For the last 11.5 weeks, I have been eager to get going on all of the arrangements that must precede my first posting in Tashkent. I’m talking about things like obtaining diplomatic passports and visas for my husband and I, trying to figure out travel dates and housing needs, and of course, the small matter of my husband’s career.
However, I’ve been waiting to be “paneled” or officially slotted into the consular officer position in the embassy there, and haven’t been able to do much other than focus on Russian. I’ve had occasional daymares about getting three months down the road in Russian language class, only to find out that my job has fallen through and I’m actually being sent elsewhere. Mandarin class, anyone?
I won’t pretend to be an expert on the paneling process, but my understanding is that staff from human resources, career development, training, the regional or functional bureau and the overseas mission review recent assignments of first tour officers to make sure that everyone’s interests and timing are aligned, and hit the button that lets all the pre-departure wheels start turning.
This was meant to be completed for my class by September 30, but for whatever reason, there were a few of us still lingering. Staff needed to deal with people leaving sooner, but eventually there were people slated to leave after me who were already paneled, causing me some worry. At the end of the day, there was no action for me other than to wait, so I vacillated between not thinking about it, and worrying about why I wasn’t more worried.
I thought my assignment was official when I received the training packet and miniature flag of Uzbekistan on Flag Day, but it turns out that all new Foreign Service Officers also need to be paneled. So I’ve watched, chagrined, as other members of my class get paneled, flash their diplomatic passports on Facebook, throw their wheels-up parties, and depart for post.
While all the time…I’m waiting to find out if/when I’m going. It’s also a little weird that because I’m a local hire, I didn’t move to this area for A-100. Literally nothing has changed for me since I began this adventure in June but my mental space and my work commute from downtown DC to FSI in Arlington.
Is this whole Foreign Service thing really happening??
Just kidding! It’s not that bad. It’s just…taking a long time and nothing has really happened lately to make me feel like change is in the air. I sense it though – in the last few weeks, I’ve bought a new laptop and a new scanner, and have scanned thousands of documents into a new digital filing structure. I’ve recycled the resultant half dozen 30-gallon bags of shredded paper, donated clothes that are too big, and upended most of the closets in my apartment, searching for elusive unwanted objects that have settled over the last five years and need rooting out.
Apparently yesterday this glorious paneling meeting took place, the button was pushed, and now my assignment is official! They want me, and I am going. Who I’m replacing, what day I’m arriving, what my house will look like, how to deal with household effects (HHE) and shipping my car…all of that remains to be seen.
I love ambiguity, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about moving to Uzbekistan. In the meantime, I am motoring through week 8 of Russian class. My Macedonian language skills are helping me immeasurably with reading, listening and vocabulary, but also interfering with my grammar. Learning Russian is no joke!
Here’s what was going on during the first week for me:
And here’s what’s going on now:
How I miss our short dialogues:
“What is this?”
“This is a cat!”