Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Unexpected Explorer

Flexibility and non-attachment: essential elements of foreign service life. Most foreign service families are aware of this, and have varying degrees of success in managing their expectations. For some FS newcomers, Flag Day, the ceremony in which an A-100 class' post assignments are announced, is the first time it's clear that we truly have No Choice.

As we approached our flag day I felt flexible and unattached. I was aware that I preferred a post in the western hemisphere, but with over thirty open posts in Latin America, it seemed likely we would be assigned to one of them.

Flag day reminded me that life in the foreign service necessitates worldwide availability. They aren't kidding. It is unwise to become attached to any country, continent, region, hemisphere, language, or culture because you have chosen to serve your country, and will be assigned according to the needs of the service.

Manila is a terrific first post. The Filipinos are warm, friendly, and welcoming of Americans. It's a good post for dogs, and the travel opportunities are incredible. It is perhaps one of the best posts for my career, as I will have ample opportunities for paid or unpaid work in my field.

Being posted here also offers hidden gifts. Because we were not oriented towards this region of the world, we were not fully aware of its travel opportunities. Manila is a short flight away from Southeast Asia, a region that we otherwise may have never seen due to China's restrictions on dog importation.

People have said that the Career Development Office seems to knows us better than we know ourselves, and when I compare our core preferences to Manila I realize that this post is a good fit for our family. I also believe that when you don't get exactly what you think you want, you have two choices. You can resent that you didn't get to choose, or you can choose to appreciate the gifts embedded in what's been chosen for you. There are strengths and challenges in every city, country, and culture, and the foreign service will take you out of your comfort zone. However, unexpected opportunities for exploration are wonderful.

Manila doesn't know what's coming


  1. Welcome to nomadic life. Lee and I have married it for better or worse, and like marriage it has it's ups and down. Definitely more ups!

  2. Welcome to the Foreign Service. I have added a link to your blog to my blogroll of FS blogs at http://lifeafterjerusalem.blogspot.com

  3. Thank you, Digger. You have compiled a great collection of perspectives and I look forward to sharing with others in the Foreign Service community.

    It's a roller coaster! Manila was one of our high bids--one of six non Spanish-speaking high bids out of 38, and thus, the surprise. However, we're very happy. =)

  4. I have friends who have served in Manila and absolutely loved it!! They said the housing is incredible and the people are even better. Manila is one post we hope to get during our FS career. Welcome to the Foreign Service!!

  5. Congrats on your new post and congrats on starting a new career with State!

    We love being with State ~ so exciting and so dynamic!

  6. I was definitely shocked when we were assigned to Manila but I'm looking forward to our two years there!