I remember the afternoon in August 2014 that I got my flag for Uzbekistan, surrounded by my cheering A-100 colleagues. And I also remember the hot summer evening in June 2016 when I received my second tour assignment to Australia and stood bolt upright in my Uzbek wallpapered living room.
And very early this morning, I had that moment again. I checked my work BlackBerry and saw an email with the subject line “Handshake.” I actually waited almost 30 seconds to click on it, fumbling for my glasses and barely breathing.
I am very excited to announce that beginning in May 2020, I will serve my third tour as the Deputy American Citizen Services (ACS) Chief at U.S. Consulate General Ciudad Juárez. Apparently I am continuing my pattern of serving in only the driest places on earth, and my arthritis is thrilled.
Ciudad Juárez (CDJ) is located just across the border from El Paso, TX and was founded in the 1650s. The current population is around 1.3 million. The consulate in CDJ is one of nine constituent consulates that, along with U.S. Embassy Mexico City and nine consular agencies, make up the U.S. Mission to Mexico.
ACS work and Special Citizen Services (SCS) work in Mexico – and particularly in Juárez – will probably prove to be extremely challenging, but I am so excited to tackle it and have an opportunity to help manage a unit team of over 20.
Although I like visa work and immigration law, my passion for joining the Foreign Service in the consular cone has always been more to do with helping Americans in trouble. And somehow I have the feeling I will have ample opportunity to do that!
Although it was not a job that I pursued from the beginning of the bid cycle, I was very happy to receive the handshake.
There is this meme on the Foreign Service Tumblr that says “When you get a handshake, but not the one you wanted.” It shows two kids in Halloween costumes, and one is dejectedly looking in his pillowcase and saying, “I got a rock.” That actually made me so sad for some reason! CDJ is NOT a rock.
And because I got it, somewhere, there is someone sad who wanted it and did not get it, just like I was sad about several jobs that I did not get. It is a job that will make me a better consular officer, by far. So, I will embrace it and do my best. And – there will be tacos!
I am a little bit worried about the security situation; the restrictions on movement, even within CDJ, and the drug-related violence and omnipotent organized crime are threats to take seriously.
(Check out travel.state.gov travel warnings for Mission Mexico at this link.)
But, there are a ton of things about this post that I would put on the ‘pro’ side of the ledger.
– I have heard great things about the housing and the morale/community at Post.
– My husband has a good shot at employment within the consulate, and if all else fails, El Paso has opportunities for those willing to commute.
– It is nice to know that American medical care, shopping, and entertainment are literally a few miles away.
– I am excited about the food!
– When we PCS to Post, we don’t have to fly. We can drive from DC, and we’ll have five days to do it! That would give me a chance to see Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and other states I haven’t seen since I was a baby.
– AND, I am SUPER excited to study Spanish for several months beginning in September 2019. How fortunate, especially as it is quite hard to get Spanish if you don’t already have it by the end of your first two (directed) tours. I studied Spanish for four years in high school and college, and then dumped 15 years of Slavic language study on top of it, so that should be interesting!
– I *think* I can recall my Volkswagen Hildegard out of storage in Belgium and bring her back to DC. Yay!!
– Getting to branch out into the American Southwest to visit the Alamo, Monument Valley, Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, Big Bend, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, and Albuquerque: NONE of which I have ever seen, is going to be beautiful. I have always loved places like Nevada with austere desert landscapes. When I watched Breaking Bad, I thought the desert was a character in its own right.
– And of course, finally being within relatively quick flight distance to see both of our families based in California and the Carolinas! And by then my niece will be in fourth grade, and I will want to spend more time with her if I can.
When I weigh it all up, there is a lot of positive in my assignment, even if the work and environment are new and somewhat intimidating.
Someday, I will do it all, and write about it here so the Collecting Postcards audience can come along. In the meantime, I will not wish away my precious nine remaining months in Australia. There is so much yet to look forward to.