Last week I got an email from Brandon. "Looks like we're going to get the time off this summer. Make sure to say your thanks in your prayers tonight." I did a little happy dance and then told the children who shouted for joy. "Daddy's coming! Daddy's coming to the beach!!"
Later that night when Brandon came home I asked him what had happened. He told me that he had an opportunity to explain to his management why we really needed to have that one specific week in July - if it was any other year we would be happy to take a few weeks in the fall instead. In the afternoon, he got an email telling him that leadership had found someone else to fill in for the vacancy that Brandon's section chief would have had to do. This left the chief in the section, which would let Brandon leave. He was welcome to take as much time as he needed, they told him, as long as the section chief was okay with it.
And that is why it's great to live in a small embassy community.
Our first post was in Cairo which had, at the time, about seven hundred direct-hire Americans. Add in the family members and that makes for a very large community. Housing was scattered throughout the city and the embassy itself was made up of several multi-story towers. I never knew anyone outside of Brandon's section that wasn't Mormon, and I never remember going to any Christmas parties, Easter parties, or Halloween parties. The community was just too big.
When we moved to Baku, a family moved in shortly after we did. While discussing previous posts, Brandon discovered that that we had been in Cairo together almost the whole two years and never once had we seen them the entire tour. I've had lots of people ask if we knew someone that was in Cairo at the same time as us and I have almost never heard of the person they are asking about.
Here we have less than seventy direct-hire Americans and I know just about everyone in the entire community. When just about any child in the embassy community has a birthday party, we're invited. If somebody new moves in, we all know about it months before they move in. Doughnut nights are an open invitation to any lady that wants to come. We celebrate holidays together. We go on trips together. We camp together. We party together. The embassy community is our family.
In Cairo I saw the ambassador once, at the newcomer's orientation where we had finger food in her garden and then all herded into an auditorium to watch a presentation about life in Cairo. I don't know how many times I've seen the ambassador here, talked with her, been to her house and had her come to my house. Just last week while I was hanging out at the pool, she came down from the front office (which looks over the pool) just to hold William, who she hadn't met before.
And so I shouldn't have been surprised at all when Brandon was given his leave. Leadership was willing to listen to his plight and do some shuffling and then suddenly I wasn't flying alone and Brandon was spending a wonderful week with his family on the North Carolina coast.
Management here didn't have to care if I flew alone or Brandon missed siblings he hadn't seen for years. It wasn't their problem, especially for the ones leaving this summer. Leave is always conditional and dependent on staffing availability. That is the reality of this job.
But here in Dushanbe they do care if I fly alone. They want Brandon to be able to see his family. Our happiness matters to them. Because the embassy community is our family.
So you can have Paris and it's wonderful sights and magnificent food. I'll pass on London and all the amazing history. I can even give up Thailand and its fresh mangoes and amazing beaches. Those places may have great things, but here in Dushanbe we have great people.