Monday, November 8, 2010

It's Good to Feel Wanted

Life at a crossroads. We've all been there. You know those times in life when you have a big choice to make, and you hope that the choice you go with is the right one? Do you go to Stanford or to Princeton? (Ha, we should all be so lucky as to have a choice like that!)

In the Foreign Service we get these big choices every few years. A posting can be anywhere from two to four years long (actually three years is the max, but in certain positions one can extend for a fourth year). This means that we are continuously having to push for a new position, and often we end up having to choose between offerings. The choices are sometimes not hard to make, as one will be clearly nicer than another. Other times you get more than one offer that you like, so you have to pick one.

The State Department rates posts by level of hardship based upon lots of different criteria. I have had five hardship-level postings in a row, ranging from the harder posts like Baku, Moscow, and Beijing, to the mild hardships like Zagreb and Reykjavik. My family wanted a break from this; we wanted a non-hardship posting this time around.

So, I bid on nothing but nice posts this time. This can backfire on you, because these types of posts tend to have a large number of bidders for each position, so there is nothing to say you will actually be offered any of these nice positions. If you end up with no offers, you can end up with the truly unsavory posts because that may be all that is left. There is a huge difference between competing for a job in, say, Bamako, with a mere three bidders versus trying to get a nice job in London or Prague with more than thirty bidders.

I ended up being very lucky this cycle. I got to choose from among several really nice positions, because I was selected as the top choice for each of them. There is a drawback, however (even if it is a nice one to have, so I am not complaining!), and that is that we can only choose one. How sad to have to turn down Paris, Vancouver, and Brussels. My family would have loved all of those places. My wife and I honeymooned in Paris, so we knew we would love it there, and I have always wanted to check out Vancouver and Brussels.
Budapest at Night
We simply could not turn down Budapest, though. My wife and I both love Budapest. I have been there twice before, including this past July. It is a lovely city with tons to do. One of my favorite hobbies is chess, and Budapest is perhaps the best city in the world in which to pursue this hobby. One can participate in high-level professional chess tournaments each and every month of the year there!

There is also a good school for our children, which is another of the most important criteria for us. Also, it is very easy to travel to many amazing places close to Budapest, such as Vienna, Prague, Bratislava, Zagreb, and so many others. It isn't hard to take the train or drive into Italy, Austria, Germany and so forth.
Budapest at Night
Lastly, I am so starved for my favorite American foods. In many of my postings I have had to survive on local foods and a smattering of what I can order through the mail, which isn't enough. In Budapest we have the ability to order food from our bases in Germany. Yay, I will finally be able to have a broader range of dinners!

I have been dreaming of being posted to Budapest for years, but an appropriate position has never been available in my previous bidding cycles. When I saw it open this time, I held out little hope of getting such a highly sought after job. I feel so fortune right now, and my family is excited. We should finish up here in Baku by next June and arrive in Hungary in either July or August.

23 comments:

  1. Budapest is on my list of places to visit. Lovely pictures here, and how wonderful to have such great choices to live. Admittedly there's work but seriously, a great opportunity for travel and immersing your family in another great culture. Enjoy!

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  2. That sounds like a pretty awesome deal, and Budapest looks like a beautiful place to be. Congrats on landing such a nice posting :D

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  3. Thank you, Talei! I always recommend to everyone that they find a way to visit Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. They are all so amazing and close to each other.

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  4. Congratulations, Ted, that's fantastic! I would have had trouble choosing between those four cities, too.

    I haven't been to Budapest, yet, but we're going for Christmas this year. We have heard so many wonderful things about it, I can't wait. :D

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  5. Alison, Christmas should be fun there. I love the walking streets. There is also an awesome park with an amazing-looking 'castle' that is a museum. For that time of year about the only thing better would be to see Reykjavik at New Year's -- that is the best fireworks display anywhere!

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  6. Wow; what do you do exactly in the Foreign Service? I'm sure you've told your followers before, but I'm relatively new . .

    Gosh, congratulation on getting a choice assignment. I know how hard that is. I was in the servide myself (AF) a couple years, and married a military man. We were stationed at Sembach AB, Germany. Lovely country; if you speak the language. And yes, a center for travel within Europe.

    Hope you have fun in Budepest. Looks lovely, though I never got to visit during my 3 year stay in Germany.

    Good Luck Ted.

    ............dhole

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  7. Congratulations, Ted! You and your family must be simply delighted.

    Budapest is the one place I regret not visiting whilst living in the UK for ten years. Hoping in the years to come, that situation will be rectified.

    Way to go :)

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  8. Donna, I haven't blogged specifically about my work, because there are so many limits on what we are allowed to say, and I hate to worry about whether I am crossing the line. So, I just stick with 'diplomat'. I can tell you that I have been in long enough that I am the head of my section!

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  9. Congratulations on acquiring Budapest! When do you move?

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  10. Alex, we'll leave here some time in June and arrive there in either late July or early August. We are required to spend at least 20 working days in the US between moves.

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  11. Well, that's fantastic! Budapest is awesome. And so close to Prague and Vienna. I'm jealous.

    But doesn't that kind of suck you have to come back to the states first and then go back to Europe? Although I guess, you will have time to see your family right?

    I'm glad you got your pick.

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  12. Thanks, Anne. It's a congressional mandate that all diplomats must spend a certain amount of time back in the US. They don't want us completely losing touch with our homeland. It is expensive to pay for a place to stay and a rental car for nearly two months, but at least the plane tickets are free and I can indulge in all the food I am normally missing!

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  13. Wow Ted, so happy for you! That is so lucky and really awesome how things worked out for you. I've heard you say more than once how much you love Budapest, so that is amazing that you get to live there next.

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  14. congrats on all the great offerings. I am sure you will love Budapest.

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  15. Congratulations! Not sure what I would have chosen, but glad you're landing somewhere you WANT to be!

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  16. I'm so glad you got your heart's desire. It must be hard deciding not just for yourself, but for your family as well. I hope Budapest treats you well.

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  17. That's amazing, Ted! I'm so happy for you! It looks absolutely gorgeous! You have a nice suite for foreign visitors, yes? teehee--Seriously though, what a great experience for your family! Congratulations!

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  18. Spectacular news! Congratulations!

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  19. Thanks, everyone! Hart, housing in Europe is generally pretty cramped, but if we are lucky we may have a guest room. I sure hope so.

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  21. Fantastic! Budapest has plenty of McDonald's, by the way (but you must pay for using the restroom --- my wife was so upset by this she threatened to write an angry e-mail of complaint to the company!). We particularly enjoyed the food --- lots of wild game and prepared with care --- and riding bikes along the river. Like you say, so many interesting places to visit nearby (and very easily by rail or bus). So much chess to play. So much soccer to play for your sons. So many museums to see for your wife (the paintings rise to the ceilings, as there aren't enough walls to handle all of them). You'll have a blast in every respect.

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  22. Sounds like you will be nicely positioned to visit many wonderful places. This should be great inspiration for your writing.

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  23. I am so happy for you and your family. Great news! :) Cyndi

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