On his second tour Spencer is required to do a Consular tour and a language tour. In order to reach tenure, first and second tour officers must gain a 3/3 in a language and do a consular tour. Why a language? This is the Foreign Service, contribute or leave. The consular part is a little more ambiguous. It may be that Consular work, which includes passports, visas, and American services is the foundation of the Foreign Service and so everyone must do it. Or maybe because this work is not that interesting to many who want something more flashy like financial reporting (gag!), so it is a requirement. Either way, it is Spencer's turn.
Years ago when Spencer and I were moving around the country we came up with a spreadsheet to rank prospective sites. This has served us well over the years. It eliminates the passion that sometimes clouds sound judgement. The spreadsheet includes rankings for schools, pets, job prospects for me, size of post, house hold help, location, ease of travel, danger, etc. The categories listed are what is important to us. There is some intuition and passion involved. We do not research and list every post. There are some that we just know we don't want to go to. Once the numbers are in, we then subjectively rank within the scores. The highest score was a 21, the lowest score to make the final list was an 8. There were lots in the 21-18 range. This system has worked for us. It helps us see cities with promise, that we didn't think much of before. It also helps keep in check wild ambitions for places that are not a good fit. Ever since I saw Vienna on the list I have been in love. Prague is, of course, my personal second choice.
Next we eliminated those with imperfect timing. Timing is important to consider. If we leave post in July, then we need to plan for enough time for training, requirements, and home leave before starting the next job. So Spanish speaking posts starting in August just will not work.
We entered most of the posts into the spreadsheet, researched and entered numbers. We shook the computer, threw darts at printouts, talked to friends, talked to an Ambassador who had served in all of our top posts, prayed, begged, and sometimes argued. Spencer was required to turn in 30. We decided to turn in 33, because our choices were popular. The Foreign Service does not guarantee any of them, but does try to place officers in a post that fits personal criteria.
Spencer submitted his list June 26, one month after the list came out. Rumors spread that the letter would come out Friday. Then there was the rumor about today. HOLD THE PRESSES!!!!!!! Spencer just called. We got #2 on the list.............. Москва́ June 2014.