On a hot, dry night in May 2015, I landed in Tashkent to begin my first diplomatic tour. My iPhone was shuffling through songs and settled on “The Heart of Rock and Roll” by Huey Lewis and the News just before the wheels hit the tarmac. My heart was excited and hopeful, and my mind was jumbled full of Russian and consular don’t-forgets. Over 105 weeks later, hours from flying away for good, I’m grateful for the best parts of being here, and even the tough parts. Five figure visa interviews. Eleven new countries…and one old. Road trips. Illnesses and injuries. New friends and colleagues. Probably way too many plates of plov cooked in sheep fat. And an inestimable amount of gratitude and hope for what comes next.
The past couple of weeks leading up to now have been busy. After we returned from the Aral Sea, we faced an event that was both happy and sad. The happy part was that we found a new home for our tortoises Jamshid and Arslana – with an American family who will be in Tashkent for the next three years. The sad part was that we had to let them go on Friday, May 19. And we have been glancing into the front yard expecting to see them ever since. On the up side, their new yard has dandelions, and a pine tree to hide under, so I bet they’re happy there. Whoever keeps the food coming, right?
The following day, we loaded hundreds of dollars in American food we hadn’t consumed into my car and brought it to an embassy yard sale. I literally rolled out of the sale within thirty-five minutes with no food left and an entire Trader Joe’s paper bag full of local currency. So that was awesome.
Fortunately for me we had hired help to clean our front yard a couple of days beforehand, and I had already mowed the lawn the night before, because that evening we threw a lawn party to which we’d invited all the Americans in the embassy. We basically threw our own farewell + eat and drink our consumables gathering. More than 40 people showed up, Steely Dan was reelin’ in the years, and it was an awesome night of delicious grill, classic rock, and good people.
During the weekdays we worked like dogs, coming home from work after dinner time and spending an average of 4 extra hours each evening preparing the house for our PCS packout. The packout started on Friday, paused for the weekend, and then continued on Monday, the Memorial Day holiday. It was supposed to continue on Tuesday, but there was a misunderstanding, so we forfeited our holiday and just went with it. The amount of disorder and people in the house was stressful, but went as well as could be expected. We came in below the 3,240 kg limit with about 2,500 kg, and for that I was relieved. I even got to bring my elliptical and the treadmill that I hadn’t managed to sell.
The last couple of days in the office were a little hectic, but all my weeks of pre-planning paid off. I was on the visa line, adjudicating cases at my desk, transferring my files and emails, running around the embassy getting signatures on a five page checkout sheet, trying to sell or give away random things that were left in the house. It kind of seemed like it would never end.
But then it did.
Today was my last day in the office, and there were so many ways I was reminded how fortunate I have been to work with this staff. I finished my work in the afternoon and had a chance to say goodbye properly, and then go out to an early dinner with my husband.
I will reflect more on my tour, what I have learned, and and what I want to accomplish going forward after I’ve made it back to the U.S. and land on my feet again. I’ll be thinking about it tomorrow as my husband and I fly seventeen hours through the air back to Washington.
So, so, so much joy right now. So much gratitude, and respect for my local colleagues most especially.