One more way this whole shutdown thing is ticking me off:
It makes me a stupid language student.
If you know me, you know I am a doer. I don't like to sit around and worry about something. I like to try to fix it.
These days, I am angrier than I have been since I was in Jerusalem, and for the same reason:
I am powerless.
And on two sides. Both from Congress and the Department.
In Jerusalem, I felt that my life was no longer mine to control. That people who did not have my best interests at heart had too much control over my life. I was powerless, and I very nearly left the service over it.
Being powerless is not my talent.
There is nothing, nothing, nothing, I can do to make Congress do the right thing, do their job, and pass the budget.
So as a result, I could go without pay for who knows how long. And for those who say that non-essential workers got paid in the past, I say two things: first, the climate in Congress is different now. I doubt this Congress will approve pay for those who didn't work. And second, during the last shutdown, people went without a paycheck for six weeks. Could you do without your pay for six weeks? And even if you could, is that really the emergency you had your savings for?
There is nothing I can do to supplement my income, even if I wanted to. I can't get a job waiting tables or what have you...not allowed. I have to sit and stew. And hope they figure it out before I can no longer pay my mortgage.
There is nothing I can do to change the fact that even if I don't get paid, I will have to pay back the government for my insurance premiums...so I will have less money even when I get paid.
There is nothing I can do to keep the government from targeting only the lower and mid levels of the Foreign Service with a 24% pay cut when we go overseas. There is nothing I can do to stop them from freezing my pay for nearly 1/4 of a 20 year career.
And I really hate being able to do nothing.
It makes it difficult for me to concentrate, to focus on ANYTHING else. It makes me want to sit on my couch and eat chocolate.
And it definitely makes me a bad language student. I have no focus left for it. And the sad thing is that I love it. I didn't go to the AFSA rally today because I didn't want to miss any time in class. And I was sad as I left FSI because I want to come to work on Monday. I want to serve, and right now my service takes the form of learning a lnaguage even though it likely means I won't get promoted this year because that is what my country needs for me to be the best FSO I can for it.
And then there is the Department.
What I also really want to do is go to post in August.
I LOVED being in Estonia. And every single person I have talked to, right up to the Ambassador, has said I have a section full of rock stars. Having met them, I agree. I want to work with them. I don't want to delay coming.
But as I told them when I met with them, I believe in family. I believe in a work-life balance.
I don't want to go without my wife, especially not for a full year, especially when it is completely avoidable. Especially when we have already spent three years apart for the service.
And yet, the Department, or at least the committee of those nameless people who get to decide, has determined that she may not study language in Estonia.
Even though Estonia has GREAT language school.
Even though learning a language in a country where that is the language spoken is MUCH better than learning it here (and the Department knows this, which is why we have so many people studying Arabic overseas instead of here).
And even though it will cost the Department somewhere in the neighborhood of $60,000 MORE to force her to study here. (Oh but they are different pots of money...of course all those pots come from the same big pot, right?)
Of course we are appealling...the appeal goes to the same people who already rejected it.
It makes me wonder, given some of the comments coming out of CDA lately, whether part of the problem is that the committee doesn't consider us a "real" tandem, a "real" family.
So I am angry. I am powerless.
And I really hate it.