Let me tell you, these overnight shifts (they are called Shift I because they technically begin at midnight and so are the first shift of the day) are hard! It is 5:16 am and I'd REALLY like to be in my bed asleep!
I finally managed to get the condo in presentable shape, just in time for a friend to stop by after we had dinner together at the Indian restaurant down in Shirlington. This was just a few days after we went to dinner at the house of one of my A-100 classmates.
It is kind of interesting, seeing other people's places back in the states. Overseas, we basically all have the same Ethan Allen furniture and the apartments are chosen for us. So while we have some of our stuff with us, everyone's place seems like little more than a variation on a theme. Back in the states, you can see the apartment or home that people pick out for themselves and the kind of furniture they buy. It is sort of interesting to see how different a person's place is from what you might expect. And I wonder what folks think of our place. I wonder if our home looks like what people expect.
Some of my friends from my A-100 class have started getting emails re-assigning them to the passport task force. Unless you have been living under a bridge, you probably have heard about how the State Department has a backlog of millions of passports that have to be processed. And since they don't have the people to process them quickly, and can't hire them quickly because you have to have a security clearance, they have been trying to get as many volunteers as they can to help out.
But of course, those volunteers can only work just so much in addition to their 40-hour plus work week, and lots of folks simply want to spend their extra time with their families, not processing passports.
Add to that the work is mind-numbing. I did it while I was in Jerusalem. You literally take a file, check to make sure that the paperwork matches what is in the computer, click to accept and transmit it, and stick on a barcode. Then onto the next file. Seriously mind-numbing. And I only had to do it occassionally to help out in ACS (American Citizen Services) because I was in visas (which has its own challenges, but is less mind-numbing than transmitting passports). I have a friend in Jerusalem who does several hours worth of transmittals a day. I fear for her sanity.
Anyway, they haven't gotten enough volunteers, so now they are drafting people. About to go to your new post? Nope, we need you for 2 months doing passports. Finishing A-100? Here is your assignment for the next two months. Doing an internship? Off to passports. Mostly, but not entirely, they are tapping more junior people who can't say no. Hence, they have gotten to my class. We aren't yet tenured, though we are up for consideration as we speak. And some of us who are coming off consular tours, and thus have training and experience (like me), are especially sought after.
I have gotten an email saying I could get an email assigning me to passports, but so far, they haven't (allhamdulillah!). And insha'allah, they won't. I like my job, and it is a critical needs position. Plus, if they took me out of the rotation, my collegues would be forced to pull more overnight shifts and it would be harder for them to get leave during the very months people like to take leave. I don't want to do that to them. I know my boss is fighting for me.
The HHE finally it, alhamdulillah. But man is the house a wreck! Between us, we had almost 200 numbers. While a few of the numbers were pieces of furniture like bookshelves, most of those numbers are for boxes. So I literally have had to make pathways through the boxes. Last night, I had to clear a path to the bird cage!
On the bright side, I got a good bit unpacked, and I did discover that our parmasan cheese grater made it safely. I don't know how I lived without one (yes I do, I never used fresh parmasan. I always bought the canned crap).
I have to work this weekend, but I have a stretch of three days off next week, so I am hoping to make some good progress on the unpacking then. I unpacked enough yesterday to fill the dumpster with boxes and it still doesn't look like I made a dent!
This blog is intended to give anyone who is interested some insight into life in the Foreign Service. The views expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. State Department. But hopefully, I won't say anything that will even make you wonder.