On Friday afternoon I participated in the Foreign Service ritual that is affectionately known as “Flag Day.” You know from our last post that K and I spent a few weeks feverishly researching a whole list of posts and preparing a list of the places where we would most like to go. We turned in the list, and a group of officers went to work behind the scenes to examine our preferences, the preferences of the other 75 trainees in my class, our language abilities, and the level of need in each position. They weighed all of it together and decided where each of us would be going.
The big moment came on Friday when all of us trainees filed into a few rows of seats in front of a podium, with our hundreds of excited family members filling up the space behind us. Our trainers carried a big rack of miniature flags into the room…one for each of us! The announcer would read the name of a post, pause, and then announce the name of the officer who would be serving there. The officer would then approach the front of the room, take the flag, and smile for a picture with the VIP while the crowd went wild. It’s sort of like a high school graduation combined with a game show where everyone is winning a trip.
As the names were called I started to take notes on which of my friends was going where, but soon stopped because I was in such suspense I could barely hold a pen. It was also just so wonderful to watch the smiling faces of my friends and colleagues as they walked to the front to grab their flag.
I was drawn to the edge of my seat many times as the announcer called the name of a post I was particularly interested in…only to not hear my name called.
“Bern, Switzerland!”…followed by someone else’s name.
“Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic!”….followed by someone else’s name.
“Port au Prince, Haiti!”….followed by someone else’s name.
I thought that maybe there was a mistake. Had I turned all my paperwork in on time? Had they forgotten me? Was I not going to get an assignment??
But then he read “Ciudad Juarez, Mexico!” followed by name. We’re going to Mexico! I looked for K in the audience and smiled. She had been telling me for days that she had a feeling we were going to be sent there. We had read quite a bit about it, and were very pleased to rank it “high” on our bid list. I walked to the front, grabbed my flag, and the VIP whispered in my ear that I would love Juarez because they’ve just built a brand new baseball stadium. I have no idea how he knew that I like baseball, but he was right, so now I’ve got one more reason to be excited!
As soon as the ceremony ended and I hugged and kissed K, my sister, aunt and cousin who were all in the audience, I was approached by a group of strangers who told me that they also were on their way to Juarez. They’re from a training class that went through several months ago and they are getting ready to ship out. There’s a very high level of camaraderie in Juarez, and it seems to be starting already! We even took a picture together:
After the ceremony we went out for dinner…and picked a restaurant that seemed appropriate given the news:
We couldn’t be happier with this assignment. Most first tour officers are assigned to do consular work (visa adjudication, citizen services, etc.), so that’s what I’ll be doing. Juarez is one of the biggest and best run consular sections in the world, so this will be a good place to be. Also, a friend and colleague from my training class has also been assigned to Juarez, so we won’t be the only newcomers.
We will post more in the coming months regarding things we’re excited about. We’ll be in the DC area until July, brushing up on Spanish and doing more training. There’s a lot to do before we’re ready to move to the border.
For now we are enjoying celebrating this latest milestone on what has been a long journey to living and working abroad. We’re excited that we finally have a spot on the map to stare at.