Family Magazine

Change of Plans

By Sherwoods

We've been anticipating our departure from Tashkent for quite a few months now.  I've gone on two shopping weekends to get all of the treasures that I just couldn't leave here in Uzbekistan.  The children have started to anticipate all of the fun things we can do in the United States.  I've given away or sold all of my flower pots.  We've enjoyed our last fall, winter, and spring in Tashkent, and enjoyed our last delicious strawberry season.  I even sold our cars back in April.  We've made sure that this move will go smoothly by getting ready early.

And then life laughed.

While Brandon and I were getting ready for the day two and a half weeks ago, we were chatting about the usual random assortment of observations, plans, and gossip that makes up a lot of chit-chat between two people that have been married for sixteen years.  While tying his tie, Brandon mentioned that one of his colleagues in the political section was unexpectedly leaving a year early.  While I finished brushing my hair, a thought occurred to me.

"Hey, what if we stayed an extra year and you filled the spot until her replacement arrives next summer?  Then we could stay here instead of spending ten months stuffed into an Oakwood apartment while you learned Kazakh, you could help out in your section, and the kids could keep doing all their lessons for the next year?"

He thought for a minute.  "You know, that is a really good idea.  I think that could really work and everyone could win.  I'll go talk to my boss as soon as I get in to work this morning."

His boss thought it was a fantastic idea, as she was looking at an entire section of officers new to Tashkent this fall, and wasn't sure that they would be able to get anyone to come and fill a year-long gap that the officer's departure was creating.  And to make matters worse, the officer who is leaving is coordinating election monitoring for the first presidential election since Mirziyoyev came to power six years ago.  She was thrilled that such a neat solution could appear that helped everyone out, and quickly got everyone here in Tashkent just as happy about the idea.

There followed some back-and-forth with Nur-Sultan, but they were also fine with the arrangement.  Brandon had been signed up to study a year of Kazakh, but it was only really to fill the year before we arrived in Kazakhstan.  His job is conducted almost entirely in Russian, which he has been speaking for twenty years, so learning Kazakh wasn't really necessary.

And within a couple of weeks, our plans for the next year had changed entirely.  

When we told the children that there was a possibility of staying, all of them were excited to be able to stay.  I had thought that they would be sad about missing out on America, friends, and family, but it turns out that I evidently care more about those things than they do.  In fact, of everyone in the family, I was the one who was most disappointed about missing DC.  Some of them were excited about being able to ride for another year, and others were happy to stay in the same place instead of doing something new, and others were happy to stay in our house with a pool.  I think the only people that are sad about staying are our neighbors who will have to listen to our noise for an extra year.

All of the people that we pay - the piano teacher, Russian teacher, the stable, pool guy, and our housekeeper - were also happy that we would be staying for another year and providing them with another year of guaranteed income.  Teaching five children's lessons makes for some pretty substantial money, so it's nice to know that our beloved teachers will be able to be comfortable for at least one more year.

It's taken a little while to get my mind wrapped around a complete change of plans.  I had been dreading language training ever since our plans for out-year bidding didn't work in the fall of 2019.  I've never liked the year of waiting that language training feels like to me.  I'm always impatient to make it to the next adventure and the next new thing, and having a year pause is practically torturous.  

But it's still strange to change my mindset from "we're leaving in six weeks" to "we're leaving in a year and six weeks."  All of the things that I didn't care about because we were leaving became things that I had to worry about again.  I suddenly remembered the things that I didn't like about here.  My mad rush to buy everything suddenly felt a little premature.  And my complete lack of caring about anyone new coming to post had to change.  Because if we were going to be here for another year and our best family was leaving this summer, we'd have to make some friends for the next year.  

But it's also great that I get another year to enjoy all of the things I enjoy about Uzbekistan.  When strawberry season ended this week, I wasn't quite so sad because we'll have another strawberry season next year.  Every swim in the pool doesn't feel quite so desperate because we have a whole other year to enjoy it.  Kathleen isn't counting down the rides left on her favorite horse.  And I don't have to worry how the children will deal with a year-long gap in their Russian and piano lessons.  

It almost feels like we get a do-over of the past year.  Between being pregnant with Elizabeth, medevacing for three months in the fall of 2019, and COVID, we actually haven't had that much of a chance to explore Uzbekistan.  But with this extra year, we can do some things that we've never had a chance to do.  We've already told friends and family that they have a bonus year to come see us, and have visitors planning a trip in October.  

We also found out that, as a result of arcane rules about home leave, we will be taking our home leave this year and moving straight to Nur-Sultan next year.  It will be like moving to another city in the US.  We can have our things packed up in a few days and then simply hop on a plane with a week's worth of clothes and be in Nur-Sultan in two hours.  The children about lost their minds when they realized that we can get to our next home by one o'clock in the afternoon without any red-eye flights, massive jet-lag, or eight weeks of living out of suitcases.  

So I think it's safe to say that everyone is happy with our change of plans.  Very rarely in the State Department do situations happen when the solution for a problem works out so well for everyone involved, and it's great that this is one of those times.  I'll take every happy instance when it comes.

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