ConGen (PC 530): Week 3 in Review

As of today, I’m halfway finished with my six week consular course.

It is kind of a crazy thought. All that’s standing between me and the day I depart for Uzbekistan is the remaining three weeks of consular tradecraft, and an additional two weeks comprised of security training, administrative time, my packout and consultations. No days off, and no lolly-gagging. It seems like the closer I come to getting on the plane, the faster the clock begins to spin and the longer the to-do lists grow.

This week in ConGen we focused on immigration law and the adjudication of immigrant visas. Although I was really interested in the sessions, this week wasn’t much better for me than the previous two weeks in terms of illness. I have literally been sick for the duration of the course thus far!

A few days ago I decided that 12 days of a cold was too much and went to the hospital on a sunny evening to be evaluated. It turned out that I had pneumonia, bronchial inflammation and a double-ear infection! Apparently my strategy of toughing out a cold didn’t work for once. I rarely take medicine or go to the doctor when I don’t feel well, but in this case I am glad I did, as these infections require antibiotics to heal.

I spent most of the week feeling exhausted and weak. This isn’t surprising given that I spent my nights in fits of coughing and choking, sleeping very little. I think between Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday combined I got less than eight hours’ sleep. Anyone with an autoimmune illness (or probably anyone who is a human being) will agree that isn’t enough.

However, it seems that in the past 24 hours I’ve turned a corner. Today I felt like a human being and hardly coughed at all. Sleeping nearly 13 interrupted hours last night, plus antibiotics probably helped! As demented as it might sound, I’m really proud of not missing any classes even though I desperately wanted to at times. I really couldn’t afford to spend my last week before departure skipping consultations and family time to attend makeup classes after I’d already graduated the course.

Some other good things happened this week too. Here are a few honorable mentions, in no particular order:

(1) I scheduled my packout! I was procrastinating this task for what feels like months. Packout definitely deserves its own blog post, but for now I’ll just outline the basics. Foreign Service Officers and their families, when being assigned overseas, have some entitlements when it comes to shipping their effects to their new home. There are a lot of variables that go into these determinations, and for my particular post I will have allowances for 1,000 lbs of air freight, 2,500 lbs of consumables, shipment of my vehicle, as well as several thousand additional pounds for sea freight and/or storage. Since I am going to a furnished home, there won’t be any need to bring, for example, my dining room table. That will go into storage here in DC. The devil is in the details when it comes to organizing all of the categories; I won’t be allowed to pack my own belongings. I suppose this is for insurance reasons. The State Department sends a team of movers to your home on packout day and it’s your job to separate, categorize, and oversee the packing and inventory of your items. I need to spend a good deal of time determining what comes with me in my suitcases, what I can wait a few weeks for (air freight), and what I will miss least for 3-6 months (sea freight). Although I don’t have to pay for the shipping or storage of my effects, having my car serviced and buying all the parts it might need for two years and dropping four figures at Costco (not to mention the makeup counter) is a little intense. I may have mentioned this before, but in case not, while in Tashkent I will only be able to receive mail via the diplomatic pouch. This means no liquids >16 oz and NO glass. So yes, I am currently hoarding the next 2-3 years of shampoo, conditioner, perfume, lotion and makeup for shipment.

(2) I submitted all of the paperwork to have my car shipped to Tashkent. It will be picked up a few days before my flight, put in a large container, and will sail across the Atlantic on a cargo ship, arriving 3-6 months after I do.

(3) I had lunch with a member of the current (181st) A-100 class who I’d met a few months back via the infamous Yahoo Group. He wanted to thank me for my support and advice on the medical clearance process, and that made me feel really good. I understand that their Flag Day was today, so I’m wishing the 181st all the best as they prepare for their first tour assignments!

(4) I confirmed my plane tickets and hotel reservations for three nights in New York City where I will transit through for consultations on my way to Tashkent. It will probably be surreal to spend my last nights in the U.S. without my husband in the Big Apple, but it is an amazing city and I am so looking forward to the experience all the same. I’ve only visited there twice in the last 9 years so it will be a treat, and a time for reflection and quiet mental preparation for what comes next.

(5) I scheduled a wheels-up happy hour to celebrate our departure just three days before my flight, and invited about 175 of our friends, colleagues and former colleagues. I can’t wait for that day even as I find it slightly abstract to imagine at present.

I even have all of my immunizations done, except one that I’m delaying until right before I leave since it’s only good for two years. Even with pneumonia, I am still trying to stay on the ball!

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