Friday, April 9, 2010
Planning a New Life – and Remembering Past Ones
Our time here in India is winding down, and we’re scheduling “one last” dinner out with friends and “one last” trip to our favorite shops and restaurants. We’re worrying about packout, editing and re-editing our EERs (Employee Evaluation Reports), and generally trying to tie up loose ends. In the midst of all this, I also find myself thinking about DC, spending a lot of time pondering what life is going to be like when we move there for the next 2 years.
I will admit, I went into this whole “bidding on DC jobs” thing with more than a little trepidation. Last time I lived in DC, I knew I was only going to be there for a short amount of time, and I was a student so I lived like one, sticking to a very tight budget. I found it nearly impossible to meet interesting people or make friends in the city, there was a lot I didn’t understand about the whole west-coast/east-coast culture gap, and I generally had a pretty crummy time. I remember thinking sardonically that the only way to get anyone in DC to give you the time of day was to be either politically powerful or the right-hand-man of someone politically powerful. I don’t want it to be that way this time around.
Though being part of the Foreign Service essentially makes you homeless, a drifter from place to place unable to put down roots anywhere, I’ve learned that in order to preserve your sanity, you basically have to lie to yourself and treat each posting as though it were for good. That way, you can at least give yourself a chance at having something approximating a normal-ish life. (Discussion on how marvelous and exotic a “normal” or “ordinary” life sounds these days will be kept for another time.)
So I’m thinking about DC. For instance: what part of the DC area should we think about living in, and do we want to rent or buy (or can we afford to do either one)? Will I gain crazy amounts of weight when suddenly I no longer have to worry about 80 percent of available foods being painfully spicy? Should I join a gym or just take lots of classes at that fabulous yoga studio we went to in the weeks before we came to India (or will I have time/energy to do either one)? I’ve also been thinking about work stuff, like how I’m going to be able to replenish my work wardrobe after I get rid of all the things ruined by living in India, and whether I’ll manage to remember any of the stuff I learned about working in my chosen “cone” (job track) of the Foreign Service way back when I worked for the Department before formally joining as an officer.
And, of all things, I’ve been thinking about rowing. I’m not sure where, but I saw a photo recently of rowers out on the Potomac in an eight, on the glass-smooth water of early morning, all the rowers moving with purpose and in unison, with the city’s landmarks gently touched by the sun in the background – a photo obviously shot in those quiet, private hours before the rest of humanity is fully awake. I haven’t rowed seriously in about 10 years, but it’s amazing how much that photo made me yearn to get back out there with a boat, an oar, and a group of like-minded individuals. It’s a sport that requires a high degree of coordination – almost choreography – great amounts of power, a huge helping of perseverance, lots of sweat, sometimes blood, sometimes tears, and even sometimes little icicles hanging off your fingernails – and, yes, getting out of bed early. Those who know me well are undoubtedly scratching their heads at that last bit. But I don’t know – there’s just something about the simple, quiet things (not to mention the sense of community and of accomplishment) that is so unbelievably seductive these days.