And the winner is…

It’s taken us a couple of weeks to digest the news of our next assignment. It will be hard for many people to understand, but our initial reaction to being assigned to Canberra, Australia was disappointment.

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We made a rookie Foreign Service mistake. We got our hearts set on a particular job at a particular post. It was French speaking, in Europe (so only one flight away from home and dozens of amazing traveling opportunities), with a truly international population, relatively easy pet importation regulations, and with good school options in the Northern Hemisphere system. Instead we got an English speaking post, one of the most homogeneous places anywhere, about as far from our families as you could get on the planet, with some of the most difficult and rigorous pet importation rules in the world, on the Southern Hemisphere school system (Feb-Dec).

So, while we are FULLY aware of our luck in getting assigned to an amazing, beautiful country, we’ve had to take a few weeks to grieve our dream post, and adjust to the different kinds of difficulties built into this new reality. Perhaps most difficult for us will be determining how best to handle Miller. In order to avoid a six month quarantine in Australia (and reduce it to a 10 day quarantine) we will likely have to take Miller back to the US with us in December when we go home for our second R&R. Then, for six months our home here will be empty of his sweet face and gentle presence. I cry every time I think about it. And, at the same time, we will have to rely on family, or friends, to look after him in the US and to ensure that he goes to the vet about a dozen times during those months to have a series of tests to meet the Australian import rules.

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Then there are cars. Only right hand drive in Australia, and their import rules are strict on that front too. So we’ll be in a position to have to buy at least one, and probably two, cars when we arrive. We’ll also have to decide whether C will go ahead a grade, or stay behind a grade as we get used to “summer vacation” in December.

And finally, there is community. Kinshasa is a hard place to live and work, but we are surrounded by the most fantastic people who are making our time here amazing and wonderful. This group of people buoys us when we’re down, cheers us when we’re up, supports us when we need help and have been there from us since the moment we stepped off the plane last year.

Canberra is a tourist destination. A large international capital – the safest capital in the world, apparently. We wonder whether someone will meet us at the airport, cook a meal for us when we arrive, take us shopping, show us how to get a cell phone, cable and internet service, tell us what restaurants are good (and invite us along when they go), introduce C to other kids her age, help us navigate the schools, and explore the city with us as people have done here, or will they just assume that we can figure that out on our own in an English speaking first world country?

Maybe it is best that we are still adjusting to the idea of Canberra. I promised myself that I would not “leave” Kinshasa before it was truly time to board a plane. I don’t want to spend the next year looking out the window for the beautiful hills of Canberra and missing the less beautiful, but fascinating, streets of Kinshasa right in front of me. There is so much to see and do here. I don’t want the mirage of clean water and bounteous produce aisles to distract me from seeing the smiling woman in a blindingly colorful dress, balancing a huge basket on her head and a baby on her back, saying “bonjour” to me as we pass each other on the dusty, rutted city streets.

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So this is the last you’ll hear of Canberra for a while. This blog is about now, not about a year from now. Next July, when we leave Kinshasa, I’ll turn my attention (after enjoying a wonderful 3+ months in the US and Canada) to Australia and our new life.

Congo is not finished with the adventures it has in store for us, and we are not finished with the things we are destined to see, do and learn, deep in the heart of Africa.

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11 thoughts on “And the winner is…

  1. I can sense your disappointment in your words and the bittersweet notion of leaving a place that has become for all intents and purposes, home. This is the rallying cry to carpe diem! Squeeze every last drop from the experience of Africa, as I know, it will become a memory – so do your best, to make that memory sweet. For life as you and I know, is only a cheeseball!

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    • Wish I could reach out and hug your for this! But, as someone who has been a part of so many of my great memories, I guess i should have known you’d understand. To the cheeseballs!

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  2. While we completely understand your conflicting emotions, this life quickly teaches us all to leave pre-conceived notions of place behind. The very place you may have idealized as a dream post — almost assuredly — would be less community oriented, with your colleagues scattering to the winds at closing times, finding their own way to the train, and few of the vestiges of community that can make peel the rough edges off of Kinshasa and Port Au Prince and San Salvador. Your concerns are real, but you’ll have a wonderful time in Canberra. And remember this: there are people who claim Canberra is an awful place that’s devoid of culture. After Kinshasa, anytime you hear someone complaining about the lack of organic almond butter you’l just laugh.

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  3. Hi Debbie,
    your mom and dad were over for dinner last night and alerted me to your blog. WOW!!! Never knew you were a journalist as well. Wonderful observations and descriptions of your exciting adventures. Will be following them from now on. B.t.w. Is that Anouk in your Circle “R” photo?
    Thera.

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    • Hi Thera! Welcome! Anouk is not in that particular picture, but I have a couple of Circle R pictures of her hanging around somewhere. I’ll send them to my Mum! 🙂 Give my best to Rudolph!

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