Since Lara and I returned from China in January, we've been settling back into American routines. This time around, the adjustment was much easier for both of us. I think we've gotten to the point where we feel comfortable in both places now. We immediately started back into weekly Chinese school in Tucson, and generally kept busy.
As usual, the miserable economy combined with our very rural location (on my parents' ranch in rural SE Arizona) has made it very difficult for me to find work. So, I sat down and took a good, hard look at where I've been and where I want to go, careerwise. And came to the surprising conclusion that what I'd really like to do is become a Foreign Service Officer. Having been on the side of so many students trying to breach the barriers to get visas to the U.S., it's a bit strange to imagine sitting on the other side of the desk and no doubt being required to turn down lots of visa applicants. But on the other hand, the idea of having the opportunity to serve my country, perhaps make a real difference helping people, and live in interesting places around the world with government support and an American income just overwhelms the negatives in my mind.
Entry to the Foreign Service is a difficult and drawn out process, and I am just in the initial stages now. I took the written exam in April. The results won't come out until late July. If I pass, then the next step will be to travel to San Francisco or Chicago for the Oral Assessment. If I pass that, then there's the Medical and Security Clearances. In a best case scenario, I might be hired sometime early next spring. If I fail in the written or oral exams, then I'll have to start all over again next spring.
I am really excited about the chance to live in exotic places all over the world, and I think Lara will do very well with that sort of lifestyle, too. She's really a very easy kid to take along and do things with, and adapts easily to new situations. I have been told, informally, that there's a good chance that our first posting might be to China, since my Chinese ability has reached an acceptable level. After that, who knows?
In the meantime, Lara and I are enjoying life in Arizona. A few weeks ago, a dream project fell into my lap. An east coast software company found my resume in a web search, and contracted with me to develop documentation for their webbased financial modeling application. I work my own hours, from my own home office, doing work that I really enjoy!
Lara's just finishing up her 2nd grade homeschooling year this month. She enjoys the flexibility of homeschooling, but misses some of the fun of having lots of other kids to play with. However, she doesn't miss being teased or treated unkindly by the other kids, so all in all, homeschooling is working well for us all. None of us miss the grueling bus rides she had to endure traveling 25 miles each way to the nearest public school.
I've been writing to you all erratically, since 1998, when we were first preparing to move to China, and had no idea what to expect. Our China adventure has been such a wonderful experience for us both, helping me especially to broaden my outlook and attitudes about culture, career, personal priorities, relationships and so many other things. Heck, I even learned how to cook some wonderful Chinese dishes! When I look back to my pre-China life, the difference amazes me. Life just keeps getting better, and definitely more interesting.
I think that one of the things I am most pleased about, though, is that I have been able to influence and encourage others to create their own China adventure. What a pleasure it has been, to read other China diaries, and see China through their eyes!
At this point, I don't know when we'll be able to return to China. I am sure that we will. I'll continue to post occasionally to this list, whenever Yahoo threatens to delete my group, or whenever something noteworthy occurs in our lives. Please, please, for those of you planning your own adventures in life, be sure to invite me to join YOUR list, too!