Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The Adventure Begins

I'm officially a State Department employee again.  Today we were sworn in, got our CAC cards (special "smart" ID cards), had the nurses give us some inoculations (rabies and typhoid for me), filled out stacks of forms, and got to know our fellow classmates and support staff.  Tomorrow, we start the training program in earnest.

Getting here has been a long road.  I actually applied for this particular job back at the end of May.  A month later (late June), they contacted me, a kind of "are you sure?"check, and then about 10 days later, I was notified of my selection.  Then began the Paperwork Shuffle.  Lots of forms went back and forth over email to re-establish my security clearance, get my medical checkups completed, make sure I wasn't a war profiteer, sign up for a savings plan, and much much more.  But finally it was done and all that was left was to pack my bags and go.

While all that was going on, Janis and I were getting as much done as possible around the house to get ready.  I made sure the cars were tuned and tweaked and shouldn't need maintenance for a while.  We double-checked our own paperwork.  Janis has some special projects for the house, and we had to get things all lined up for them to get accomplished.  And we took some time out to see some of our friends and family.

As for the pending separation, we treated it in the time-honored American way: we pretended it didn't exist.  We talked as little as possible about it, and when we did, it was usually in a neutral, roundabout way.  But still, when you've been with somebody for 20 years, you can say a lot without actually saying a lot.  And we said a lot to each other.  So we're ready.

Tuesday was D-Day.  I had pretty much completed my packing the day before, so after walking the dogs one last time and having a great breakfast of machaca, we hit the road to the airport.  We were fine until we actually got there, and then ... well, it was tough, both on us and the dogs, who knew something bad was going on.  We got through it, though.  We've done it before and it actually does seem to get easier with practice.

The flight to DC was not the greatest: packed planes, delays, and crappy weather from Tropical Storm Lee.  We landed at Reagan National Airport.  I haven't been through there in 20 years, and let's just say that things have changed a bit.  They've got 10 pounds of facilities in a 5-pound section of real estate.  Picked up my rental car and promptly got lost, nearly heading straight into downtown Washington before realizing my mistake and dive-bombing across 2 lanes of traffic to head towards northern Virginia instead.  Nothing like trying to find your way through DC metro traffic at rush hour in the rain with only a vague idea of where you are and where you need to go!  I lived in the DC area twice before, but this place has changed (see previous comment about Reagan Airport).  I kept having this odd experience of knowing I'd been in this particular place before but not recognizing it at all .... kind of an anti-deja-vu feeling.  But I finally made it to my hotel, my temporary home for the next couple of weeks.  Had a gut-bomb at the McDonald's next door for dinner, unpacked my bags, and settled in.

Bright and early this morning, it was time to head into town.  I got there a bit early, which was good, and met up with the rest of my classmates.  We were run back and forth between several different locations.  Most annoying, whenever we had a long outdoor run, old Tropical Storm Lee dumped BUCKETS of rain on us, and as soon as we got to where we were going, it would stop.  We all spent most of the day in various stages of being damp, wet, or completely soaked.  No fun.  Nothing like dashing through a downpour and plunking your foot ankle-deep into an invisible pothole while wearing a DC-civilian uniform of dress pants, dress shoes, dress shirt, dress tie, and (soaking) blue blazer.

We survived, though.  Tomorrow, I'm wearing boots.  The hell with protocol. 

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