Saturday, January 13, 2007

Oh, the Excitement!

Finally, the most anticipated event of the year! Yes, that's right: Arcade Fire has released a new single. It's been such a long time since their last album; I'm sure you're all as thrilled as I am to be getting a preview of their new one... Isn't it nice? Personally speaking, I'm a real sucker for the pipe organ. It adds such a lush undertone.

Oh, and also, the winter bidlist has just come out.

Truthfully, I wasn't really ready for it. 393 positions is a rather overwhelming thing to face, and even given those high numbers, it is rare to see the job you want coincide with the place you want and the time you want to go. It was a relief when I figured out that -- factoring in homeleave, length of training, and position start date -- fully three quarters of the list could be immediately discounted due to timing problems. I'm nigh unto light-headed from all the marker fumes I've inhaled while striking merrily through untenable postings. Now I just have to apply my 'career goals' (being posted to an embassy, going on a hardship tour, avoiding learning another boutique language, and maybe, possibly, doing something other than visas) to see what suits me out of the remaining open slots. Theoretically, this could be accomplished through application of some sort of nifty equation, from which a list of my top twenty choices would then fall out naturally. Theoretically. I'm working on it.

The main complication is of course the one I can't really plan for, and that's the level 2 medical clearance. A hardship tour at an embassy, particularly if I want to not be doing consular work the entire time, usually means being in a place where there's no access to healthcare. For example, there are some jobs at the embassy in Sana'a that are consular rotations (half of the time visa, half of the time political), would allow me to receive a full course of Arabic, and would let me serve in a hardship post. This sounds like a reasonable bid coming out of the zero danger, zero hardship, 60% COLA, stop-at-Starbucks-on-your-way -to-CostCo, is-there-a-term-that-means-'beyond-first-world' country that is Japan. But there are no medical facilities there, period. I can already tell that Med is going to absolutely deny it to me. They're uber-cautious. I'm supposed to cobble together a top 20 list for them to vet ASAP, even before the official submission deadline. My only hope is that when they give me another two year consular posting in a highly developed, visa waiver program participant, specialty language country, the women there are incredibly ugly. (Note to my CDO: Please, please, please do not send me to Sweden!)

There's this one other complication though -- it turns out that since the MS drugs have to be refrigerated, they can't be shipped to post through APO or pouch. So any drugs I want to take, I'm either going to have to buy from a local pharmacy in my country of posting, or hand carry from the US. Furthermore, if I'm reading the FS Benefit Plan's pharmaceutical coverage explanation correctly (hard to say, as it sounds like something the Office of Right-Sizing would draft), if the meds are the sort that can't be shipped, then I'm on my own paying for them after the first 60 days -- even if do I buy them in the States.

I suppose I could just not take the drugs, a solution which is looking more and more attractive the more I consider it. Though you try explaining to your family that you decided to forgo potentially beneficial healthcare because you thought it might be kind of neat to live in Yemen.


Anonymous said...

A few questions from an FS wannabe: Does the bidlist include length of training information? Do people actually *get* homeleave in real life? (I've heard varying accounts of this.) What is a boutique language -- one only spoken in one country? What language would you like to learn?

As far as the meds go, if the Penn State Creamery can ship ice cream anywhere in the country (packed in dry ice) I don't see why a pharm company can't ship refrigerated shots. Maybe you should check into Canadian drug companies. (Note to diplomatic security: I'm just kidding!)


Consul-At-Arms said...

Good luck with your bidding; second tour, right?

I've linked to and quoted from you here:

P.S. My brother has MS too.

Chap said...

Got here from Consul-At-Arms.

Having been on the end of getting people with medical conditions to places where there is treatment, I offer sympathy and understanding from both their and your points of view. Ganbatte and here's Arcade Fire with Bowie...

Katie said...

The bidlist tells you when the job starts; it's YOUR task to figure out whether or not the training needed to do that job meets your timing. And yes, homeleave is mandatory.

A boutique language is indeed one used only in one country (sometimes only in one post...). Right now I'm aiming at learning Arabic, as jobs requiring Spanish, French, etc. don't fit my timing. And plus, I think it'd be interesting to live in the Middle East.

Tom Duval said...

My heart has broken as I've watched you enter your journey with MS. I'm waiting on my clearances after passing the OA in November; my wife was diagnosed with MS three years ago.

Re medication and shipment - they need to be temperature controlled, so they have to be shipped using a courier service (like Fedex or UPS). All they need is a street address. You'll need to work with the insurance company to figure it out, and since they're affiliated with the FS, I'm sure they're sensitive to the needs of FSOs and getting temperature-controlled medication around the world. I'm sure there's a way to do this. One thing you should *not* do - based on conversations with my wife's neurologist - is not take the medication.

As for your clearance - we asked my wife's neurologist about this. His attitude is that even if something happens, it's not going to require you to be medevaced. He told my wife that one of his patients is an archeaology professor who spends the summers in the hottest places on earth doing digs. If you want to go to Sana'a, get your neurologist to go toe-to-toe with the medical branch. Don't take no for an answer. I'm planning to do the same thing.

If you want a good neuro on the west coast, there's a doctor named Zamvil who last I heard was in SF - he's on the cutting edge of MS work, he was working with statins I think. My wife's neuro is a heavy hitter too, but he's in Boston.

You are not your disease. You are still you. You've been a real inspiration to me as I've read your blog, and I thank you for your courage in talking about both your MS and your JO experience. My wife and I are more than happy to talk about our experience with MS offline if you want.

Hang in there. Don't take no for an answer. Very, very best wishes.


Anonymous said...

pcI'm currently in A100 and came across your blog. I'm speechless and amazed. Not just by your journey and the way you've carried yourself through it from the beginning, but by your incredible way of writing and expressing yourself. I am in awe and in your debt for allowing us to share in your thoughts and feelings. I just spent two hours reading through the archives

David B 132 A100

amh said...

I just found your blog today, and have enjoyed reading it very much.

I am scheduled to take the OA next month. My husband was diagnosed with MS 10 years ago. Other than partial numbness in hands and arms, and intermittent gait issue, he's doing fine.

I have wondered if his med condition would keep him from accompanying me (if I pass the OA and am offered a position), but it sounds like it might not be an issue, so I am encouraged.

MS is so different for everyone; take things one day at a time, and good luck to you.

Liz said...

I have MS too and was wondering what you ended up doing about your drugs? I'm going to be traveling for 6 months and trying to find a way to get Betaseron in Europe. Seems the only way is to pay out-of-pocket after getting diagnosed by a doctor in the EU. Thanks :)

Katie said...

Liz, since writing this blog entry I've quit taking the drugs (I was sitting in my bathroom in Amman holding a syringe, and I thought "I just can't do this anymore"). When I was taking them, I purchased 3 months worth at a time through my insurance approved U.S. vendor and hand carried it to my overseas destination. The next 3 months I had delivered to my parents' house, and my mom brought it to me in Jordan when she came to visit. This is probably your easiest option. Depending on your status in Europe, though, you might have access to their health system. If that's the case, you could see if buying it there off of your U.S. prescription is an option (and if it's cheaper than bringing it from the States).