Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fine Whine

My apologies for my absence...I was in London for two weeks having surgery on my knees and blogging by iPad is...challenging.

Also challenging, having surgery on both of your knees.

One of the less fun parts of being in the Foreign Service can be receiving any kind of medical care. Unlike in the States, where if you have decent insurance you can get your medical issue dealt with fairly quickly, when you are overseas, it can take a while. So my surgery on the 14th was the culmination of months of pain, a useless visit with the Regional Medical Officer, a torn meniscus (actually torn in two places and cracked in a third), another couple weeks of pain, an appointment with an Estonian orthopedist (and a demonstration of how bad my Estonian medical vocabulary is), and then two and a half more weeks of waiting until we could get me to London for surgery.

Of course, once I got to London, the care was as good as any in the States. Maybe even better. The UK has socialized health care paid for by people's taxes. But on top of that, they have a private health care system that you can use if you have private insurance. We use the private system because we obviously don't pay taxes to the UK. And it was excellent.

I had an appointment the day after I arrived with a private doctor, and he then scheduled an MRI for a couple hours later. He recommended surgery on both knees, so we went to the embassy, who handled everything. They have an excellent medical unit that handled around 500 medical evacuations (medevacs) per year and they have it down to clockwork. We filled out all the forms, and because I was in the hospital overnight, the Department pays for everything and I reimburse them once I get reimbursed by my insurance.

Two days later, I was checked into the Princess Grace, a private hospital in London not far from the hotel where I stayed, also booked for me by the embassy. The hospital was great. You walk into a tidy waiting room, give them your name, and they come within five or so minutes to check you into your private room. Which includes a wine list. No, not kidding.

Told you I wasn't kidding
The room also had menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner (with a selection, including things like roasted pheasant that was actually awesome!), movies on demand (for free), and free wifi. An hour or so later, they came and got me, wheeled me into surgery and a split second later (okay a couple hours, but I was out, so it seemed like a split second), I was done. And I was on my feet by that evening.

Had all of this been done at home, or more quickly that how long it took here, I couldn't possibly have any complaints. But let me tell you that getting all that done is HARD when you are not at home. Even in England, which shares (sort of) our native language, it is still challenging. You aren't in your own environment. You don't know how best to get from place to place. You have to do things like get into cabs that are taller than most cars and the stepping into which causes your muscle to tear just a bit in your newly operated on knee (which then causes you to spend said cab ride curled up into a ball on the cab floor).

And you don't know when or whether you can return to work. Our job requires a medical clearance in addition to a security clearance. A class 1 clearance means you can work anywhere in the world. You have to have that to join the Foreign Service (because it wouldn't be fair to those already in the service to hire someone who could only serve in western Europe. We all have to do our time in hardship posts). When you go on medevac, your Class 1 clearance is suspended. And you can't return to post until it is restored. Now luckily, the medical unit at the embassy can do all the paperwork to restore your clearance if the doctor clears you, but the doctor's clearance is by no means assured. And if he does clear you, and you do go back to post, you can not go on medevac again from that post for that issue.

So if my knees for whatever reason don't heal, I am screwed. My only option would be to curtail from post (leave for good) and go back to DC. And hope there is a position for me there.

That is added stress on top of an already stressful situation.

The good news is I got my clearance back and I am home. The bad news is my knees are jacked and I will likely need replacements in the not too distance future. Other than repairing the meniscus, most of this was all as a stop gap to give me pain relief until I get them replaced in a year or so (hopefully much more than a year, but the cold, damp weather in Estonia makes them hurt so that I am not overly optimistic).

Also not especially fun to think about...metal knees in a career that has you going through airport security A LOT.

Hello, strip searches!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Transgender Day of Remembrance


Transgender Day of Remembrance

The State Department joins people around the world in marking Transgender Day of Remembrance, honoring the memory of lives lost to violence provoked by fear and hatred of transgender and gender non-conforming people.

We have made tremendous progress in advancing the rights of LGBT persons. But when people continue to be harassed, arrested and even killed simply because of who they are and who they love, we know that we still have hard work before us.

The sad truth is that in too many places, including the United States, transgender persons continue to face violence and discrimination on a daily basis.

In too many cases, crimes against LGBT persons, including murder, are not thoroughly investigated or prosecuted. Transgender persons are frequently denied medical care and public services. They still suffer discrimination in employment, education, and housing. Each of these episodes threatens our common humanity. Together, we pay a price when rights are trampled. And, together, we win when rights are protected.

That is why we are engaging diplomatically to address the specific challenges faced by transgender persons. And that’s why we will continue to urge other governments to protect all of their citizens regardless of their gender identity. Through the Global Equality Fund, we are increasing support to civil society organizations to combat bias-motivated violence targeting transgender persons.

The rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons are not special or separate or different. They are basic human rights. And human rights are universal, not negotiable.

On Transgender Day of Remembrance, we renew our commitment to ensuring that all persons are able to live safely, freely and with dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Monday, November 04, 2013

And The Winner Is....

We got our number 1! I will be the next PAO in Pristina, Kosovo and my wife will be the Deputy Pol/Econ chief! We are thrilled!

See you in DC in July for language!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

I Won't (Air) Kiss and Tell

I have been fairly quiet about bidding recently, at least here.

But the truth is, we have gotten an air kiss.

For those not in the service, a handshake is what you get when you are formally offered an assignment. Handshakes can go out beginning Monday.

But sometimes (not always), posts and the bureau let you know ahead of time that you are who they want.

Remember passing notes in class? "I like you. Do you like me? Check Yes or No."

It is a lot like that.

Except it does more like "You are post's (or the Bureau's) leading candidate for position x. Can you tell us where we stand for you and whether you would accept a handshake if offered."

We call this (unofficially) an air kiss.

This air kiss is of course, only after you have offered to sell your soul AND your first born to get this, or any, job. After you have told them how much you love them and would do anything to come work there. Sometimes though, you have have said that to several places (I opt for the honesty is the best policy route, but some don't. Everyone is their number 1).

So anyway, my wife and I got air kisses both from post and from the bureau.

And we told them we would accept the jobs if offered.

But I can't air kiss and tell (okay, we did tell a few folks...), so stay tuned until Monday.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Not The Bees Knees

I wrote a long post a week ago or so about what has been going on lately. About how one of the things that sucks about being in the Foreign Service was occasionally the medical care.

But it sounded too whiny, so I could never bring myself to post it.

Suffice it to say, I have been lucky not to need medical treatment while overseas until now.

Estonia has good medical care, but often the medical care providers don't speak English all that well and my Estonian is lacking in medical vocabulary.

So I am going to London in a couple weeks (and probably for a couple weeks) to have surgery on my knees. And getting me to this point has involved months of pain, a visit with the Regional Medical Officer (who said I needed to stretch and that it was just age), an appointment finally with an Estonian orthopedist (that took three weeks to get) and a torn meniscus in the interim.

If I had been stateside, especially since I have good insurance, this would have been taken care of months ago.

But I chose instead to serve the country, a country that freezes my pay, calls me a parasite, and recently threatened not to pay me at all.

Dang...getting cranky again.

Let's blame the pain.