How to find work as an EFM in China**

** For real this time!

It’s been a while since I had something interesting to blog about, so here’s some news: I got a job!  But first, a recap:

-Soon after Diplowife’s Flag Day, I looked into EFM jobs at post, found an IT (sort of) job to apply for, interviewed, and it looked like they were going to hire me, but that fell through for “reasons”, and I was back to square one.

-Early 2017, a federal hiring freeze went into effect right before we moved to Shenyang, which wasn’t lifted for months, and EFM jobs weren’t unfrozen (melted?) for a while after that.

-Spring 2018: I applied for an EFM job, Facilities Escort.  It’s a low-level job they give to a trusted American that escorts local maintenance workers when they need to go into secure areas to fix/clean stuff.  I got the job, and got an interim security clearance, but at the last minute an actual IT position opened up and I was persuaded it would be better to not start the escort job and just wait a month or so to do the IT job instead.

-March 2019: I finally FINALLY started working in the IT position.  It took a little longer than expected for my paperwork to go through the system.  Looking back, it would have been better to do the escort job.  A bird in the hand, and all that, it’s true.

So yeah, I started working as a “Computer Operator” here in the Shenyang consulate.  I’m working a few days a week, because I’ve got to set aside time to get our house ready to PCS, along with other appointments.  I’m helping the IT guys here a bit, but the job’s primary purpose is to get into the system.  In theory, it’ll be easier to get a job in our next post, since I’m a known quantity.  I even have a security clearance (more on that later).

The process to get the job was not complicated from my point of view.  I applied to the job last June, interviewed with the IT boss here, and he was excited to hire me.  However, the interim security clearance I received last Spring was only good for the Facilities Escort job, so I had to wait to get a new clearance.  Also, the folks back in DC that approve of my being hired were a bit slow, assuming there’s anyone doing the job at all (the State Department is really understaffed these days).

I’m fortunate to have a tenacious Management officer here that went to bat for me several times, and got me the job right before we ship out.  Not everyone is so lucky.  On the other hand, I know some EFMs that got hired really quickly for some reason.  Be prepared for things to go either way!

Meanwhile, I was trying for months to get into the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC).  It’s supposed to make it easier to get hired, like having a trusted source that vouches for you, no matter where in the world you’re posted.  Also, FSFRC members get to keep their security clearances, as opposed to normal EFMs like me, who need a new one every time we switch jobs.

The FSFRC application process wasn’t easy and my application was held up on several occasions for mysterious reasons, and then I had to cancel my application and start a new one after I started working here.  So be sure to keep in touch with the FSFRC folks, and give them a call if you aren’t getting any answers via email.  Ask your local Management officer for help.

One more thing: it was really scary starting my job here.  I’ve never worked for a big company, let alone a giant bureaucracy like the Department of State.  They take certain things really seriously, security-related stuff mostly.  My coworkers are a great group, and I regret only having a few weeks with them, but I’ve learned a lot about how IT works around here and feel good about taking similar jobs in the future.  I’m keeping an eye on the Brussels job board, there’s nothing there for me but I’ll keep watching.  There’s also the EPAP program opening soon (I’ll blog about that later), which is an additional option.

Hope endures, and besides, being an unemployed EFM isn’t all that bad, compared to a lot of other lifestyles.  I’ve gotten a lot of painting done during this tour, baked a lot of bread, spent quality time with Diplocat.  I’m writing this blog entry as movers are packing our things, so I’ll post about foreign pack outs soon.  We will ship out next week, go to home leave, spend a couple months of training in DC, then we’re off to Brussels!

Halfway

One year ago, we were just arriving in Shenyang, and one year from today we’ll be leaving.  It’s a good time to reflect on my first year living abroad.  Hopefully some things I’ve learned will be helpful for others, or even just for me to remember moving forward.

-Get used to being alone.  As we know, China has no bilateral agreement, so I can’t work on the local economy.  Plus, the EFM hiring freeze put the kibosh on getting a job for the first six months or so I’ve been here.  So, without a job, I tend to stay home most of the time, alone.  Well, except for Diplocat, but she sleeps during the day.  I do most of our family’s grocery shopping and other errands, but there’s not that much for me to do.  As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, there aren’t a lot of other guys around to hang out with, and I’m not very good at making new friends anyway.  So, your mileage may vary, but I’m on my own during the day.

