So I've been reading around the State blogosphere and Facebook about how some people's bid lists are supposed to come out today. And they're all chirpy and happy and life is full of delicious possibilities, etc. etc. etc.
None of those people are DS.
Because DS has its entirely own bidding system. With different experiences and expectations to match.
Not that I'm personally very familiar with the exact intricacies of normal DS bidding, of course, because James technically hasn't bid the normal way yet (since he got Chengdu off of the NOW list). He's supposed to bid the normal way for the first time this summer. But when you're DS and you're listening to FSOs or (worse!) other Specialists, etc., talk about their bid lists and bidding preferences, well, if a picture is worth a thousand words then an animated .gif is worth a million. So here goes...
I hear, "Well, right now we're at a 20% (or whatever) differential post, and so we're hoping for Paris, London, or The Hague next," and I'm all:
Or when someone FSO-y just did their THIS tour (Consular, Public Affairs, or whatever), so it's now time for them to go do their THAT tour (again... Consular, Public Affairs, Management, the tour they have to do because they came in with language points, etc... which are all places overseas, of course), I try to stuff back being all:
Because the default for basically EVERYONE BUT DS is that they're overseas the hugely vast majority of the time, and they're domestic but a tiny bit, comparatively.
Whereas for DS, it's the exact opposite. For DS, the domestic bidlist (all over the U.S.) has eleventy gazillion openings, the overseas bidlist has a scant few (or at least that's how it feels), and the overseas slots have warm bodies stacked on top of each other sometimes dozens deep, all of which are biting, clawing, and scratching their way desperately through the bidding cycle in hopes of getting an overseas post. Sell your grandmother for the chance to go to Ouagadougou? YOU BETCHA.
James and I know that our turn for this is rapidly approaching. We've been in Chengdu for eight months and, as I said, he bids this summer.
SURE, we could face the seemingly inevitable and plod back to the U.S. next without putting up too much of a fight to stay "out" again.
But the problem is that Zachary will be in high school starting with our next tour. It's just not that easy to bid somewhere random in the U.S. and feel confident that you'll end up with okay high schools, and, to be honest, we're loving the International School experience (LOVING IT). We want to keep it going for Zachary if we can.
(All that to say: Watch out, Grandma! I love you, but love has its limits!!)
I'll Tell You a Story:
My boys have a non-State (American) high school kid friend here in Chengdu whose family (her dad is with a large international corporation) was previously posted to a state in the southern U.S. (that I will not specify, but we're talking SOUTH south, people).
One day her class in school was supposed to do presentations on the notable moments of their lives thus far and, being as that she had spent her entire life overseas in many different countries because of her Dad's job, she put together a PowerPoint presentation about the different countries that she had lived in and the different languages she spoke (three). How she celebrated her tenth birthday in Jakarta. How she rode an elephant here and saw the Northern Lights there. You get the picture.
When she was finished with her PowerPoint presentation (complete with photos from different countries and a section where she spoke a sentence or two of the other languages in which she was fluent, just so they could hear them, maybe for the first and last time), the class just looked at her with blank stares.
None of the kids cared. None of them asked her a single question. None reflected even the vaguest sense of interest. In fact, they started looking at her like she was some sort of alien life form. Someone suspiciously different and weird.
And she realized then and there that she didn't belong. AT ALL. That no matter what she did, even though she was also an American, she would never "belong" in that group of kids. And she spent her entire two years there utterly miserable, in a town where American kids are born, are raised, never leave, and die... and like it that way. Where that's normal and everything is else is strange.
So, yeah. I don't really WANT to take Zachary somewhere where the classroom will be full of:
But what's to be done when you're DS and getting an overseas post is so difficult it's sometimes nearly impossible?
And the next time I try to explain to any other sort of very sweet, well-meaning (but not DS) State employee friends about how DS bidding is *different* than their bidding and how insanely hard it is to get overseas/stay overseas, I'll do my level best to stuff back my inner:
...which is always there, at or just below the surface, when the topic of bidding comes up.
[Also, I swear I'm not trying to pick on the south. James and I both have lived in Florida pretty much most of our lives. I know that this young lady could have had that same experience elsewhere in the States.]