Page 27 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2012

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A P R I L 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
attend a very early morning class,
while Peter attended an all-day
course. That way, he could watch
Caitlin in the morning until I re-
lieved him. But at least we could
both get the training we needed
for our time in Caracas.
Our plan was marvelous —
until the first day of class. An un-
expected location change was so impractical that it made
it impossible for me to attend and make it back in time to
take over for Peter. With no other choice, I dropped the
class and took a self-study course at home.
Undaunted, I still planned to work at the embassy. I
just needed to find a position that did not require fluency
in Spanish until I could develop my skills.
While I am glad I felt so confident at the time, reality
soon set in. There were few jobs for Eligible Family
Members (in State Department-speak) at Embassy Cara-
cas, and those that existed were hotly sought after. Still,
I felt sure I would easily land my first-choice job of
newsletter editor. After all, I had plenty of editorial ex-
perience, was a good writer and had the computer skills.
Why wouldn’t they hire me?
It turned out that several other EFMs at post felt the
same way — and also had time, talents and experience.
As a result, I did not get the job on the first go-round.
Rather than dwell on what could have been, I used the
time to explore my new environment, enroll in Spanish
classes at the embassy, expand my circle of friends and
volunteer in the community.
Lo and behold, six months later the job opened up
again, and I was the only applicant. Since I was well-
qualified, I was welcomed with open arms. I jumped into
a part-time job that I loved until I felt the need for a big-
ger challenge.
Just prior to taking the job, I had also applied for the
Community Liaison Coordinator position. This involved
a wide range of duties, from assisting families newly
transferred to post to creating events the entire embassy
community could enjoy.
Remember my description of the interview process
above? Exact same scenario: I was pitted against (pun
intended) another EFM at post, and while I was quali-
fied, she had worked as a CLO at her previous post. So
she got the job. However, within six months she left the
position, and by then I could easily fill her shoes.
I worked as the CLO coordi-
nator quite happily until I re-
signed in February 2002 to fly
back to the States to give birth to
our second daughter, Kelsey. Al-
though I returned to post, I did
not resume the position since we
were moving back to the United
States in late August of that year.
Working Hard to Find Work
Upon our return to Northern Virginia, Peter was as-
signed to the Secretary of State’s protective detail. While
it was an enormously exciting opportunity for him, the
travel was constant. And with two small children at
home, even part-time work would have required real sac-
rifice. I consoled myself with the hope that our next post
would offer me the employment I might crave by then.
Peter ended up working a full three years on the de-
tail, and the bidding process came when his assignment
was drawing to a close. We thought we had a post in the
bag (I was already planning vacations around its school
schedules), but then everything changed. One day, we
were planning to live in the tropics; the next, we were
heading to L.L. Bean for winter gear.
Embassy Reykjavik was much smaller than Embassy
Caracas, with only 13 officers. We were assured it was
family-friendly and had a U.S. Navy base not far away.
But it was not until we got there in 2005 that we realized
just why we’d gotten so little information on spousal em-
ployment options: jobs for EFMs were nearly non-exis-
tent. We were at a tiny embassy on a small island where
not even a CLO was needed, as everyone was immersed
in the local culture. There was no embassy “bubble” be-
cause the place was simply too small. Everything from
doctor visits to grocery shopping was done on the local
economy, especially once the Navy base closed in Octo-
ber 2006.
Once both girls were in school, I wanted to work, but
could not find anything other than occasional contract
jobs. The tragedy of my mother’s unexpected death just
then jolted me out of the job hunt, and I did not recon-
sider working until the following year, in the fall of 2006.
The only question was: where to apply?
I eventually decided to volunteer at the International
School, where I was already in constant contact with the
principal (the school had only 11 students at the time), of-
Our family’s plan to
juggle work, school and
child care was marvelous —
until the first day of class.