And I haven’t even mentioned that Diplowife has to work late and go on trips sometimes, so there’s that too.  Her job doesn’t involve a lot of late hours, but other officers here put in tons of overtime, so I imagine their families have learned to deal with it.  It’s not a huge problem for me, but it can be for some people, and you should know what you’re getting into.

Brussels has a huge expat community, compared to Shenyang, and there’s even a club just for trailing husbands.  And I’ll be way more likely to find work there.  So I’m looking forward to that, but I know the next post after could very well be another no-job, no-expat kind of place.

-Related to the above point: get used to isolation.  Aside from being alone, physically, you’ll often be cut off from the Internet too.  It’s not too bad these days, but sometimes the Internet just doesn’t cooperate and I have to step away.  Shenyang is a good post to live if you want more time with your hobbies (assuming your hobbies aren’t related to the Internet).

-I don’t have a lot of new insights about what to pack, what to put in your consumables, stuff like that.  But I will say this: use the pouch.  Order the stuff you want and ship it to post.  It’ll make you feel better, it helps you get over your homesickness and makes your new house into a home.  We were cautious at first about ordering stuff, and people gave me a hard time at the consulate about too many boxes coming, but to hell with that.  Order a big box full of potato chips if that’s what you like.  Buy some new winter socks, it’s cold here.  Buy a stack of new movies, because movies are fun and the Internet here is garbage for streaming.  Whatever it takes, treat yourself.

-Invite people over, and go out with them.  The cool people that greet you and your spouse when you get here?  They’re going to leave much sooner than you think, to their next assignments.  And when they leave, you don’t want to think, “I wish we had spent more time together”.  This is a hard one for Diplowife and me; we’re introverts and aren’t used to socializing much.  But I think it’s worth the effort.  This is a lonely lifestyle, even for introverts.

-Don’t like where you live?  Leave.  Well, temporarily, I mean.  We’ve gone on lots of trips from Shenyang and seen some amazing places.  From late last summer up until recently, we went on a trip somewhere about once a month (Seattle, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Munich, Harbin and Seoul).  We’re in a slow patch right now, but we’re heading to Xi’an in May, and hopefully more after that.  Use your R&R money and get out of town!  Take a three-day weekend and ride the train someplace new.  I know not every post has good travel options, but do what you can.  A change of scenery is really helpful, especially when the view out your window looks like Shenyang.

-Kind of related, but don’t wait to see your new city.  We’ve been here a year and have barely seen any of Shenyang’s sights.  Granted, they aren’t all that compelling, but I think it’s worth a couple Saturdays to see it all.  Spring is here, and I started using a rental bike app (Mobike) which has done wonders for my mobility.  Soon, I’ll actually see every point on the map I made of all the interesting places in Shenyang.

I’m sure there are many other nuggets of wisdom out there for getting through the first half of your first tour, but that’s all I can think of.  Hopefully I’ll have more to say a year from today, but I suspect I’ll be too busy moving, then enjoying home leave to do much blogging at the time.  Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Next, to where!

Sorry I kept you in suspense, busy times with the holidays and all.  Diplowife got her next assignment a couple months ago: we’re going to Brussels!  It was our top choice, head and shoulders above the other Management posts (especially Port Moresby, shudder).  It features our favorite kind of climate (wet, cool, grey), everybody speaks English and it’s a short train ride to most of Western Europe.  I could go on and on about this wonderful news, but I’d feel like I’m bragging.  Suffice it to say, this is as close to an ideal post that I can imagine.

But aside from the climate, culture and food, the subtler aspect to Brussels that agrees with me is the fact that Brussels is a rare “three mission” post.  That means there’s the US Embassy to Belgium, the EU mission, and our mission to NATO.  So the expat community will be huge, compared to Shenyang. So I may actually be able to socialize with other diplo-husbands!  Do others exist?  I’m skeptical.

Plus, the work situation will be far better in Brussels.  Belgium has a bilateral agreement for diplomatic spouses (unlike China), so I’ll be able to work on the local economy.  And the three missions all have jobs I can apply for.  IT jobs, even.  So, to prepare for finding work in Brussels, I’ve applied for work here in Shenyang, so I can get a security clearance (see: future blog post).  Hopefully I’ll have a clearance by the time we leave Shenyang, which may make it easier to find work in Brussels.

Now comes the hard part: spending another year plus in Shenyang, while dreaming of Brussels.

