We’ve been keeping something from you. With total disregard to your loyalty as a blog reader, we have not been telling the whole truth for the past two months. Yes, we post updates and photos and have even resumed the food blog, but there has been an entire side-story missing. Today, you’re going to get the whole truth.
The white smoke has risen again.
Three times per year, the head honchos in Markus’s workplace cloister themselves away to decide the fates of the expats at their mercy. The question at stake is quite literally “Where in the world are we going next?” There is an element of self-determination involved. When an expat’s “window” comes up, he/she will search the internal jobsite and apply to those postings deemed most interesting and appropriate. Once the round is over, the head honchos come in, take a look at who applied where, and make the final decisions on where the expats will go. This means one can apply to three or four (or more) different jobs, interview, and wait…but not get the final say. Even if two or more places really want a particular person, that person may never know it. The head honchos make that choice and pass down the answers. The whole process takes well over a month, and it is only the start of an even bigger process of moving internationally, with visa applications and all kinds of wild rigamarole and bureaucratic red tape to enjoy.
Why would I blog about this now? After all, we are only just over a year into our four-year posting in The Hague. We’ve finally gotten over that yucky, first-year hump (the first year anywhere, even great places, is always tough). We have made good friends, found a great school for Ellie, discovered lots of fun places for kids, enjoyed many museum trips…generally hit our stride, found our groove, what-have-you. It’s true that we have a four-year contract but a two-year window, meaning we left ourselves open to the possibility of moving two years into the contract time (end of 2008). The Hague was a move we made to be closer to family during a difficult time, so Markus didn’t choose it for the job or his career. Just between ourselves, we had been talking of whether to stay or go. Markus is no fan of the climate here (as in “hates” with a capital M for “misery”), but there’s no denying the myriad benefits of living in The Hague despite the downsides. Besides, we’ve moved too often since that awful storm, and neither of us relished starting over somewhere new after finally settling in here. Heck, I can finally speak enough Dutch to complete my regular shopping (provided no one throws any unexpected dialogue my way)! I’ve really started enjoying life here (it’s that first year hump, I tell ya), so it was nice to have the choice of whether to stay or go, while knowing that we wouldn’t even have to make that choice until the end of the year. Right? Wrong.
As the birth of baby Stephanie approached, Markus’s boss noticed our 2008 window and casually mentioned that if he wanted to start looking for a new posting, he should feel free to look at the next round (opening in February) to see if anything was of interest. Within days, Markus’s name was on a list of expats set to move after the February round. So much for the casual look-around. Suddenly, our “openness to change” turned into a “don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.” Bye-bye choice! Hello stress! At a time when all I wanted to do was nest and prepare for baby two, we faced the “Where in the world should we go next?” question. It wasn’t easy. It was downright unpleasant at times, not least because we both realized as soon as it wasn’t optional that neither of us wanted to move anytime soon. The head honchos were pushing us toward Sakhalin. We wanted something sweeter. Alas. We made some decisions, applied for four jobs (none of which was Sakhalin, which managed to stay in the running anyway), and waited for the agonizing process to run its course…except neither of us is very good at passively waiting. What would happen if we got none of the jobs we chose? Would they make us go to Sakhalin? Could we live with that? Such debates led to more investigations on our part, along with lengthy discussions on our short- and long-term goals. What do we really want? What will the company tell us we want? This week, we got the official word.
The white smoke has risen.
The word is Perth.
And the word is good.
Perth, Australia, is to be our home for the next four years. If we have to move against our will, this is really an excellent option. From all accounts, Perth is beautiful and a great place for families. It’s warm and outdoorsy (this should keep the big kid in the family just as happy as the little ones), and the lifestyle is laidback and open. The obvious downside is distance. Perth is very isolated on the west coast of Australia. It’s a 5+ hour flight just to get to somewhere else in the same country, so seeing friends and family in the US and Germany will suddenly be a bit more challenging. On the flip side, it’s a great jumping-off point for exploring a part of the world we wouldn’t otherwise see, and our home will always be open to visitors.
The requested start date is July 1st, so it looks like we’ll be trading summer for winter this year (a first for Jennifer). Although we haven’t started the planning process yet (there’s still quite a bit of paperwork to be done), we expect the movers will come the last week or so of June. We’ve already booked at trip to the US in May. Good thing baby Stephanie has her passport ready!
So now you know it: the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We are moving. Again. But we’re looking forward to it and are hoping for the best!