Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Q & A 3

I find myself answering the same questions about Kabul over and over. I really don't mind, but what this tells me is that I haven't done a good job keeping everyone up to date on the latest developments. I shall now attempt to rectify this situation. Enjoy!

1. What will you be doing in Kabul? What's the job situation?

Really, all the credit for this one goes to Nick.

Way back in April, when all this first started, I was offered a position in the State Department's Joint Visitors' Bureau (JVB). This office is responsible for coordinating dignitaries' visits, handing out welcome packets and hooch keys, etc. The job would have involved lots of administrative and event work, exactly what I was trying to move away from.

Nick worked his butt off for me. He networked with staff from all over the Embassy and the USAID mission. He sent out my resume. He let people know that I was interested in doing more, that I am capable of doing more, and that I have skills that would be useful in a program office. And lo and behold, it worked.

So, I'm quite happy to report that I will be going to Kabul to serve as a Development Outreach and Communications Officer (DCO) in the USAID Office of Economic Growth (OEG). I don't yet know what kind of work I'll be doing, although I'm guessing there will be a lot of writing.

2. When are you travelling, and what's your route?
I'm travelling this coming Friday. Because Nick and I listed DC as our home city, the government requires that our travel to post start in DC. Right now I'm in Albany to spend Thanksgiving with my family. On Friday morning I hop a Southwest flight from Albany to Baltimore. I'll spend Friday afternoon puttering around DC doing some last minute errands before heading to Dulles Airport in the evening. Then it's a long haul flight to Dubai, a Saturday night stay in a hotel, and finally a quick flight to Kabul. If all goes to plan, I'll be in Kabul by Sunday afternoon....that's Sunday morning for all you east coast folk. And with any luck, Nick will be able to finagle his way onto the welcome wagon, and will be waiting for me when I step off the plane in Afghanistan.

3. Where will you be living while in Kabul?
Like most US government employees in Afghanistan, Nick and I will be living on government property. More specifically, we'll be living on the Embassy compound in Kabul. We lucked out and managed to get an apartment, so we'll essentially be living in a space very similar to our home in DC. I'll be able to write more on this once I actually see the apartment.

4. How can I get in touch with you while you're in Kabul?
I'll have internet access both at the office and in the apartment. So there will be blog posts, and you are always free to pass along a message in the comments. Some of you have my email address and/or are my friend on Facebook, and those will continue to work as well.

Just a reminder that Kabul is currently 9.5 hours ahead of the US east coast, so please don't panic if there's a delay in my responding to your message. If you don't feel like figuring out the time in Kabul yourself, I've installed a handy-dandy little clock on the right-hand side of the blog. Put it to good use!

5. What sort of vacation time will you get?
Yeah, this one is a little tricky. Nick and I have actually been hired under different leave policies. Quite convenient, eh? Yeah, they implemented a new policy 15 days after Nick arrived at post.

First, a quick primer on the two different types of leave offered to US foreign service staff in Afghanistan. The first type is home leave, otherwise known as R&R. The second type are regional breaks, called RRBs. For home leave, the government covers the cost of our flights to DC and back. For RRBs, the designated regional rest stop for Afghanistan is Delhi, India Dubai. We aren't limited to just going to Delhi Dubai; we can buy tickets to any destination in the world. However the government will only cover the cost of those tickets up to the cost of two roundtrip tickets from Kabul to Delhi Dubai.

Anyway, as provided by the old leave policy, Nick gets 2 home leaves and 2 regional breaks per year, not to exceed a total of 65 days spent out of Afghanistan. Under the new policy, which still limits my days spent out of the country to 65 per year, I can take 2 home leaves and 3 regional breaks. OR, I can trade in all of my regional breaks for a third home leave. No matter which option I choose, I end up with one more leave than Nick gets. I'm thinking that I'll take the 2 home leaves and 3 regional breaks, and use the 'extra' regional break (which will be sans Nick) for a little girls' trip with my sister. I've heard the Dalmation Coast is really nice. What do you say, Jo?

Well, that about wraps it up for this post, my last while I'm in the US. I'll try to get a quick post up as soon as I arrive in Kabul, although I'll warn you now that my first priority will be to SLEEP, my second will be to my circadian rhythm aligned with Kabul time as quickly as possible, and my third will be to enjoy being back in the company of my husband.

I wish everyone who reads this blog -- family, friends, and strangers alike -- a very happy Thanksgiving. And a special happy Thanksgiving to my poor Nicky, who is spending the day alone in Kabul. Just three more sleeps to go, honey.

Catch you all on the flip side!

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