 

Ingratiate yourself by baking

I’m not really that cynical, but baking does wonders for my social life.  Since discovering the baking shop (see previous blog entry) I’ve brought baked goods to a couple social events, sent Diplowife to work with cookies a couple times, given baked goods as going-away presents to departing friends (catching the eye of the Consul General in the process, I might add), and greeted new arrivals with homemade bread.

I was pretty stressed out when we got to post, partly because the consulate Easter potluck was right around the corner and I volunteered to bring a carrot cake.  I forgot the fact that A) I didn’t have any cake tins, B) I didn’t have any baking spices or leavening ingredients, C) I had no cream cheese and carrot cake without cream cheese frosting is a sad thing indeed.  I picked up most of those things at the baking shop and made a terrific carrot cake, if I do say so myself, for the Easter party.  Crisis averted!  Plus, the cake impressed the Consul General’s wife, which is basically like being friends with Wonder Woman.

I like making cookies, but having them in the house doesn’t help us stay in shape, so I usually send about half the batch to the Consulate via Diplowife.  That’s a sneaky way for her to make friends at work, because people tend to assume the wife does the baking in the family.  That’s OK with me, she’s almost as introverted as I am, so I’m happy to help.  But then people will eventually find out it was me, and my reputation as a competent baker (haha) will continue to develop.  That reputation pays off in a big way.  Once people found out I’m into baking, free ingredients started showing up at my door, mostly from people leaving post.  I’ve acquired bags of spices, flour, sugar, even a giant bottle of homemade vanilla extract!

Another strategy occurred to me when a friend mentioned she loves cheesecake and can’t find it here.  She was due to transfer back to DC in a few weeks, so I made her a cheesecake, which she brought to the office to share.  One of the people she shared it with was the CG himself, who told his wife about it (further cementing my reputation) and she now wants me to come to their home to teach their chef how to bake.  Since then, I’ve made a couple other treats for friends on their way out of Shenyang.  I haven’t experienced moving away from a foreign post, so I can only assume it’s very stressful, and having a favorite pie or batch of cookies around must be nice.

Conversely, arriving at post is a big pile of stress, especially if your social sponsor isn’t any good at their job.  That’s what happened to some friends of ours who arrived here a month after we did.  Their social sponsor did next to nothing for them (and their two little kids) and Diplowife and I were appalled.  I figured a fresh loaf of bread would be a nice thing to have when you arrive at a new post, so I’ve been baking bread for new people since then.  It’s a good excuse to come by their home and introduce myself, and let them know they’re free to ask me about the area, places to shop, etc.  We had good social sponsors, but clearly not everybody is so lucky, so hopefully I can help out in those situations.

Shenyang is a relatively small post, so I doubt I can make treats for every new officer and every departing officer when we get posted to a big embassy.  But those posts (I’m told) aren’t very closely-knit anyway, and I doubt I’ll have much impact there.  But in Shenyang, everybody is in everybody’s business, and it’s totally doable to welcome people and say goodbye properly.  Maybe it’ll catch on at other posts, but adapted to whatever is lacking there.  China’s baked goods are pretty bad, so my work here is cut out for me.  But what’s hard to find in Africa or South America?  We shall see.

pie

Pack like an EFM

Related to the last post, I wanted to share my strategy when packing to move to China with Diplowife and our cat.  Also, how we arranged to have certain necessary items at post, waiting for us when we arrived.  FSO’s and EFM’s get to take two pieces of checked luggage apiece.  The weight limit for our checked bags was 50 pounds each, but your airline may be different.  Also, our carry-on bags had to be under 25 pounds each.  So add it all up and the plan was for 200 pounds of checked luggage, and another 50+ for carry-on bags and “personal items”.  Not to mention the cat carrier, but that’s another topic.

A few weeks before moving, I ordered a bunch of prescription cat food (our cat has kidney problems) and shipped it to our social sponsor.  Diplowife mailed some bedding and other cat stuff, too. Theoretically, we could have mailed it to our own DPO or pouch address and the mailroom would have held it for us, but that’s not a certainty by any stretch.

Before you ask, our social sponsor was fine with all of this, but check with yours first.  Also, I mailed a few things to our new DPO address, that I knew would arrive after we did, so there was no need to involve our sponsor.  These packages took a lot of pressure off us, since it was all stuff we would have had to carry in our luggage otherwise.

