Friday, May 28, 2010

Fool's Knowledge

With regards to the foreign service, as soon as I think I know something, I realize I'm way off base.

After making it onto the registrar (good job, honey!), initially we thought we'd be called off almost immediately because we heard rumors that due to the increased number of foreign service positions the Obama Administration was creating, there was virtually no waiting list.

Obviously this was not the case. So just as Natalie was deciding whether or not she wanted to try to improve her positioning by taking the oral exam again, we did get the call.

Then I started to share with friends and family all sorts of bad information about where we could wind up (I thought only embassies were in play. There are like 30 potential locations in Mexico, and only one has an embassy.) and how long until we got there.

Even as recently as this week, now that we've been on the inside for about nine months, I'm still learning that once I'm ready to claim I know something, we are wrong. The most recent example was that we were told by somebody who probably ought to know better that everyone being posted in Mexico who wants to take a car with them has to drive there.

That made a little bit of sense, because it seems it is cheaper for the government to pay for gas and hotel rooms than to pay to ship the car. But it stopped making sense about the time you realized that Merida, Mexico, is all the way at the bottom of the country and would be a very long drive. Yet if you get posted right across the border in Guatamala or Belize, then the government will pay to ship your car.

Of course, by now, I've come to accept that very little of what the government does makes sense, so I just accepted that this was another one of those examples that the government's procedures were flawed.

Turns out that there are only about a handful of border cities that the government won't ship a car to, and that Hermosillo isn't one of them. We're still going to drive there, but we were both surprised by this revalation.

It has made me re-assess what I know. What I know is this. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Hermosillo is in Mexico. Mexico borders the United States. We are suppose to live there.

There's also things I ought to know. But having been proven wrong about things I know on almost a daily basis since this process has begun, I don't like to share this information anymore. The biggie here is about when we are leaving. I think I know when we are supposed to move, but because it is dependent on Natalie passing her Spanish exam, and because this date changes more often than D.C. weather, I'm content to say I don't know.

And finally, there are the things I believe to be true, but these beliefs are based more on speculation than anything else.

The lesson is to take information at face value. Even if the information is coming from a reliable source, it could still be inaccurate. About the only thing you can bank on is that isn't a fact until it has already happened.


  1. I've found it is really easy to pick up misinformation. I've been told at various times:

    You might leave for post the week after flag day.

    You rank each post individually on your bid list.

    FSOs are never allowed to take public transportation.

    All of these are examples of people likely learning a bit of information and then extrapolating incorrectly. For example, people being posted in DC do start their jobs very quickly, but people being posted abroad do not. And there are some forms of public transportation that FSOs are not allowed to use, but not all.

    The same thing probably happened with cars and Mexico. One person hears that at one border post you have to drive you car and suddenly they tell everyone that rule applies to every post in the country.

  2. This is why I just finally checked with the FAM to see when my son could start Kindergarten. I kept getting different information.

  3. I KNOW, RIGHT?!?!!?! Sorry, I got a little excited because I can relate. Every time I email the FS about the specialist position I applied for in January, they change their answer about when we will get the results for the QEP but when someone else emails the FS they get a completely different answer.

    The sick part is, I still want the job.

  4. You can only get posted at Consulates or Consulates General, or the Embassy, but not Consular Agencies (staffed by permanent locals), so there are only 10 options in Mexico. That's still a lot!