I have rescued the following posts of mine after The Great Blog Deletion of 2010 and are putting them here. They explain how we bid off the NOW list while posted at our first post (Houston, Texas) and got Chengdu, China - and had less than 24 hours to leave for DC for training!
We love Houston. James loves the office... his boss... his co-workers.
We love our home... which we bought last year... and completely remodeled.
We love our church... which welcomed us with open arms.
But, as everyone in State knows, even when you're at your current post, you still must concern yourself with which post will come next.
James had always hoped to get overseas on his next assignment. There are many reasons for this. First of all, we have a sixteen-year-old son who is not getting any younger. This may be his only chance to go overseas with us.
Also, James has been hoping to be able to go to language school. Even while he's been here in Houston, we've both been attending the FSI school via internet with its weekly phone calls for Spanish.
Two or three weeks ago, two posts in China popped up on our NOW bid list. And even though we're technically "summer bidders" and wouldn't even submit our first bid list until this coming summer, we were instantly excited when these China posts came up.
Either post in China would allow us to take our son overseas with us for our next assignment. Either would allow James (oh, please, me also!) to go to almost a year of language school for a super-hard language. In addition to this, China intrigues us for many, many reasons... which I'm sure I'll address in latter blog posts.
James approached his management, and they were all so very, very kind. They offered us lots of wisdom, advice, and assistance; they formally supported his bidding for the NOW posts in China. So James submitted bids on both of them.
Initially, to us, the timing of the report dates and such might have meant that James may have ended up in training sometime this fall, and we were okay with that. It would pain us to leave Houston early, but we understood that this may occur.
Fast forward to yesterday:
Yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), out of the blue, James' CDO called and asked him if he could report for training on Monday morning in DC. James wouldn't be paneled, the CDO explained, until the panel met this Friday afternoon (today is Thursday), so there couldn't be a handshake until at least then... but could James fly out Sunday to be there Monday to start training?
During this phone call with his CDO, James was in a loud restaurant, at lunch, surrounded by co-workers. Yesterday was WEDNESDAY. The CDO was talking about reporting MONDAY.
James called me. James talked to his management. James called the CDO back: Monday was a go. Yes, he'd be honored to be able to report for training on Monday. Thank you very much for the opportunity.
But wait: his family. If he flew out on Sunday for DC, we'd be stranded in Houston without him. He'd be stranded in DC with no car (and without us). But we have no orders; we won't have orders; we don't have a handshake; we have nothing. NOTHING.
But, on one hand, this is why we homeschool - so we can leave at the drop of a hat.
Well, the hat has dropped. And we're packing. For in order to drive our family (and things) to Washington DC by Sunday, we must leave tomorrow.
No paneling until late Friday afternoon.
Training starts Monday morning.
We don't even know to which of the two posts in China they're thinking of assigning him.
So: I'm doing laundry. And blogging, because if I write it all down and put it up on the blog, I will inform both friends and family at once. So tacky, I know, but it wasn't until James talked to the CDO again this afternoon (just a couple of hours ago) that we felt like this really is a go... and we're leaving to drive to Washington DC tomorrow.
I'm going to try to put up what will most likely be a smaller version of the regular Weekly Blog RoundUp between now and when we leave tomorrow, so please forgive me if it's not as long or as detailed as usual! Also, everyone, please forgive me if I can't get to emails very quickly. My cell phone is really old and I have no way to remotely respond to emails.
~ We're packing our things tonight
~ We're packing the car tomorrow morning, and leaving
~ We're hoping to be at James' office, turning in his things, when we hear if/that we've been paneled to a post in China... (Unless at the last minute late Friday afternoon we'll have everything packed and we'll be leaving the city and we'll find out he didn't get paneled! Wouldn't THAT be fun!?)
~ We'll be driving to DC, so James can start training on Monday morning
~ We'll be staying at one of the Oakwoods (nope, not The Mothership - no space!)
~ I'll post on Twitter if/when we get the handshake tomorrow afternoon, for our computer will be long since packed, and I'll tell you to what city we've been posted (here we go, living up to our blog's name!)
~ We should be back in Houston for a couple of weeks at the end of the summer in order to do whatever needs to be done with our house, then we'll be back in DC for language training... and then...
OFF TO CHINA!
First of all, I want to thank absolutely everyone from the bottom of my heart.
You have all just showered our family with warmth, well-wishes and love ever since our lives changed at the drop of a hat last week, and we are so grateful. Every comment, every email, every Facebook message was precious to us... and we can't thank you enough for caring. You all are just so kind, and your emotional support has meant more to us than we can say.
Leaving Houston and Getting to Virginia
We left Houston on Friday. We left a little later than we had hoped to leave, but I think that both James and I were holding back (just a little) in the packing and moving process until we heard something official about whether or not we were actually going to be reassigned, and whether or not James was going to actually be in Monday morning's class.
The first email we got late Friday afternoon was actually an email welcoming James to Monday's training class. What does this mean? we asked ourselves. While it was interesting to know that James was getting an email confirming that he was in Monday's class, we hadn't heard from the panel board even by later Friday afternoon!
Then, about an hour later, we got "The Handshake" email from the panel, telling James that he was the preferred candidate for Chengdu, China, which had been our first choice of the two available Chinese posts that we had bid on. It was probably something like 4 pm on Friday afternoon. Most of our things were packed and loaded in the car at that point, but that official email gave us the additional oomf we needed to finish the job and start driving.
It was really real: we were really leaving Houston; we were really being paneled to China; James was really starting class on Monday morning for his new assignment; we were really driving halfway across the United States... with pretty much 24 hours' warning.
Friday night, we drove until 1 am and stopped somewhere in Louisiana.
Down on the bottom floor, there was even an indoor river area with Koi fish!
I heart Koi fish. They're so pretty.
They're like... little swimming flowers in the water or something.
Stopping for a minute or two to take their pictures really made my heart happy.
The rest of the drive went by in a blur, but that's probably because I wasn't James. You see, Matthew (the sixteen-year-old) and I were both very sick (and still are... Still Sick: Day The Millionth), so James literally drove his worthless family Every. Single. Mile. of the way from Houston to Fairfax, VA.
The children were great and didn't fight, and the trip went really well. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.
You Guys Made it to DC! What Now?
We had a rocky start with the Oakwood campus that we have been assigned to, and are continuing in the rockiness even now. I drafted a huge, long, epic blog post on this topic that I am still debating back and forth within myself about posting.
But you know what? We hadn't but pulled into town when true kindness came knocking on our door thirty minutes later... in the form of fellow Houston State Department folks also up here for training. They came to our apartment and presented us with a multi-course meal that they had lovingly cooked just for us. Such wonderful, amazing kindness. State folks are just such incredible people. After they dropped off the food, our family ate like voracious piranhas! There is no greater blessing than the filling up of empty tummies.
And here is more good news: just a few minutes ago, I got email confirmation that I am enrolled - together with James - in a Mandarin Chinese class at FSI that begins in early September and goes for almost a WHOLE YEAR! To say that I am/we are BEYOND THRILLED would be an enormous understatement.
We are insanely excited about getting our post; we are grateful for the opportunity; the children and I are trying hard to figure out what this will mean for us in the future once we get to Chengdu... but today's email regarding my enrollment in the Chinese class was such a blessing.
Thank you again for all of your thoughts, prayers, comments, emails, kindness and advice. I treasure each and every one of you!