Thursday, August 21, 2014

New-house problems

We had cable, internet, and phone set up when we got here. This is the best GSO initiative that I’ve ever heard of. Seriously. Whoever thought of this was genius. I loved that on our first night, after our sponsors showed us around and I got the kids to bed, I was able to log online and tell the world (and my hubby) that we were safe and sound. I don’t think I actually did that – but I could have! I did get online and communicate with my hubby – but not the rest of the world.

We have a brand new house. Like…new-build new, not new to the housing pool new. I’m excited that we have a new house. We had old-house problems with our previous FS houses. This one won’t have old-house problems. Yay! However! We have brand-new house problems. Some of them, I don’t think are very urgent and I can wait until John gets here and can put in the proper service request (e.g. the fan in the dining room doesn’t have a remote and I have to climb on the dining table to use it), but some of them were urgent (e.g. no hot water, electrical in some parts of the house not working, etc.). I was able to talk to the person who’s currently covering my job and she was able to get guys to the house to fix the more urgent problems.

One of them was that our dishwasher didn’t have water going to it. That was an easy fix. Now the dishwasher stops mid-wash and doesn’t restart even when you touch the “resume” button. I’ll send the poor woman an email and let her know. I’ll also let her know that I don’t really consider this an emergency, just more of an inconvenience.

Last night I was skyping with John, who is on a work trip in upstate NY, and I could only think of negative things to tell him about the house. So I had to keep chanting things like: think of positive things, think of positive things. This house is smaller than my last, and it has almost no storage, and our house in Manila had a ton of storage. Those things are big to me. Not to mention we went from a gas stove to electric. I hate electric stoves.  

BUT! I know that we’re going to love this house. We’ve spent the better part of the last three days in our house, and it’s already starting to feel like home. I can’t wait to make it ours even more with paint and our stuff and wall hangings. We’ll get our kids to make some great art work and hang it somewhere to show it off.

And one day soon – one of my children will call this place home – and mean it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to survive your first 24 hours at Post without crying:

First things first (and something that's only luck-based): have great sponsors. Even good ones will be ok, but great ones are the best. We have great sponsors.

Second: make it as easy as possible to sleep. Sleep is very important to happiness. I was afraid kids would wake up scared in the middle of the night. So, instead of people sleeping alone, people slept with a partner. Four people, two beds, almost everyone slept well through the night (let's be honest - parents with a kid in bed don't actually sleep great when the kid's feet are in their backs).

Third: Drink water! Don't get dehydrated!

Fourth: Improvise! Don't have a cup to wash your little kids with? Cut the top off the 1-liter water bottle that you just finished off and use that instead.

Fifth: Bring a Lucy! Everyone should bring a Lucy (my amazing and wonderful helper from the Philippines who moved here with us) with them. Her presence has been very important to my happiness today.

Sixth: Take a deep breath when you see the first grocery bill. And remember - you are stocking your new home with essentials that you won't be buying every time. This obscenely high grocery bill isn't going to be the norm. And also remember to fill out the COLA survey the next time it goes out because holy crap are things pricey here!

Seventh: Remember the good. Every time you have a negative thought about your new place (this house is a lot smaller than my last one, I have no storage here, my list of requests for GSO is getting kind of long), try to remember the good about the house (I have four bedrooms for the first time in my life, the master suite is huge and I have a soaking Jacuzzi tub in it).

And finally - finish the first day off with a bath. A really nice bath in your really nice Jacuzzi tub.

Because you've just survived the first 24 hours at post without crying. For the first time. And that is definitely worth celebrating. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Getting close

In less than two weeks, I’ll be arriving at Post. This is both exciting and scary. Not too scary since it’s the third time I’ve done this, but a bit scary none-the-less. Our social sponsors have been great so far, and it sounds like they’ll be great once we arrive. I would like to be the kind of newcomers that are really independent, but it sounds like Kingston is a need-to-drive- everywhere kind of post, and we won’t have a car for a little while.

I’ve been looking at photos of our house. It’s so fun to have a blank slate of a house to start with. We have painting ideas (some things we want are different from what the other person wants...we’re still discussing), we’re excited to put up our wall art. Some of the pieces are new to hanging because we just framed them before we left Manila. We have some big walls to fill, and that’s exciting.

We might have to start investing in rugs. We don’t have any rugs to bring around with us. On the other hand - we’re just around our weight limit already. This is unfortunate and sad for me. I would love to make more furniture, buy some heavy artwork, buy some rugs. All of that sounds like a lot of fun.

Monday, August 4, 2014

An easier, much more exciting waiting game

When we were in Manila we had an amazing all-around helper. She was smart, hard working, and self-motivating. These qualities can be hard to find in helpers in Manila, and we found a jewel.

