The atmosphere on Flag Day is a strange one. After a morning of fidgetting through lectures and presentations, it is suddenly revealed to you where and how you will be spending the next couple years of your life. There's a funny sort of melodramatic tension to the day; even for those who have felt certain of their destination since the orientation class began, suddenly no potential posting seems too remote or far-fetched. And the fact that all this tension takes place in the training school's field house -- complete with orange and blue padded gym walls and exposed basketball goals -- makes everyone's panicky feelings seem that much more ridiculous. If they had given me my lowest low, all I could picture doing in response was attempting a lay-up.
The Flag Day ceremony itself is open to guests and family members, and the orientation staff does its best to make things as exciting as possible. For each post, a small flag is held up, and the class is asked to call out the name of the country it represents. Once the country is determined, the name of the person to be stationed there is called, and she or he comes forward to claim the flag, pose for a brief photo, shake hands with the staff, and receive a folder with orders enclosed. There's a lot of cheering and picture taking, and on the whole everyone is very excited and pleased with their postings. Those people who are not pleased do a good job of hiding their feelings, though occasional surprise or dismay did seep through.
As for myself, I have been posted to a consulate in Japan. Even though I had expected this, and had bid the post as 'high', I must admit to feeling a bit disappointed in some sense. My earlier vacillation aside, I would love to be going to some new and exciting place, with lots of hardship and danger; it feels like a defeat to be returning to a place I already know so intimately. However, I know that I can do the most good with this posting, and I'm sure there will be time for danger and difficulty later in my career. Japan will be an excellent place to get my feet wet. And I'm definitely excited to be revamping my language skills and reconnecting with Japanese friends.
Going to Japan is a good thing.