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Saying goodbye and hello

They say that change is the only constant, and that’s certainly true in the foreign service. Since I joined the State Department in January this year, I’ve been a part of many different cohorts that have existed for a short time, and then broke up.

My orientation class, A-100, lasted six weeks. The orientation has some similarity to boot camp: it’s an intense shared experience. That experience forged some strong friendships. When we received our first assignments, some of us went directly to language class, others went on to other training classes. We still keep in touch, but we are now all over the world. Some of us are still in language training, and some, like me, have been at post for a few months already.

Summer is a big transition time in the foreign service. Assignments at posts are for a fixed time, then when the assignment is over, we rotate to other posts. Although assignments begin at various times throughout the year, a lot of assignments begin in the summer. Rotating in the summer makes it easier for families with school-aged children.

My section chief left in early July, a fellow consular officer left last week, and another will leave next week. We also have a temportary duty officer working in the consulate for the summer, and she will leave next week. This is the last week for our summer intern and our summer student worker. We are holding a lot of good-bye lunches and parties.

If your idea of a good job is one in which you stay in the same place and work with the same people for years, the foreign service is not a good choice for you. On the other hand, if you like new challenges, meeting new people, and doing (very) different kinds of jobs every few years, this is just the place for you.

Throw in some jet lag, traveler’s diarrhea, bureaucracy, and cross-language/cross-cultural miscommunication, and you’ve got a good picture of my life now.

I love it.

But.

I really like everyone that I have worked with so far. Foreign service officers are smart, funny, interesting people. It’s sad to have to say goodbye to them. This morning I said goodbye to the facilities manager for the Consulate. We went on a few trips together, and he was a good influence on me, encouraging me to get out of the house. He’s off to Moscow now, and I’m not sure when, if ever, I will see him again.

There is another side to saying goodbye to friends, though. We get to welome newcomers to post. Having new people around keeps the conversation fresh, and keeps things interesting. And even though we are all always moving to posts around the world, the service is small enough that we often see each other again at different venues.

I hope.

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