Monday, November 19, 2007

Change of Plans?

I've got some big irons in the fire right now. I've applied for several positions with the State Department for one-year tours in Iraq or Afghanistan. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you probably think I've lost my marbles ... hell, even if this is your first time here, you probably think I've lost my marbles. But I don't think so.

This wild hair got its start about three weeks ago, when the news was filled with stories about State Department employees nearly rioting over possibly being ordered to posts in Iraq. I didn't have any sympathy with them whatsoever. They're in the frickin' foreign service, for cryin' out loud ... do they think they're going to get stationed in London or Paris all the time? Just like in the military, sometimes you gotta go where they need you, regardless of whether you want to or not. If I was still in the service, I'd be over there, even though invading Iraq is the stupidest blunder this country has ever made.

And when I had that last thought, a light bulb went off over my head. (It's a dim bulb, maybe one for a night light, but a light bulb nonetheless.) I did some quick searches online and found where the State Department has their Iraq job vacancies posted. I found several that I think I qualify for, so they've got my applications now. And there are other organizations that may have possibilities: the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Institute of Peace, and the Army Corps of Engineers, to name a few.

I'm not at all interested in the contractors. Yes, they probably pay more, but I don't trust a contractor in Iraq any further than I can throw an IED.

So why am I doing this? Three reasons, really. One is that they need people, I have a skill set that can be put to use, and it's in a position that makes a difference. These jobs are all oriented toward rebuilding Iraq, and I have thought for a long time that this is where our attention needs to be focused. Another reason is that my series of paintings based on Bosnia has pretty much reached a dead end. I've been basing these paintings on experiences and memories from eleven years ago. Going to Iraq would provide a huge reservoir of experiences, especially if I go there with the idea of finding inspirations for future artworks. A third reason is financial: these jobs pay pretty well, and I could pay off my bills and build up my savings again.

It appears now that things are beginning to calm down in Iraq. The Sunni and Shi'a leaders are finally sitting down together and starting to bring the violence under control. I don't believe the American military surge is the reason, although Bush will certainly say so. No, the Iraqis are finally starting to take control of their own country on a very local level. That, to me, is a sign that they've turned a corner and are ready to start rebuilding. And rebuilding Iraq, regardless of your politics, is a "must do". So I'm ready to go.

Life around the home front was pretty interesting when I first talked about this with Janis. At first, she thought it was dumb. Then she liked it. Then she didn't like it again (this after I already had a couple of applications in.) And finally, she's come around to liking it again.

Personnel offices, especially government ones, are the very definition of "black holes". You send something in and it disappears, with no indication of anything. Then you might get a reject notice (already got one of those) or a phone call late one afternoon asking if you can be there first thing in the morning ("umm, I'm 500 miles from there ..."). You'll read about my further misadventures right here.

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