Saturday, August 3, 2013

Six Months In

This week marks the six-month point here in the borderland. Has it gone quickly, or slowly? Both. Six months, or 25% of the way through our time in Juarez, sounds like it has gone very quickly. However, obviously that means that we have 75% of our tour left. But then when I think that if I had stayed on as an OMS in Bogota, we would only now be leaving post - that makes it feel like we still have an eternity to go here. Because in the year that has passed since we left, I've changed careers, spent another six months at FSI, moved to Post Two and met a passel of new friends. So in that respect the time has moved slowly as it's been packed with new experiences. 

But now that we're settled into the wake up, work, what's for dinner?, feed the cats, what are we doing this weekend?, back to sleep routine, I'm certain that the days will start to rubber-stamp their way through the calendar pages. 

On that note, I'd like to talk about the life I've settled into as a first-tour Consular Officer. Before doing so - a bit (more) of a preamble: there is so much I wish I could share about the experience that I just can't. There are people who comb all sources of information regarding the whole visa/immigration process who would jump on any crumb of information and might try to use it against me, my colleagues, the Department etc... so I can only share generalities. I wish I could be more detailed, as I've learned tremendous amounts in this past year... but I just can't. 

Am I happy for the switch from being an OMS to a Consular Officer? 
Yes, 100%. 
Now in saying that, I feel like a traitor to my great OMS friends I've met along the way. But really it has nothing to do with being an OMS being a bad job at all, but for me, Consular is just a better fit. I am eternally grateful for everything I learned and the trial-by-fire I went through in a very busy Economic Section in one of the world's largest posts, and draw on that experience nearly every day here. However, the interview window is where I've wanted to be all along and raising my blind each morning and greeting the first applicant of the day just hasn't lost its luster. 

Really? Luster? 
Yes. 
I feel like I've found the right spot for myself and perhaps that means that I'm a true Consular Officer, as I'm not sick of it. Even on the busy days where I spend only a few minutes in each interview, I still enjoy seeing the applicants' faces and looking straight into their eyes while I hear a slice of their lives. The children are darling: from the little ones whose tiny fingers are near impossible to fingerprint, to the teenagers who giggle and say they just want to go to the US to go clothes shopping with their families, or visit aunts, to the huge grins of those who have been promised trips to Disney by their parents. I've had two little girls blow me kisses and one young boy instantly start jumping up and down and hugging his mother around her legs upon hearing the good news. 

Naturally it's not all smiles and thank yous, as clearly we have to uphold immigration law. Making determinations on ineligibilities and delivering the news in a matter-of-fact way is part of the job, too. So far there have been no tantrums, only a few cold stares and more tears of joy than of disappointment. That could be due to the nature of our applicant pool, however, as I've had colleagues in other countries report swearing, window pounding and overt threats after negative decisions were delivered. 

But with routine and familiarization comes a quickening of the passing of time. Already we're saying goodbye to colleagues and have watched them drive towards the border for the last time. In a way I'm envious seeing them pull out and head towards their new destinations, but at the same time I'm thrilled with all the possibilities that are still on the horizon for us here. Not just the weekend exploring we hope to do, but also the depth of professional training and experience that I'll receive. Sooner or later I will move into the complexities of the immigrant visa section, for which our Consulate is arguably the busiest in the world, and possibilities of rotations into American Citizen Services, Fraud Prevention, or the Communications Unit keep me from feeling like the road is simply long and featureless. I want to soak in as much as possible here, where we have awesome training and guidance, and take it all on to Post Three. Plus, my husband is getting ingrained in his new job and has started to talk about everything he's learning being applicable to future interesting work.

Speaking of which... the next oasis in hazy view is the arrival of our bid list, which we hope to get our mits on by the end of the year. Until then, I will soak in as much as possible of this interesting and constantly challenging work and day dream, sometimes out loud to my husband, about "where it might be nice to go next." 

Thank you nice person who took this photo and put it on Google Images. It's not that green down here.

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