Flag Day - A Closer Look

On Flag Day itself, it was all I could do to take a photo of our flag and write a very short post for those of you who didn't already know where we were headed (I realized John had scooped me via Facebook when I started to get "congratulations!" texts from friends). But I know that I didn't really give you all a very good impression of what Flag Day is actually like. So here goes:

First of all, if you find yourself heading to Flag Day in the future, make sure your FSO gives you really good directions. By the time I dropped Jack off with a friend, picked Sarah up at the metro, got lost, and finally found the bloody building, we had about ten minutes until our 3:30 start time. At that point we still had to go through an X-ray machine and check in with our IDs, then walk to the building where Flag Day is held, so by the time Sarah and I arrived, it was standing-room only. Fortunately, we managed to grab an empty chair sitting randomly in the corner and a friend offered to scoot over so we could snag another chair, and Sarah and I sat down just as the ceremony began. I was amazed by how many people were there. The FSOs all sat at the front of the room, and then all of the friends and family members were gathered in the back. It was an impressively large crowd.

That's the screen where they show each flag, for about ten seconds.
We talked for a few minutes to our friends, who were hiding their nerves a lot better than I was. They also seemed far better prepared, with pictures of all the flags and a neatly printed out copy of the bid list with countries included (I'd scribbled in the countries by hand earlier that morning, and then proceeded to zip the damn list into my purse, so it was all moth-eaten and torn when I took it out; actually, it was a pretty good metaphor for my mental state at that particular moment).

After some brief comments, they started calling off the posts one by one. It went amazingly fast. Sarah pronounced it the most stressful experience of her life, so you can imagine how I was feeling. John was called probably somewhere around number twenty (after our friends sitting next to us received their news; they got one of my top two choices, and the other had already been called, so I had to contain my disappointment and just keep praying that we got somewhere decent). After John's post was called, I stopped crossing off countries and just tried to absorb the news. It didn't take long for them to finish calling off the posts, and everyone SEEMED really happy when they walked up and received their painfully uninformative folder (from what I've heard since then, not everyone was as happy as they let on; everyone did a wonderful job of masking it, though). Aside from giving us a rough time-line of John's language training schedule, the packet was pretty useless. We can only infer we'll be moving some time in late August. Of course, I didn't have the folder, so I had to wait until I finally tracked John down - he was busy chatting with friends, a huge grin plastered to his face - and pried it from his hands.

Russia! Yay!
We talked to a few people, one of whom thought it would be super helpful to rattle off all the negative aspects of the post, and that's when I started to lose it. Everyone went to happy hour afterward, but I probably would have been better off sitting in the car by myself. Fortunately, once we picked up Jack from our friends' house and had a little wine, I started to feel better.

It's hard to know how they determine who goes where. Families got some of the crappiest posts even though there were singles who bid them high. I suspect that even if we hadn't bid Yekat high, John would have gotten it because it's in his cone and he had enough Russian to get to a 2/2 by August (not enough time if you were starting from scratch). There were quite a few people who got one of their top choices, and a lot of people like my friends (and me) who got something they bid high but didn't necessarily consider their number one. I'm not sure how much having a bidding strategy matters. They obviously have their own way of doing things, and the rest of us can only guess at how the process works. I still maintain it would be a lot better for everyone if they just emailed you your assigned post and called it a day, but John (and I suspect a lot of FSOs, who clearly enjoy learning their fate in the most stressful manner possible) likes the tradition of it. It was certainly a day I'll never forget!


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