Friday, June 29, 2012

The List and the Crystal Ball: the best thing about moving

The List has come out.  For those of us in the Foreign Service, you know what I'm talking about.  There is no other List.  For those of you not in the Service, the list is a compilation of job openings around the world that Foreign Service employees bid on for their next post.  The List contains our future.  The List is like a crystal ball.

The List transports me back to my childhood, sitting in my Florida bougainvillea cave diving into the pages of National Geographic, dreaming of jungle treks and peering down from the Eiffel tower.  Do you remember the ring-necked women of Thailand?  The chimpanzee hugging Jane Goodall?  The gold-encrusted King Tut's tomb?  I traveled all over the world from my blanket beneath those rose-colored vines.

I'm one of those rare creatures, a native Floridian, a 4th generation Bradentonian, Floridian to be exact.  I grew up in the old South.  As a 9-year-old wearing white gloves to cotillion, I bowed to pretend dignitaries and learned how to waltz.  As a young bride, I attended tea parties in my honor and had a trousseau.  Really.  Although I loved climbing orange trees and floating in the Gulf of Mexico, something pulled me beyond the Sunshine State.  As I devoured every National Geographic magazine that landed at our house, I knew I wanted to be "there."

The List takes me "there."  A decade ago, before the omni-present internet, my husband and I thumbed through our pocket atlas, the corners chewed by our dog, Oxford (yes, as in Oxford University, where my husband and I met (collective, "ah," now)).  I remember thinking, "Where in the heck are Ljubliana, N'Djamena, and Tbilisi?  And how exactly did you say them?"  I remember drifting through the pages of my atlas, running my finger over the map, and then sailing back to those pages of National Geographic and imagining myself there.  I've now been to Ljubliana and know how to wrap my tongue around that consonant-imbibed word.  N'Djamena and Tbilisi just might be in our future- only The List knows . . .

To this day, The List helps me feel my American worldly  ignorance as it shows posts by their capital cities, rather than the countries.  Not that I would know where  Eritrea, Guyana, or Malawi are either.  It sometimes makes me feel doubly stupid.  It also sends me to the computer, googling these enticing enigmas, dousing me in color, in wonder, in awe.  It carries me to the desert, the glaciers, and metropolises.  Eventually, it lands me in my new home.  Then I'm living it.  I'm living in the pages of National Geographic.

I love the journey through The List.  Now if only it could transport me passed the packing, the saying goodbye, and the airplane flights, and plop me into my new adventure, as easily as turning the page of my magazine.

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