Summer is usually the busy season in consular sections. Everybody wants a visa. Students are applying for their student visas to go study in America, and families want to travel to America during their summer vacation. The volume of visa applicants usually starts to increase in May, then spikes in July, and gets back to “normal” (if there is such a thing) in September. This means that our work load increases, but our staffing doesn’t change. So the Department shifts people around between posts, on a temporary basis, to balance the staffing and meet the demand. Posts that already have a large volume, like Ho Chi Minh City, ask for help from other posts that don’t have the same workload.
When I was in China, the demand for U.S. visas was spiking. One summer we were interviewing 2-3 times the number of people that we processed when I first arrived at post. With the same number of permanent staff. We asked for a lot of temporary duty (TDY) support that year, and we had a number of people come in from other posts to help. Of course, the requirement was that they spoke Chinese, but luckily we were able to get enough TDYers (that’s a word in the State Department) to meet our demand.
Since that spike, demand in China has gone back down to a reasonable volume (still almost double what it was when I first arrived there in 2014). So posts in China are able to spare some officers to go to other posts to help with their volume. Instead of importing TDYers, China can loan out a few people. I’m actually a little disappointed. I was hoping to do a short TDY visit back to my old post in China and see my dear friends in the consulate. But oh well. Maybe next tour.
Anyway, one of the TDYers in Ho Chi Minh City is now here from Shenyang. We were catching up the other day, swapping gossip and stories about life in Northeast China. She says that the local staff all say hello. That part of the conversation was fun. Then it got ugly. She mentioned that the community there is still eating my kidney beans. She said that she personally has a few bags.
OMG. It’s been two years since I left post. How can there still be kidney beans? When will this end?!