Jeff and I met in high school and started dating spring term of our senior year in college, after not being in contact for most of our college years. Six years later, we were married.
It was fairly early in our dating relationship that Jeff nonchalantly asked me a question. At least, he tried to be nonchalant about it. He failed miserably. From his tone, from his too-casual air, from the intense look in his eyes that didn't match anything else about the situation, I could tell that this question was important, maybe even one of those "deal-breaker" questions, a test of fundamental compatibility. A wrong answer would end our relationship in its infancy. Luckily, the answer that I believed he wanted to hear also happened to be the answer I instinctively and honestly wanted to give.
The question: "What would you think about maybe living overseas at some point?"
My response: "I've never really thought about it, but ... I have always wanted to see the world, and visiting places for just a week or two at a time never made much sense to me. You don't have time to experience what it's really like there, what life is like for people who live there, unless you stay for at least a year. So I think I'd like to do that."
In the ensuing conversation, it became apparent that Jeff already had his mind set on a career path that would lead him to a position as a Foreign Service Specialist with the U. S. Department of State. He's a technical guy, an engineer by training, so he wasn't interested in the Foreign Service Officer positions that people normally think of, the ones that involve passing the foreign service exam and moving on to a career that involves diplomacy, economic or political cooperation, or any of the other nation-to-nation tasks in which foreign service officers engage. He wanted one of the positions that would require him to do technical work inside the embassy, allowing him to combine his love of all things technical with the opportunity to live overseas, without explicitly diplomatic duties. That sounded wonderful to me, too, as the thought of "representational duties" (hosting and attending social events as official representatives of the United States government) frankly gives me nightmares.
Deal-breaker question asked and answered, our relationship progressed as such things do. Jeff continued in his career path in the Washington DC area, and I attended graduate school out West. We dated long-distance. After three years, I earned my master's degree in social psychology and decided not to continue to the doctorate as I had planned. We discussed getting married but thought it would be wiser to live in the same area for a while first. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to move to the DC area without a job in place already, so I moved back home to the South with my family while I attempted a long-distance job search. After many months of working retail while trying to find a job in the DC area, I received a conditional offer of employment from the federal government. The offer was conditional because the job required the ability to obtain a security clearance, and I couldn't start work until my background investigation was completed. Unfortunately, there was a backlog of investigations, and mine took over a year. After two years of me working retail, looking for any available work in the DC area, and waiting for an investigation that I didn't think would ever be completed, we grew tired of waiting, and Jeff proposed.
On Valentine's Day before our April wedding, I received the call I'd been awaiting for over a year: The background investigation was complete, I was TS-eligible (the job required the ability to get the clearance, not that the clearance be activated), and I could start work at any time. We arranged for me to start work two weeks after the wedding, to give me time to plan the wedding, enjoy my honeymoon, and then have one week to unpack before beginning work.
After the wedding, we lived and worked in the Washington, DC, area for two years. Jeff steadily worked toward his goal, and then we received the good news: he'd been selected for an overseas post. We were moving to Egypt! Over the next few months, we shared the news with family and friends, learned as much about living in Egypt as we could, and planned for our first packout. I quit my job three months before the move so I could focus on the things we needed to do in preparation. (I was happy to quit--the job was interesting but stressful, and I wanted a break.)
Then the day came, we hopped a flight, and we moved to Egypt. The first time I ever stepped foot outside of North America was when I stepped off the plane in Germany on my way to Egypt. We spent three wonderful years in Egypt, years punctuated by an expanding family--first the adoption of two cats, then the birth of our daughter, Alexa--and then by turmoil, as the Egyptian people revolted against Hosni Mubarak, and the embassy evacuated non-essential personnel. Alexa and I were allowed back just two months before the scheduled end of our posting, allowing me some time to say my good-byes and reconcile myself to a more permanent departure.
Early in our time in Egypt, I began blogging. This activity provided me with a way to keep family and friends updated on our activities, to create a record of our adventures, and simply to process all my new experiences through writing. My first blog, Reflections From Maadi, came to an end when we left Egypt, although the content will be (or perhaps has been, by the time you read this) transferred to this new blog. It didn't feel right continuing to write Reflections From Maadi once we left Maadi, the suburb of Cairo where we lived. I decided to go with a more generic title, one that can stay with me wherever in the world we roam, and thus Reflections from a Global Nomad was created.
As I write this entry, we are preparing to move to our second overseas post: Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Reflections from a Global Nomad will pick up our family's story there. I look forward to sharing our story with you.
Update: Because my story continues in the individual blog posts, I will not be updating this page regularly. However, I will maintain a list of "our" countries, with links to the archives of posts written in or about each country. That list also will serve as an easy reference guide if you want to know when we were in each country.