The Method to the Madness

After we got the list of possible Foreign Service assignments we were given a few days to research the different cities. We then turned in an ordered list broken up into High: meaning we would really like to go there, Medium: we’d be ok with going there and Low: we really don’t want to go there. In theory my Career Development Officer matches up our preferences with what the State Department needs. Most of the time people get something in their High list, but this is not guaranteed. We’ll find out our assignment on Tuesday.

Some people might be surprised why we ordered the list the way we did. I am surprised. But as we did the research we found oddities that pushed down certain cities and other tidbits that pushed other cities up.

First I’ll start with the Low list. It was the easiest to compile. These are the places where there are no accredited high schools and are more dangerous or severely underdeveloped.


17. Dushanbe, Tajikistan

The former ambassador to Tajikistan spoke to our class. They were without water for 6 months. The water they did get was brown. Plus, being neighbors with Afghanistan doesn’t help.

16. Cotonou, Benin

No accredited high schools and lots of voodoo.

15. Freetown, Sierra Leone

No accredited high schools and lots of diamond smuggling, which could be cool if you don’t get shot.

14. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan has good schools and is much more developed than Tajikistan, but still not in a good neighborhood.  Iran is a stones throw away.

Now for the Medium list. This list was hard to order because we would be happy to go to any place on this or the High list. But there are some definite drawbacks with some of the posts.


13. Quito, Ecuador

I’ve heard many good things about Quito. The main drawback is that it is unfurnished. This means once you get there you are given an housing allowance and a few months to find a place to live. You then get to furnish the place. We don’t want to deal with that our first time out. We also hear the crime rate is extremely high.

12. Paris, France

Placing Paris so far down on the list has surprised a few people. But Paris is another post that is unfurnished. We have heard that Paris is a hard place to live with kids. However, I would not cry if we got assigned to Paris. The bread and chocolate would make up for a lot.

11. Guayaquil, Ecuador

This post is furnished, it has good but small schools and it’s in Ecuador. The weather is not as nice as it is in Quito but it’s close to the ocean and the jumping off point for the Galapagos Islands.

10. Chengdu, China

Chengdu has schools up through the 12th grade, but the high school is very small, like under 20 students. We could live here cheaply but I’m not excited to live in the polluted cities of China.

9. Frankfurt, Germany

All of the housing is concentrated into one compound called, “Little America.” While this would be nice for the kids, it’s not why we joined the Foreign Service. Beyond the housing Frankfurt has great schools and in a great part of Europe. It would be very expensive however.

8. Kampala, Uganda

Uganda was higher on my list, but Erin was not very excited about it. It fell even more after I told her about the bombings in July. Uganda has good, but smaller schools and is close to all things Africa. It does have some routy neighbors that make traveling outside the capital dangerous.

7. Beijing, China

Beijing would be Erin’s first choice. There are great schools and our ex-governor is the ambassador there. Maybe we could suck up to him at church. It is also the cultural center of one the most important countries in the world. However, it is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Most days you can’t see across the street and we’ve never been especially fond of respiratory illnesses.

6. Canberra, Australia

Canberra has good schools but they use a different system and we hear getting the credits to transfer is a pain. We also hear that Australia is really expensive for poor government workers. Other than that Canberra would be awesome!

Now for the High list. This list was hotly contested because we had several great cities to choose from. We wanted to choose carefully since you usually get something from your high list… usually.


5. Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan is like China but without all the communism. It also has really great schools that will keep our kids busy. Our travel would be limited since it is a small island and flying 6 people anywhere is expensive. But it would be great for our kids to learn Mandarin at an early age.

4. Berlin, Germany

The weather in Berlin isn’t the greatest, but the history is awesome. Berlin is actually a smaller post than Frankfurt and the housing situation is much better. There are several good schools to choose from and we could easily travel to the rest of Europe. It would be expensive.

3. Brussels, Belgium

Good schools, culture and travel options make this a great place. There are also 3 different U.S. missions in Brussels that would make work interesting. Learning French would be great for our kids. Brussels would be very expensive.

2. Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava is in Eastern Europe but is 45 minutes from Vienna and 6 hours from Italy. The schools are on the small side at about 200-400 students K through 12. It will be a little less expensive than living in Western Europe but traveling to some great places would be easy. This would be a great place to ease into this new way of life. It’s Erin’s first choice.

1. Nairobi, Kenya

My Mom is not excited we put this first on our list. The embassy was bombed several years ago and carjackings are common. We would live in nice houses that are guarded 24 hours a day and are surrounded by razor wire. Nairobi is a large city with areas you definitely don’t want to go to. But it’s in Africa! Come on! How fun would that be? It’s got safaris, the beach and a new (to us) and interesting culture. We spent some time with a girl who just graduated from high school there. She loved it and painted a great picture of living there. She got Cecily excited about going there. It’s a medium-sized post that would be good for my career and since it’s a hardship post that would stretch us. And who wouldn’t want to learn a little Swahili?

All of our reasons are probably wrong and most of our assumptions will most likely go out the window, but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


4 thoughts on “The Method to the Madness

  1. I like the voodoo comment on Benin. Did you get that from my previous post 🙂 or you found that through research? I’m really curious about that. I’ve got to tell you Jason that was quite the analysis you put up here.

    To tell you the truth Jason, I don’t follow blogs but man this one has got me hooked!!! I can’t wait till Tuesday!!!

    1. Belgium! Oh man, such an awesome place! It has my vote! Gr-r-r-r-reat analyses, Jason! Gives everyone a real feel for what you’re struggling with. I’m sure you’ll excell whereEVER you go!

  2. Jayson, I thought you mentioned Serbia, but was relieved that you mentioned Bratislava. I passed thru there twice this summer. It’s proximity to Vienna and Budapest is a greet plus, plus Slovakia is peaceful, mountainous and beautiful. I met strangers while driving thru and they dropped what they were doing and walked with me up to their favorite castle. By contrast, I had nothing but problems going thru Serbia. I couldn’t help but notice that Apostle Nelson, in a recent visit to the Balkin States, blessed all the former nations of Yugoslovia, but extended no blessing and and or visit to Belgrade. Yet, I was able to leave my car behind the church while I traveled by train to Budapest to pick up my dear wife. The missionaries were great and very helpful.

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