My packet of explanatory papers finally arrived, exactly 2 weeks and a day after I faxed my updated resume to the FS. I actually saw the FedEx truck pull up outside, and opened the door just as the deliveryman was raising his hand to knock. It doesn't look like many of the forms have been updated since the last training class -- many of them say 'return by November 30, 2004'. But I've been so eager to receive them, any minor flaws aren't going to bother me.
In addition to information on salary, moving procedures, etc., the packet also included a quarter-inch high stack of forms for me to sign. That might not sound like a lot, but it was enough to take me a day or two to fully go through. Life insurance, healthcare providers, retirement plans, tax forms, beneficiaries... There's a lot to decide. Even though I've been wanting these things, I feel too young to be seriously thinking about them. It's like I'm playing Foreign Service dress-up. Using a crayon to sign my name would have somehow been more honest.
The three most important papers are the FS employment contract, the policy agreement (part of which says I must be professionally supportive of U.S. policy, even if I don't personally agree with it -- this was the hardest thing for me to sign), and the medical history update. These had to be signed and faxed right away. Yet, upon opening the packet, these were not the papers on top of the pile. The form on top was a bright orange pamphlet titled "Achieving a Drug-Free Workplace" (sadly no little plastic cup was enclosed -- you know something's official when you're giving urine).
Salary-wise, I'm pleased that my MA has put me in a higher bracket. I honestly (perhaps stupidly) didn't know that having an MA would do that. The difference in salary between having it and not means that the cost of tuition will effectively be recouped within 3 years.
Now I've just got to figure out where in D.C. to live and what to pack.