Over the last few weeks since the holidays, my focus has begun to shift towards finalizing my Russian studies (I just concluded week 21 of 28), and preparing to depart for Tashkent in less than four months.
This month has been correspondingly busy on the administrative side. The year unfortunately started off with a young lady sliding in the snow and rear-ending my car as I sat at a stop sign waiting for traffic to pass so I could make a right turn out of a parking lot. She did $1,700 worth of damage and then became escalated, hysterical and unreasonable (all conditions I tolerate, but barely), culminating with her dodging my calls. However, my insurance company (props to Travelers!) hunted her down and forced her to be liable. Additionally, I was not injured, nor was she (or the two small children in her vehicle), and all ended well.
In work news, I reached out to my new boss in the consular section of U.S. Embassy Tashkent to express my enthusiasm for the position and to negotiate my arrival date. I also applied for diplomatic passports for my husband and I, and he has started to look for a job that would allow him to accompany me.
I filled out the embassy’s housing preferences survey, and signed up for extra seminars on the logistics of going abroad and tax best practices for FSOs.
I also started corresponding online with about a dozen people who either are currently or who have recently been posted to Tashkent to get some of my random questions answered. I am wondering about everything from should I cancel my Netflix streaming to what did you put in your 2,500 lb consumables allowance to what spare car parts should I bring when I ship my SUV?!
(A far cry, I note, from anything that was on my mind as I prepared to move to the Balkans as a Peace Corps Volunteer! While I’m not particularly keen to try and recreate My American Life everywhere I go, there are some practicalities that I cannot avoid.)
I find that the community is so far overall very empathic and helpful. I respond with kindness and gratitude to every note I receive. Each time a perfect stranger takes time out of their precious day to help me, I feel it’s good karma come back to me after years and years of similar behavior on my part. It feels both good, and useful.
I’ve been trying to balance my Russian study, my administrative preparations, my medical appointments and health needs with recreation, entertainment and family time. Oh yes, and sleep. Always sleep!
Somehow since last October, I’ve managed to digitize and back up four huge metal filing cabinet drawers’ worth of documents, plus clean my closet and begin to mentally divide my possessions into bring, put in storage or discard. It’s a freeing feeling, but also dismaying in the sense that no matter how organized you are, you still have Too Much Crap. Ugh.
Last week I also met with some of my 178th A-100 colleagues who have not yet departed for post at a German biergarten in DC. Officially, the non-local hires in our class, who receive free housing and per diem during A-100 and follow-on training, graciously continued the unnecessary but much-appreciated tradition of hosting the occasional happy hour for us local hires, who receive neither free housing nor per diem with our job offer.
It was a fun night of catching up and it reminds me that time together is dwindling. Every month, more of us head out to our first assignments. I read the Google Group posts written by our colleagues who already have a few months at post under their belts with a mixture of wonder and I’ll-focus-on-that-later-when-I-mentally-get-there.
Next week, I will have my last Russian language progress evaluation before my final assessment on March 20. I will ultimately need a level 2 in speaking and level 2 in reading; I’m somewhat anxious to see how close I am at this point. The fact that my final assessment coincides with the last projected day of my class makes me not know whether to laugh or cry. If I don’t get my 2/2 I assume I would be extended in class, which would royally screw up my remaining planned training and departure, so I’m just going to go with the assumption that I’ll be on point.
I also expect that over the next week I should be able to get my travel orders drafted and tentative flight itinerary booked. It would be nice to get some clarity around my precise departure date, and start firming up details for my consultation and pack out days.
Since the winter solstice last month, I have been noticing that each day it stays lighter for a little longer. I think about one minute longer, to be precise. My class ends daily at 17:30 and it’s no longer completely pitch black while I walk to my car. And while that doesn’t exactly equal more time in the day, especially for this night owl, I do appreciate that the days of me learning Russian in a small room in Arlington, VA on a dark early (and possibly snowy) evening are numbered.
I would also be remiss not to mention that January 31 is a special day for two reasons. (1) On this day in 2003, my cohort, MAK 7, had our swearing in ceremony and became Peace Corps Volunteers in the Republic of Macedonia. How time flies doesn’t begin to explain how I feel about that. (2) On this day in 1999, my eldest stepdaughter was born. I didn’t meet her dad until 2006 when she was seven years old, but today she turns sixteen.
Rather than keep hoping for more minutes of sunlight, I think I’ll try to keep making the minutes I have sunnier.