Speaking of luggage, we bought several of these duffle bags from LL Bean.  The large size is good as airline luggage.  Keep an eye on them before you need to buy, they go on sale from time to time.  They don’t stand up straight like stiff-sided bags, but they take up almost no space when you’re not using them.

There were a few special items I had to have in our new apartment, I wasn’t going to wait until our UAB or take the chance on shipping them.  One item was our new Internet router, with built-in VPN.  That’s a necessary thing in China.  Another was my bag of knives, as I’d heard the welcome kit knives were not very good quality.  And I packed my instant-read thermometer, a good surge protector, electrical plug converters, and a multi-tool.  And my laptop bag, which I hope I never have to check.

But being an EFM, I had little need for a full wardrobe since I don’t have a job.  Maybe that’ll change someday, but for now, I’m a stay-at-home cat father.  And when I go out to the grocery store it’s not like I need to impress anyone.  So I packed a week’s worth of underwear and t-shirts, some pajama pants, a few button-up shirts, a pair of chinos, jeans and a couple pairs of sneakers.  And I brought my navy suit, a couple ties, a white dress shirt and a pair of dress shoes.  Just in case some kind of unexpected formal event cropped up (it didn’t, but better safe than sorry).  This way, our luggage had room for Diplowife’s work clothes.

So, try to plan out what you’ll need at post for that first month or so before your UAB arrives.  Try not to take up much room in the luggage, your spouse has more need for clothes than you do, if you’re a non-working EFM like me.  If what you need won’t fit in the luggage, see if your social sponsor will let you mail stuff to them, or send it to yourself if you can be sure you’ll get to post before the package does.  Good luck, and remember you can always buy stuff online and ship it to post when you arrive and need something that can’t be found on the local market.

Reconnecting

Sorry I’ve been gone so long, I let real life take priority for a while. Let’s get caught up!

Last time, I was starting Distance Learning, that is, taking Mandarin lessons over Skype.  Overall, it went well, I got to practice my pronunciation with a native speaker, a speaker from Northern China, so I learned to speak like the people in Shenyang (sort of).  But I think I probably would have been better off if I had just stuck with Mango for the last six months.  The lessons were pretty basic, things I’d already learned with Mango, mostly, and I found it hard to do the Distance Learning and Mango at the same time.  If I had the time, it would have been best to take language classes at FSI, but that wasn’t in the cards.

I left my job back in December, so I’ve been officially unemployed for about three months now.  Most of that time has been pretty busy with preparing for our move, but there has been plenty of down time too.  Let’s just say I’m not hurting for free time these days.  It’s nice to have left my old job, no more pretending to work, or working for a pair of crazy people (long story).  I’m now free to find new work at the Consulate or pursue a new career elsewhere.  More on that later.

The first six weeks or so of the new year were occupied by doing a top-to-bottom inventory of everything we own, getting rid of stuff we don’t want, and buying things we need.  I’m glad I decided to quit my job a few weeks early, because this was a big job.  I used a website/app called Homezada to do the inventory, it’s easy to use and free.  Basically, I divided our stuff into categories, and sub-categories, then took hundreds of pictures.  I really should go back and label everything, and assign values, but the hard part is over.

Towards the end of this inventory period, our family suffered a tragedy.  One of our two sweet, lovable cats suddenly became ill and had to be put down.  I had never gone through anything like it before, and I miss her very much.  On the other hand, if it had to happen, it was a good thing that she became sick before we moved.  I’m not sure she would have survived the trip to China, and veterinary care here isn’t at the same level as back in the States.  Our other cat is still alive and well, and seems fine being the only cat in the house.

For three weeks in February and March I accompanied Diplowife to work, and took some classes with her.  These varied in their usefulness, but it was nice to get out of the house every day.  We took two weeks of “Area Studies” courses: basic knowledge about East Asia’s history, culture and current political/military situation.  One week on the big picture, then a second one focusing on China.  Most of the classes were very interesting, taught by professors from nearby universities.  Some were not-so-interesting, but on the whole, the time was well-spent.  The third week was at “FACT”, kind of survival training, a couple hours outside DC.  Really cool stuff, learning about how to handle and escape dangerous situations.  I can’t talk about it here, but if you get the chance to go, I highly recommend it.  Even if your next post is a “safe” one, this training is worthwhile.

