I am a planner. And I like to think that I’m a very good one. As you can imagine, one of the things that requires a great deal of planning is the arrival and departure process between posts. You end up with a to-do list that’s a mile long and looks something like this:

  • Register for training class at FSI.
  • Request temp housing in DC.
  • Begin vaccinations and registration process for cat quarantine.
  • Book vacation rental for home leave.
  • Update medical clearances.
  • Give notice to nursery school (1 month in advance).
  • Submit request for travel orders.
  • Request all plane tickets through travel office.
  • Book cat transport with airline.
  • Internal embassy checkout procedures (return house keys, etc).
  • Cancel cable and internet.
  • Close local bank account.
  • Change car insurance policy.
  • Update all postal addresses.

And that’s just a partial list. In order to do all of these things, you need one key element. Dates!!

WHEN would you like to attend training?
WHEN are you going to be leaving post?
WHEN do you need temporary housing?
WHEN is your cat arriving at quarantine?
WHEN will you be needing the vacation rental?
WHEN is your child’s last day of school?
WHEN is your child’s first day of school at your next post?
WHEN can we pick up your car?
WHEN will you be vacating your residence?

Everything hinges on dates.

And I have them all meticulously sorted out so that each step flows smoothly into the next one…four days of training…the mandatory 20 business days (not including holidays) of home leave…which gets us to post about three days before school starts.

There’s just one little catch: TED…Transfer Eligibility Date.

Even though you’re a full-time employee for the Department of State, each overseas assignment is like a contract. You are given official orders that determine when you can arrive and when you can leave your overseas post.

We arrived in London in September. Our contract is for two years. You are allowed to leave post within 30 days on either side of your TED without much trouble. If you want to leave earlier than that, it requires a longer chain of approvals…starting with your supervisor.

If your supervisor doesn’t approve then it can all come crashing down around your ears…along with any illusion you may have had about being in control of your own life…and reminds you where you really stand in the scheme of things as an OMS.

Hypothetically speaking, of course.