Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Beginning

When you last saw Team Madnick-Poczak, we were mid-construction, working diligently to fix up our home in Philadelphia. We had also put a bid on a cabin in Harveys Lake, PA. It was August 2006.

Around the first week of August, Terry got his notification that his security clearance was complete and, because his medical clearance has been completed earlier, he was on the list of people to get hired whenever the State Department felt it needed more technical staff. Apparently, State decided the need was NOW because on the very next day Terry got his invitation to orientation!

The frenzy began. Terry gave notice at his job, we prioritized the construction zone activities, and Terry spent his one week off between jobs doing as much work on the house as he could do while still sleeping and showering occasionally. On Labor Day he headed south to be at class the next day. This was the beginning of our 5 months of being a commuter couple.

Oh, and the cabin went through so in mid-August we became owners of 2 homes. Great for tax breaks!

In the beginning Terry came home every weekend because there was too much work to do on the house – because of my work hours and the fact that I had custody of Kirby I accomplished very little during the week. After about 5 or 6 weeks of this, the house was ready to put on the market. Of the 5 realtors they interviewed, only 2 seemed to have any knowledge of the fact that the market had in fact declined since the months-prior high. They went with the one of the two who had better paper credentials, and lived to regret that decision ... Well, only regret so much, because the house did eventually sell.

The bid list for 8 individuals in Terry’s class was unheard-of amazing: London, Paris, Frankfurt, Ulan Baatar (Mongolia), Quito (Ecuador), Sao Paolo (Brazil), Valletta (Malta), Nicosia (Cyprus), and Sanaa (Yemen). Of the 9, only three had hardship allowances of 15% of greater, which let them be qualified as “hardship” posts. Only one had danger pay. We were all lucky because there had been 9 people invited to the class, but only 8 arrived, so in the end one post remained unfilled. Yes, poor Yemen will be one tech short because none of us thought that requiring an armored escort to leave the embassy compound was the best way to begin our Foreign Service careers.

Of 8 people, 5 got chosen to go to their first choice post, one got his second choice, one got his third choice and one got his 6th choice. Can you guess which one we were?!?!? Let’s just say a hot, dry island is not a happy choice for someone who dreams of snow, greenery, and mountains. But there is a positive side to all this: “Malta is for me. (Lynne)” This will be explained later. The short story is that most Foreign Service officers leave the FS because their spouses are unhappy. I will be very happy in Malta.

One of the biggest reasons we did NOT want to get Malta is because it is an island nation with no rabies. So, we found out on a Tuesday and the pets were at the vet on Saturday to get the process moving for them to be able to come with us. In the end, and with a lot of internal debate, we decided to find a good new home for Stormy and bring Kirby along. Simon never had a chance of coming with us, and she is very happy at Terry’s dad’s house. Now that Stormy is settled in his new home with Caroline, the girls, Gigi and Magena, I can confidently say that he is much happier there than he was with us. First, the dog in that family never tries to molest him, and second, people and another cat are around more than we were so he gets more attention. He’s even learning to hunt!

When we found out where we were going we also got a rough estimate of when we would be leaving (February or March 2007). I decided to take a gamble and told my job in October that I would be leaving, and that I would like to stay until around January, unless the house miraculously sold early. Bosses were very gracious and thanked me for giving them so much time to find the right replacement. Then, in November, they told me they will no longer need my services after the end of the year, so I began 2007 unemployed for the first time in my working life. I was busier than when I had a job!

November was a big month because it is also when we got a bid on our house. Unsurprisingly, it was a low bid, but it was actually pretty fair and since it was the only bid we grabbed it. Closing was set for January 31 and I decided we just wouldn’t tell people we had sold it until we had the proceeds check in our hands. For the most part I stuck to that.

December was full of breaking the news to family who hadn’t heard and saying goodbye to people in PA L

In January, I was a whirlwind throughout the house, putting our life into piles named “carry on the plane”, “unaccompanied air baggage”, “ship freight” and “storage”. Then, off to MA to bring Stormy to his new home and see my dad one last time. The drive to MA was nerve-wracking. Stormy cried for the first 4 hours of the trip, then fell silent. At first I thought he just finally wore himself out and was sleeping so I didn’t worry. After an hour it occurred to me that he might be dead and I was pretty freaked out. At that point, I reasoned, if he wasn’t dead the best thing I could do was get him there sooner rather than later and if he was dead I certainly wasn’t helping anything if I stopped to check. So I soldiered on. I was actually grateful when, about 45 minutes before we reached Worcester, he woke and started crying again, for the rest of the trip.

(To be continued....)