When I first started telling my friends and coworkers that we were leaving Charlotte to join the Foreign Service, the reaction I got most often was a wistful look and words that generally went like this:
“Wow. That is SO cool. Gosh, I’m actually kind of jealous.”
Luckily for my ego this was usually followed by, “Oh, and I’m really sad you’re leaving.”
I understood the note of envy in people’s voices. After all how many people have the opportunity to live a crazy adventure after the age of about 25? Not many.
I suspect, however, that when I sent out my blast email around 4:30 p.m. last Friday saying “And the winner is…Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo” a lot of those same people felt a lot less envious. I know (from the emails and texts I soon started receiving) that many, in fact, left the envy behind and replaced it with worry for us, and thankfulness for their own non-African future.
But, while Kinshasa is not London, or Paris, or Rome, it is exactly what we wanted – and we are very excited. We won’t be leaving until next July – which seems like an interminable time to me (when you make this kind of leap you want to leap right away!) – giving us lots of time to learn about our new home. It also gives B lots of time to learn a new language (French) and for me to brush up on my (I hope) solid base of French from my Canadian days.
I’m sure I’ll be writing plenty about Kinshasa as I learn about it, but this post is about Flag Day.
So, when Sept. 26, 2014 started, as I mentioned in my last proper post, I wasn’t particularly worried. Decision had been made, out of my hands…yada yada.
Fast forward about half way through Sept. 26 when, by the time I picked C up from daycare at 11:30 a.m., my heart was pounding, I was alternating between sweating and shivering and I was, in a word, petrified. The conversation in my head went something like this: “What was I thinking being calm? This is crazy! Our future rides on a decision that was made by bunch of people only one of whom we had a conversation with (that lasted 20 minutes) – ARRRGHHH!” (all this while picturing myself running around in circles waving my hands in the air).
What could I do though? Nothing. So I packed up C and drove out to FSI and met up with B’s parents (who are, thankfully, more punctual than I, so prime seats were reserved when we arrived).
Keeping C busy in a hot room with lots of people and nothing to play with did, as I had feared, prove to be the most complicated part of the day, but luckily (as I had also predicted) her grandparents and the iPad came to the rescue.
Once the ceremony started, things moved quickly. Really quickly. I was going to keep a running list of where folks that we have befriended were going, but, frankly, once B’s name was called (and all I could think was “OMS…We’re going to Kinshasa?!”) I didn’t hear a thing and I had no idea where anyone after that ended up.
B was called about 1/3 of the way in. One of our top posts – Dakar, Sengal – had already been called and I was, at turns, ignoring the posts we had put low (because the person leading the ceremony had already told the crowd that no one (!) received a low bid), and paying attention to the posts we had put either medium (most of the posts) or high (about 6 posts).
When the DRC flag went up I didn’t recognize it (I had memorized the Cameroon and Gabon flags thinking, based on our conversation (you know, the 20 minute one…) with B’s CDO (Career Development Officer) that those were our two most likely posts), but when the presenter said “Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo” my ears did perk up a little because we had, after all, put this post high. It was a Francophone Africa post which also fit in our “hardship” request (more about why on another day) and it was a consular rotation (ie: working on the visa line) which was another request because it is something all FSO’s have to do in one of their first two tours.
And then I heard it: B’s name.
I jumped up and took a picture (I’m notorious for blurry iPhone pics…sorry) and then sat back down, a bit stunned. B was standing with the guy handing out the flags waving his little blue and red flag and looking a little dazed himself.
B’s parents and sister were looking at me stunned as well. Nothing like the bright reality of your oldest child (or brother) moving to West Africa (home of war torn strife and ebola) to make you look stunned.
I think we all actually recovered pretty well, and hour-by-hour, day-by-day, we have been getting more and more excited.
I’ll also admit, however, that on Friday we needed a little of this:
to make us feel 100% American (or 98% American in my case since I reserve the right to feel 1% Canadian and 1% British as a tip to my birth and growing up…) in anticipation of maybe not seeing so much of these things in Africa.
So now we’re on to French training, “ConGen” (that’s consular training), CrashBang (exactly what it sounds like – driving fast cars and shooting guns and what B is CLEARLY looking forward to most) and the logistics of moving a B, a C, a D and a big brown dog, to Kinshasa, DR Congo in July 2015. Onward to the adventure we go!