That takes me up to the week before our move.  I’ll sign off for now, the move should have its own blog entry.  To sum up: Mango > Distance Learning, set aside more time for your inventory than you think you need, take Area Studies and FACT classes if you can get into them, and give your pets an extra hug from Diplowife and me.

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Distance Learning Begins

My Distance Learning class started this week.  This is a language course (Mandarin, naturally) that’s all online, no classroom.  FSI’s website has everything you need: course materials, several ways to interact with your fellow students, and a mentor that guides you through the class.  I couldn’t sign up for the class myself, Diplowife had to take care of that, so ask your spouse about signing up if you’re interested.  The class goes for 14 weeks, so I should finish in mid-December.

Right off the bat, I was skeptical about the class.  You’re supposed to schedule time to talk with your mentor once a week for 45 minutes, and my mentor has a calendar on the course’s website.  Problem is, the times she’s available are when I’m at work.  I asked her if she’s available evenings or weekends, and she was kind enough to accommodate me. So don’t be afraid to ask, you never know.  My other issue was I assumed this class was redundant since I’ve already been using Mango for a while now.

As it turns out the course has complemented Mango Languages pretty well so far.  The first week’s study material focus on how to pronounce Chinese properly (it’s not easy) and how written Chinese works.  The class barely touches on written Chinese, but at least they provide a brief introduction to it.  Mango doesn’t really cover this, so right off the bat I’m learning new stuff.  I’ll need to be able to read street signs, price tags and who knows what else in Shenyang, so this is important.

I did my first mentor session a couple days ago, and it was interesting. We met up on Skype in video chat.  She had me pronounce various Chinese sounds and let me know what I was doing wrong.  I had been speaking Mandarin with Mango for a couple months now, but it seems my pronunciation needs work.  Good to know!  Some of the sounds are so similar to each other that I can barely hear any difference at this point, but I’m told it gets easier with practice.

Anyway, I recommend taking the Distance Learning course, if you have the time.  Ideally, before shipping out to your new home, but better late than never.

Speaking of China, happy Mid-Autumn Festival!  Diplowife brought me some moon cakes yesterday.  Not very good, but maybe they’re better in China.

The Doldrums

Not much going on these days, Foreign Service-wise, for yours truly.  I’m still studying Mandarin with Mango Languages, and about to start Distance Learning with a mentor from FSI.  At this rate, I should have some decent beginners-level Mandarin skills, which was my goal all along.  Diplowife is likewise busy with her own Mandarin training, way beyond my level of course.  Still, it’s fun to occasionally surprise her with a bit of vocabulary that she didn’t know.

It’s been four months since Flag Day, and there’s six more to go, at least, until we head to China.  The last couple months we’re here should be more interesting, I’ll have a lot of work to do around the house, getting rid of stuff we don’t need and inventorying the rest.  Plus, I have several short classes lined up in February and March at FSI and elsewhere.  But I’ve run out of things to research online about Shenyang, so it’s been pushed to the back of my mind.

For the time being, we’re trying to socialize with Diplowife’s colleagues as much as we can, but as introverts it’s not easy.  I prefer to ingratiate myself with them by sending Diplowife to work with baked goods that I made.  Summertime isn’t my favorite time to bake, but it’s a good skill to have at post.  Who wouldn’t invite the couple to a party that always brings a homemade pie or cake?  If my EFM corridor reputation is solely “Diplowife’s husband, he always brings a pie to parties”, I can live with that.

So, it’s my least-favorite time of year (summer), not-so-great job, and several months until much of anything changes.  I’m trying to make the most of it, but not always succeeding.  It’s a good time for lots of distractions and hobbies.  I’m kind of glad our election coming up is such a dumpster fire, it’s definitely distracting, if not exactly good for the country.  Anyways, that’s where things stand, hopefully something more meaningful will come up soon to write about.

 

Don’t be a burden, Part 1

Once we get to post in Shenyang, Diplowife will be working at the Consulate, and I’ll be on my own for 40+ hours a week.  In China.  Where people speak Chinese.  This is a problem.  I don’t intend to stay home all day, waiting for Diplowife to get home from work, so I can then go out to run errands, dragging her along to translate for me.  Diplomacy is a full-time job for her, she doesn’t need a second job as an EFM hand-holder.

