Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My other house is my castle

There are many things I love about the Foreign Service, but losing my feeling of autonomy is not one of them. When I wrote Freedom of No Choice, I described feeling grateful that I didn't have to decide which post was the best fit for our family. Now that we are living at post, I find that I am much less comfortable with my lack of choice in my environment.

Our post assignment is not the source of my discomfort. The city of Manila deserves its designation as a hardship post, but the beauty of the Philippines and Manila's proximity to Southeast Asia makes it a very enjoyable post. However, I never expected to be so uncomfortable in our assigned housing, nor did I anticipate having so much trouble with our shipments. Of course, I never imagined that our bedroom would be larger than the dining room and living room combined, and I didn't know how attached I was to my stuff until it arrived broken, or not at all.

It is because we are living in a foreign city--and a hardship city--that losing our autonomy over these aspects of our lives is especially stressful. When you are overwhelmed by the world outside, your home is your sanctuary. But if you don't feel comfortable in your home, you have no sanctuary.

The topic of housing is so saturated with negative emotion that it's the proverbial third rail in the Foreign Service community. There are some who will never be satisfied with their housing, but there is also a great deal of room for improvement in the housing assignment policies. Yet even with policy improvements it would still be painful to not be able to act on one's own behalf, especially when it is about something so fundamental as being comfortable in your own house. Unless, of course, your housing assignment meets all of your needs and exceeds your wildest expectations.

Julie was very glad when her house arrived


  1. Aww. Sending big hugs and positive thoughts your way!

  2. I feel your pain, I have a serious rant about housing rattling around in the back of my brain, sooner or later it is going to spill out all over my blog.