Getting closer to present day…
It’s here, it’s finally here! The day we’ve been waiting for, the day we find out where on Earth we’ll spend our first tour. My parents, Diplowife’s sister and her husband all came to DC for the big event, so even if the news was bad, we would be in good company.
It was early May, and uncharacteristically cool and wet for this time of year. The rain was an unwelcome reminder that I don’t own a raincoat the fits over a suit. My little umbrella would have to do. I met my parents downtown, and we took the Metro and FSI shuttle to the big event at FSI in Arlington. Diplowife’s sister, her husband and a friend came too. It takes time to get through security at FSI, it’s like going to the airport and the Vistors’ Center’s entrance got crowded. The rain didn’t help, there’s not much room in the security area, and there’s no covered porch or anything outside.
We eventually made our way to a big auditorium, with FSO’s sitting in the front rows and the audience in the rear. There were a few speeches and introductions at the start, but I was a nervous wreck and barely heard any of it. Then, one by one, they projected a country’s flag on the big screens, called out an FSO’s name and the city they were going to. The FSO stood up to receive a handshake, tiny flag and their orders. They were told to smile and act happy NO MATTER WHAT. They’re supposed to be diplomatic about this, even if they have to go someplace they hate. It’s good practice for their new jobs.
The FSO’s were called out in no discernible order, so it was extra nerve-wracking not knowing when Diplowife’s name would come up. I was convinced we were going to Mexico, it’s a very popular place to send rookies. So every time the Mexican flag showed up, my blood pressure spiked. Not to mention all the times the flag of certain countries appeared, countries that won’t let us take our cats, were full of religious fanatics, or had horrible weather. One guy got New Zealand, a plum assignment (for non-cat owners), another got Paris. Drinks are on them.
About halfway through the list, the flag of China flashed on the screen. Diplowife’s name was read aloud (mispronounced). SHENYANG, CHINA. My dad gave me a high five and my mom and Diplowife’s sister both grabbed my attention and congratulated me. I assume Diplowife got up and received her flag and orders, but I was in a fog. Shenyang? Well, China wasn’t my first pick, but Diplowife lived there and can guide me through it. The language may as well be Martian, but I’m sure I can learn enough to get by.
My dad asked me if I was happy with the post. I said I didn’t know. I barely knew anything about it, just the general area (Northeast China, near the North Korean border), and it’s supposed to be very cold. I looked up its Wikipedia entry and my dad and I read it together. Seems like a bleak place, little culture to speak of, and bad Internet access. Western food is hard to come by, and expensive. It’s a “hardship” post, because of the cold weather and pollution. But wait, it gets really hot and humid there in the summer, worse than Washington DC even. I wasn’t feeling all that great about this turn of events.
After all the flags were distributed, I got up and congratulated Diplowife in person. She was crying tears of happiness, and had been crying ever since her name was called. I realized then, that no matter how I felt, I would make this work. Her dream had come true. China it was and China it will be.