Great American Western Road Trip: Summer 2018

4 weeks, 3 kids, 1 van, 16 different lodgings, 5400+ miles, 12+ National or State Parks and Monuments adds up to 1 Epic Adventure.

American Southwest Family Vacation 2017

We followed historic Route 66 on our way to see the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, plus much more in New Mexico and Arizona.

End of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Here are our stories from two and a half years of living in Saudi Arabia while exploring the region.

Excursions to Oman

On two different trips, we strolled Muscat, hiked Wadi Shab, and sailed a dhow through the fjords of Musandam.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Road Hazard

This is really just a test of my mobile app, but it's worthy enough to post. My drive home yesterday was though a heavy downpour.

I mean, the road and sky were the same color of gray. But my pet peeve was the guy driving with his hazard lights flashing. Which is fine if you're a hazard...but I think he wanted to remind everyone that it was raining. Like we didn't notice. But my issue is that when the hazards are flashing, the turn signal/lane change signals don't work. So now it looks like he's swerving with his hazards flashing.


Friday, July 13, 2012

An offer to join the U.S. Foreign Service

As the day at the office was winding down (2:14 pm, to be precise), I got an email from my Foreign Service registrar asking me to send her a copy of my medical clearance. Hmmm. That's a curious question to ask. I believe the term I want to use here is "signalling." Why would you ask for that (since it was already taken care of a month ago) unless you were just making sure your paperwork was in order? Of course, I sent it right away.

Well, not even an hour later, I received another email from her:
Congratulations!!! You are now on the Foreign Service Construction Engineer (CE) register. 
It is my pleasure to formally offer you an employment appointment to join the September 10, 2012, Specialist Orientation Class for Foreign Service Construction Engineer (CE). You will then be assigned to the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Additional training may be required if post specified. This is subject to change.

That brief announcement was followed by two more pages of emphasized phrases, detailed reporting information, and numerous validation requests. The mixture of caffeine and euphoria-induced adrenaline made keeping my focus rather difficult. After trying to read the whole email through a couple of times and losing my place about midway through, I decided to go line by line and just answer the questions as they came up.

So, yeah, I've just been invited to join the Foreign Service...guess I need to get some more suits.

Monday, July 09, 2012

And more waiting...

Perhaps the most ironic thing about the amount of change and upheaval 2012 holds for me (and my family) is how much time goes by between the flurries of chaos. Last month was all about getting the house prepped to sell. This month, we're mostly preparing for kid #2 to make her appearance. Oh, and that whole "joining the Foreign Service" thing that's been rumbling in the background in different forms for about a year now. As the saying goes "long period of boredom, punctuated my moments of sheer terror." Ok, terror's probably a little dramatic...but chaos fits.

Anyways, right now there's nothing going on. Not even crickets. Maybe's it's the heat, I don't know. I think that I've got my internet browsing cycle of Facebook-State Dept-Yahoo Groups-CNN-etc down to about 5 minutes before I'm back at the beginning, wondering 1) why nothing's happened in the last 5 minutes, and 2) why I'm not trying to tackle any of the tasks I've got on my growing to-do list.

There are all kind of nebulous shadows looming on the horizon and creeping closer day by day, but they're still very much intangible and ineluctable despite the palpable tension. Kind of like the part of an epic movie just before the huge battle scene, that scene where you're watching and you know that it's gotta get good really soon. Like when the archer's lighting his arrow and nocking it, but has yet to draw back. But now the director's decided that more drama is necessary, so the archer enters slow-motion and you can feel this primal yell welling up within you as though shouting "Just do it already!!!!" will in some way compel the archer to let forth with the signal that launches the salvo that ignites the world into conflict.


Monday, July 02, 2012

The Foreign Service clearance process

I've completed the "clearance phase" of the Foreign Service process. And it really is a  process...for the whole family to enjoy. Fortunately, my toddler daughter didn't have a problem with being poked & prodded by the medical staff as they collected what they needed to from her. I suppose the treats afterward made up for that.
They aren't hurdles if you plow through them
The best thing about having to document the last 10 years of overseas travel for the security history is that it forced me to go through my travel photos. I figure that as long as I'm at it, I might as well update this blog with those day trips. And as luck would have it, the medical clearance was almost as easy as "click & print" because the military has kept me in worldwide availability status for the last decade.

I should also point out that we sold our house and moved out last week, and when I called the register this morning to confirm that they had my new mailing address, they told me that the letter was mailed on the 25th. So, let's hope the USPS actually forwards it...but I requested an e-mail of the letter just to be safe.

Anyways, here's where we're at:

Foreign Service Specialist (Construction Engineer) Timeline:
Application Phase:
16 Dec 11 Foreign Service Construction Engineer application window closed
12 Mar 12 Notified of Qualification Evaluation Panel (QEP) results
21 Mar 12 Notified of Oral Assessment date (OA)
06 Apr 12 Foreign Service Specialist Oral Assessment (Passed with score 5.6/7)
(112 days after application window closed)

Candidate Clearance Phase:
06 Apr 12 Submit Security Clearance paperwork (e-QIP)
23 Apr 12 Submit Medical Clearance paperwork (DS-1843)
30 Apr 12 Received Medical Clearance (DS-823)
03 May 12 Submit Family's Medical Clearance paperwork
04 May 12 Received daughter's Medical Clearance
09 May 12 Received wife's Medical Clearance
31 May 12 Security Interview
18 Jun 12 Received Security Clearance
25 Jun 12 Placed on the FSCE register (#2 of 4)
(192 days from application, 80 days after passing OA)

Registry Phase:
25 Jun 12 Veterans prefererence (5-points) added to register score (still #2/4).
TBD         Selection to attend training (no earlier than 16 Jul 12)
10 Sep 12 Earliest class start date that I can attend (assuming it gets funded)

So, assuming that I get picked up for the 10 Sep 12 class (and that the class actually exists), the entire process will have taken 269 days from the application close date, 157 days after passing the OA, and 77 days after getting place on the register until the first day of training. But like they say, your results may vary.

Addendum: This brief from the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (Apr 2012) gives an overview of the kind of work I'd be doing and the places I could be going. (Kudos to Mark for finding the link). 

And if you're interested, here is the complete application timeline linked to my related blog posts.

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