Sunday, June 21, 2009

Your burning questions answered

This is the first installment in what I hope will become a regular feature, in which I save time by answering the most commonly asked questions en masse. Not that I don't care about you all and love sharing with you....but I just loathe inefficiency.

1. When are you leaving for Afghanistan?

Good question. We don’t know! My interim security clearance was denied, so now we think I have to wait for a full background check. The government has a target completion date of August 28. And yes, this throws a giant wrench in our plans. Nick and I had an apartment management company lined up to take care of our condo and a potential renter waiting in the wings. We only have until mid-August to have the movers come back and pack up the rest of our belongings for storage; any later and we have to pay for the moving and storage ourselves. And once my security clearance comes through, I still have 2 weeks of training and a medical clearance to schedule and complete. I need to make travel plans to visit my sister, my parents, and I’d like to do at least a mini summer vacation at some point. But not knowing what’s going to happen next is making it impossible to plan anything.

2. Why was your clearance denied?

I don’t know, and the government won’t tell me why. My first notice was an automated email saying “Interim clearance – DENIED.” When I emailed asking why, I was informed that they couldn’t tell me pending completion of the investigation. Scary. I usually make joke about the reason why it was denied, but it’s not the kind of joke I should put on the interwebs while the government is doing a background check.

3. So what happens now?

We wait. Patiently. Although it turns out I’m not so good at the whole patience thing when it comes to dealing with bureaucracy.

4. Do you know anything else about what you’ll be doing once you get out there?

Not really. I’m supposed to be working in the Joint Visitor’s Bureau (JVB), which handles all the travel and meeting logistics for visiting diplomats, dignitaries, etc. The only other thing I know about the job is that the salary, even with danger pay is…well, let’s just say it’s less than I would like to be making.

5. How often do you get to talk to Nick?

We usually video chat twice a day; once just as he’s getting up in the morning (around 10pm DC time), and once when he’s going to bed (about 2pm DC time). Luckily the World Bank allows staff to have Skype and Google chat on their computers. Nick and I also IM, mostly in the early morning DC time while he’s still at work in Kabul. And once in a while he’ll call.

All in all we get a pretty good amount of chat time in, but it’s not entirely satisfying. I mean, talking is nice and all, but that’s not how Nick and I sustain our relationship under normal circumstances. It’s not very often that we sit face-to-face on the couch and just talk; this is pretty much all one can do on Skype, so although it’s nice to see and talk to one another, it doesn’t feel very natural. We’re used to doing stuff together: going out to eat, riding our bikes, just sitting outside reading books, doing chores around the house. So sometimes we Skype each other and then just leave the computers on in the background as we go about our day. So I’ll be doing one of my workout videos, or cooking dinner while Nick is getting ready for work. We can see and hear the other person moving around, which feels normal and comfortable and right.

We’ve also discovered that we can create a reasonable facsimile of our weekly date nights, courtesy of iTunes and Google chat. Although, for Nick it’s not so much as date night as it is a date “I-have-to-get-up-at-what-time-in-the-morning?” We both download the same episode of How I Met Your Mother (awesome show!), connect to one another using Google chat (just a voice chat), sit down with our respective meals (dinner for me, breakfast for him) and then press play on our computers at the same time. It syncs up pretty well, and we can hear each other laughing/chortling/groaning at the same time. It’s very comforting to share an activity, and a nice little reminder that the separation is only temporary and all the things we like to do together – and that we like about each other – will still be there when it’s over.

6. Do you miss him?

Not at all. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

6. No, really. Are you lonely?

I have good days, and I have bad days. Weekend days when the weather is nice are especially hard. And we’ll just leave it at that.

7. When will you get to see him?

Well, our original plan – when we thought I’d be leaving shortly after he left – was for him to come home in late July to help me pack up the apartment and then we’d head to Kabul together. Now that’s all kind of up in the air. However, he is still going to try and come back for a visit in late summer so that we can go meet our new niece together – provided her mom and dad will be up for visitors!

8. Has Nick’s stuff arrived?

It’s arriving as I’m typing this….

9. Did Nick have a nice birthday?

Yes, but I’ll leave that for him to write about in his next post. And now I get bonus points for figuring out how to close this blog post and segue into the next one...


  1. I like the Q&A format! You should do an advice column for your next entry!

  2. Of course the niece's mom and dad will be up for visitors! we can't wait to introduce her to everyone. Frank and I like that you are watching HIMYM for your date nights. We have been netflixing that show for the past month and are mid way through season 2. It provides us with so much comic relief! Hang in there with the patience thing, I know it is a tough balance between waiting and trying to enjoy daily life.