She started as a helper, but she became part of our family. I called her the boss of the family, and I was only partly kidding. We relied heavily on her, and she rose to every challenge we placed in front of her. I like to think of myself as a nice person, but she saw every part of me, and still continued to work for us.

Throughout our time in Manila we'd drop hints that we'd love to bring her to our next assignment. We were her fourth or fifth US Embassy family and she'd never gone with anyone. She was such an amazing helper, that I couldn't imagine no one had offered. I thought for sure that she'd just turned them down. With those thoughts in mind, I didn't have any hope that she'd come with us.

We put an offer on paper for her a couple of months before we were due to depart. She negotiated up to a (reasonably) higher amount (smart!), and we signed the contract. We got her a US visa and had a medical clearance appointment. Here in the story is where we hit a bit of a bump in the road.

Her chest x-ray showed traces of possible Tuberculosis. The Dr. wanted to see any previous x-rays from the last five years. She brought them and they were clear. Therefore the Dr. said that for sure she had TB and started her on treatment. And that was it. No more testing, no consultation about it, no asking if there were any symptoms (there weren't!). I was unhappy about this, to say the least. Our helper was crying when she told us. She thought for sure that we were going to terminate the contract and let her go, right then and there. That's not like us though. We made an appointment at another clinic that we trusted more to give us information we wanted (does she have active TB, or is she just a carrier).

She stayed on the medicine and her health deteriorated quickly. She started vomiting and was incredibly sleepy because she couldn't sleep.

She brought her x-rays to the appointment and they confirmed it looked like TB. They scheduled her to start the sputum test (when a person coughs into a box three days in a row and the sample is set aside to see if the TB culture starts forming. It's a six to eight week test. They wanted to wait the full eight weeks.). They also took her off the medicine and put her on a different medicine to fix the damage the first medicine did to her liver. She did the test, and we waited. They put her back on a small dosage of the medicine. She was to go to the Dr. every week and be administered the medicine and have a blood test to make sure her liver was healthy.

The test results came in negative - woohooo! But the Dr. said that it could have been negative because she was already on treatment. That doesn't make sense because she'd been on the treatment for about a week. What ever.

We bought her a ticket and sent her all the documents she'd need to leave. Turns out the airport official didn't look at any documents. They saw her U.S. visa and were satisfied.

She arrives in less than two hours. TWO HOURS!

I couldn't be happier to have our family whole again. I am so excited to show her a taste of our country. I'm so excited that our kids are going to have their nanny with them again. This is going to make our transition to Jamaica so much easier.

That is, if they give her a visa. We'll find out tomorrow, when I take her to the Jamaican Embassy, I suppose.

This waiting game has been nerve-wrecking, but it's almost over, and I'm so excited!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Waiting game

Warning - there's a lot of Foreign Service language in this one. I apologize to those who don't know all the acronyms. 

Months ago, I was talking to the CLO Assistant in Jamaica and asked her what jobs would be opening during this transition season. Two that she listed peaked my interest: CLO Coordinator and Housing Assistant.

I applied and interviewed for both. During the interview for the housing assistant position they mentioned wanting to fill the position as soon as possible to help during the transition season. "When can you start," they asked. "September, 1st," I replied. Internally I knew I'd just lost the job, but I kept my attitude up so that I was still putting my best voice forward (it was a phone interview since I still lived in Manila). One question I had during the interview was what security clearance level was required for this job. No clearance they said - just a background check.

Imagine my surprise when I was offered the housing assistant position. I discussed the offer with the hubby and a friend at work. They both advised me that housing assistant was better than CLO Coordinator for me. I emailed Jamaica HR back, accepting the position and asking them to remove my name for consideration with the other job. 

I was so excited! I had just secured my employment for our three years in Jamaica. I filled out a form for my background check and thought I was done with it. 

About a month into my home leave I received an email from the HR rep in Jamaica asking me to check my email and find the one from someone in HR in D.C. and fill out the forms. Three or four days into home leave someone from HR in D.C. had sent instructions on filling out the dreaded security clearance form. I got worried when the computers we had on home leave didn't fit the requirements for the government site. Finally after we got our UAB in D.C. and our new computer with it, did I have the correct browser for it.

I filled it out and sent it in. Someone from DS emailed me the next day and asked a quick question about one thing on it. She then emailed me back after I answered and said they have everything for my background check. 

Since I just had a clearance granted this February, I feel like this should be a very short process, but we'll see. Hopefully I'll still start working on September 1st. 

Right now I'm just playing the waiting game.