several Ambassadors present as well as our CDOs (Career Development Tzars Officers - the people who decide which one of us goes where) and the Orientation Staff. The flags were carried in with a lot of flair and the ceremony began. After a brief intro we were told that nobody got a low bid and you could hear a collective sigh of relief. And then they started with the assignments. Our class mentor, Ambassador Marcia Bernicat, who was like a mother to all of us during training was handing our flags. I had the bid list and was planning to keep track of where each of my classmates was going. After a couple names, it became obvious that I was not in a position to do that – I was way too nervous. So I just tried to guess the country corresponding to each flag as they came up on the screen. There were several India’s but none of them were Delhi. My heart sank each time I saw the Indian flag.

Then finally it came. New Delhi, Consular and my name. And lots and lots of applause. My classmates knew I wanted it badly. Many had told me they thought I should get it. They were so sweet. I jumped up and headed to get my flag. Just then I felt something pulling me back by the jacket. I thought,“Not funny - who in the world would be pulling my jacket?” I turned and oh, no! Somehow, as I was moving forward, one of my jacket buttons had gotten tangled in one of my classmates’ hair. She had a pained look on her face and I felt so awful and stupid. I apologized and we managed to get the button untangled in what felt like eternity. Finally, I got back upfront and received my flag. I wanted to hug everyone. I am pretty sure I hugged Ambassador Bernicat and at least one CDO. Then I ran back, hugged my Mom and Chutney and went back to my seat. The rest of the ceremony was pretty much a blur. A lot of my classmates were ecstatic with their assignments, some were surprised but I also saw a few tears. My heart goes out to those who didn’t get what they wanted.

And then it was over. Just that quick! I congratulated a few classmates and then went back to my guests. We snapped pictures:

IMG_3795

We chatted for a bit. Chutney wanted me to hold him. I happily obliged but after a few moments I smelled something. The kid had had a massive blow-out. Right. There. I guess the pressure had gotten to him too! Yeah, it was on my hand and on my jacket sleeve. Now we both needed a costume change and a hosing down. Luckily, my mom had brought a second set of clothes for Chutney. I had to settle for a partial hosing down, at least temporarily.

The rest of the evening was wonderful. We had a small family gathering at one of Paul’s brothers’ place to celebrate. We ate Chinese and caught up on the family happenings. We discussed plans for the family to visit us in Delhi. We were back home by 10 p.m. and after a brief Skype conversation with Paul and Nia, who of course, were overjoyed with the news, I went to bed.

6 comments:

  1. Congratulations! I'm glad to hear that you'll be able to rejoin your family in New Delhi!

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  2. Wonderful news! And such a funny story. But those details make it memorable. Wishing you a smooth and safe journey back to New Delhi!

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  3. Yay! So happy you'll get to join your family back in Delhi. I definitely understand the tears - so much pressure when you're worried about 2 years apart. Maybe I'll see you if you come to the India Desk for consultations :)

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  4. So happy for you guys!! Seems like most of my tandem friends seem to be making it work so far, so hopefully this is just a preview of many assignments to come. Here's to keeping families together!

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  5. YEAH!!! So glad you get to go "home" for your first posting! Congratulations!!

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