As we we prepare to leave my home state and the place we've lived and worked for the past five years, I find myself wondering if it's easier or harder for new foreign service families who already live in Washington, DC.
For DC area residents, starting A-100 may be like changing jobs. There are big changes coming, but for now your routine more or less stays the same. Your spouse can keep his or her job, your kids stay in school, and your house remains intact. On the other hand, when you leave for your post you must cope with leaving your home at the same time as you are adapting to life overseas.
For those of us who relocate for the initial training, DC is a staging ground. The past few weeks have been quite stressful, and we're counting on having packed everything we may or may not need in the next twelve months into the air and car shipments, but our final pack out should be fairly simple. And since the average training time is four to six months--and can last up to a year if you need language training--we'll have the opportunity to begin adjusting to leaving our home while we can still make free long distance calls on our cell phones and trust that we can find our favorite toothpaste at the local Walgreens.
Either way, joining the foreign service requires you to adapt to significant changes to your routine, your expectations, and your comfort level. We're taking it one step at a time. Tomorrow we head north, and in four to twelve months we'll head overseas. For now I'll just concern myself with the bizarre DC weather and driving my native Floridian self through the snow and ice.