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Bidding as a tandem couple III: Mexico or India?

My bid list is almost due! Two weeks ago I received a list from my career development officer (CDO) with next year's available positions, and now I have one more week to choose my top 20. It's exciting and a little scary, but I'm starting to get a pretty good idea where I'm gonna get posted next.

Being realistic

When I submitted the first draft of my bid list last week, I included too many low-equity (cushy) posts. My CDO pushed back, saying I needed to focus on the region I wanted to go to and make myself available for hardship assignments in that region, or risk being sent to a region I don't want to go to.

The advice was sensible and unsurprising to me. It's not hard to imagine everyone in my cohort is bidding on the jobs in the Carribean and West Europe. And it's only fair that people currently serving in hardship places get those jobs--not me, who’s in Germany.

Tandem options & visa mills

My new draft bid list largely consists of large missions in "hardship countries.” That way my spouse, who is also a Foreign Service Officer, has a decent chance of getting a job there too.

Large missions often means: visa mills. We have large missions in Europe with small consular sections, like here in Berlin, but usually large embassies and consulates have a massive consular staff processing hundreds of thousands of visas. The region with the lionshare of "visa mills" is Latin America. Hence I added 15 Latin American posts to my list. And one North American.

Language training

On the other hand, my Number One pick is a mission in India. I'm sure India is fascinating despite its challenges (pollution, traffic) and I love the idea of going to my next post without moving to DC for language training first.

If I get a Spanish speaking position I’ll probably get a full language course. Even though I already speak Spanish, my previous score expired and the training is built into the position timing regardless. Language trianing is a fantastic part of being a diplomat, but moving temporarily to DC comes with a number of challenges I'd rather avoid this time around. Also, doing a FOURTH language course at FSI right now feels like a bit... much. Let someone else have a turn, I say.

Why I'm optimistic

For me bidding remains a really interesting process. I like the possibilities it opens up and how it tricks my mind into thinking that going to a place I've never thought about before is going to be amazing. Like: living in Bolivia would mean proximity to the Amazon rain forest... living in Mexico would mean working in a huge team of consular officers... living on a small island like Trinidad & Tobago would mean going to the beach all the time... In a way, I always feel like I can't go wrong because every place or job has its charm.

And if it's true I'm going to either India or Mexico, as I'm predicting right now, there are two things for sure: the food is going to be great and the weather is going to be warm. There’s not much more I need to be happy!


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