So, my first step is to learn Chinese.  Mandarin, to be specific.  FSI is way ahead of me here.  Of course, they offer classes in every language imaginable, and EFMs can attend, provided the class has space.  But I’m working full-time and need options that don’t involve going to FSI every day.

With help from Diplowife, I got signed up with an account in Mango Languages which is a terrific system.  You can access the lessons on the web, or via apps that work on my smartphone and tablet.  I’ve learned a lot already, like greetings & introductions, how to talk to shopkeepers, give directions, ordering food at restaurants.  It’s pretty much all verbal, so don’t expect to learn how to read & write.  They show you the Chinese characters, but there’s little emphasis on reading.

Aside from Mango, there are some other options for learning at home, or “distance learning” as FSI calls it.  Ask your spouse about FSI’s Distance Learning options, they probably already have an email about it in their DoS inbox.  The “Express” option caught my eye, it’s available in Mandarin and is two 14-week courses taken at home, about 6-8 hours per week, plus an hour of one-on-one time with a mentor, via Skype or something similar.  So I’m signed up for the first Express Mandarin course, starting next month, so I’ll be sure to post about it once I start.

Also, some posts have language training that EFMs can participate in, so ask the CLO if that’s an option.  Ideally, you shouldn’t wait until you get to post to start learning, but it’s good to have the option, not everybody has free time like I do.  Learning some Mandarin should go a long way to preparing me for a semi-independent life in Shenyang.

I have some other concerns about burdening Diplowife, but they’ll have to wait for another blog post.

To FSS or Not?

Continuing the recent work-related theme around here…

Aside from working in the mission as an EFM, working outside, or not working, there’s another option for finding work in my future.  I could work for the Foreign Service too!  OK, I don’t think I’m FSO material.  I’m not good at learning languages, and I’m not particularly personable or diplomatic.  However, there’s the other side of the Foreign Service coin: the Foreign Service Specialist, or FSS.

FSS’s come in eight different varieties, or career tracks. As you can see on the State Department’s website here, they tend to be technical, skills that you don’t pick up accidentally, things like engineering, medical and information technology.  But, I almost qualify for the Information Technology career track. I don’t have the required degree/certifications, but I could pick up one of the certs without too much difficulty.  The thing is, should I?

FSS’s have the same requirements as FSO’s to work anywhere in the world the DoS sends them.  I wouldn’t have to learn the local languages, and job training doesn’t take long, compared to FSO’s, so presumably I would end up serving more tours since I won’t spend months in between jobs in DC at the Foreign Service Institute.  They make good money, and they live in DoS housing, like FSO’s.  Of course, there’s a big downside: I’m married to an FSO and it’s not always possible that we’ll serve in the same place.

Tandem couples, as married pairs of Foreign Service officers/specialists are known, are generally well-taken care of, from what I’ve seen.  The DoS tries to keep them together as best they can, but there are no guarantees in this business.  So I could very well get assigned a two-year tour in one country, and Diplowife serves on the other side of the planet.  I think I’d rather not work at all than not be in the same country as my wife.  Maybe saying that disqualifies me for this job, since my marriage takes precedence over my career.

There may be a way to make it work, though.  Once Diplowife serves a couple of tours, one of which in her cone, and passes a language test (and maybe does some other stuff I’m forgetting) she will qualify for tenure.  Tenure means (among other things) that she’ll have much more freedom to pick and choose where she serves.  So, the idea is, I should wait until Diplowife gets tenure, sometime around 2021 probably.  After that, I’ll apply to be an FSS, and get sent to wherever I’m needed.  Then, Diplowife uses her new tenure powers to be assigned to same place I’m going.  And we continue that until I get tenure, around 2025.

Then, we’ll both have tenure and we will both have more power to determine where we serve.  Again, no guarantees.  If Diplowife is needed in Zimbabwe tomorrow, that’s where she’s going, tenure or not.  But this strategy (not my idea, by the way, but something the FLO suggested) may be a good way for me to have a career without derailing Diplowife’s.

But even if this all works out, I still don’t even know if I’m cut out to be an FSS.  That’s partially why I wanted that IT job in the Shenyang Consulate, because it would expose me to the world of DoS IT and I could see if I’m a good fit before applying.  And, there’s still the ongoing issue of working in IT with my wife possibly being the supervisor for the mission’s IT department.  So it’s not a perfect plan, but it’s something to consider.  No rush, though.  Maybe I’ll start thinking about it again in 2020.