What’s not to love about a ceremony involving tiny flags, years of anticipation, and deliberately built up anxiety? Flag Day is a time honored tradition for A-100 classes. We find out our assignments in the most intense way possible. I’m hoarse from screaming in excitement for my colleagues. So here’s how it all works for my friends and family who don’t know, don’t worry my full story of the Flag Day bonanza is below.
We receive a list of posts for our group. Each person ranks the posts on the list: high, medium, low. You can add comments if you choose. Then after the fifth week of training, they tell us where we are going in an elaborate ceremony that’s really just bottled diplomat anxiety.
I wasn’t feeling any emotion towards Flag Day until about an hour before it started. And then suddenly, the gravity of the situation hit me like a space station flying at 17,500 miles an hour. I might have had a mild panic attack. I wasn’t nervous about any of the posts on our list, I think I was just overcome with a multitude of emotions. First, I couldn’t believe this was actually real. Second, my life was about to change, I think it is okay to freak out a bit. Third, it was incredibly hot and muggy. Fourth, I knew that everyone else had the same nervous energy as me, it was feeding off each other. Fifth, I was just plain excited. These factors and emotions almost knocked me out. I came pretty close to passing out at one point before the ceremony started. Luckily, my wonderful colleagues all started fanning me and getting me some air. The energy was so indescribable. The only way I can try to explain it is this: imagine dreaming of something for 10 years, knowing that it is about to happen in a matter of moments, and that crazy jittery feeling you have when you drink too much caffeine. That’s how I felt.
Finally the ceremony started and quickly I realized I really don’t know flags. Okay, let’s step back for a second and I’ll give you some details. Of the posts, I ranked 25% low, 29% high, and 46% medium. My lows were mainly Russian speaking posts. My highs were all over the place. And my mediums were primarily non-consular posts and a smattering of “eh” places. When I met with my Career Development Officer to explain my preferences, I told her “surprise me.” And she did!
So I completely forgot how I ranked any of my posts prior to the ceremony. Once the ceremony began, I noticed that quickly many of my lows were disappearing. When my absolute low was called and someone seemed happy to get it, I was so relieved, I actually remembered to breathe again. One of my friend’s high posts was called, but she didn’t get it. But there were two posts, so there was hope she’d get the next one. I really wanted her to go there. My friend sitting to my left was on the edge of her seat every time an India came up. She’s dreamed of India for over a decade. But they kept calling different posts. Suddenly the Egyptian flag appears on screen and it felt like forever. I turned to my friend on my right, who wanted Egypt and said something to the effect of “you got this.” And then they called my name. And I was shocked. I remember standing up and walking towards the flag having no idea what was going on and then a few seconds later – emotion! Crazy, excited emotion! I started jumping up and down and throwing my hands in the air. Egypt was one of my highs. As I let all the nervous energy drain out of me, I sat down and immediately burst into tears. Tears of pure joy and excitement. I don’t think ecstatic is a strong enough word to describe how I was reacting. Weeks of suppressed caring and distancing myself from any attachment led to an utter breakdown in social norms. Tears were streaming down my face and I just couldn’t stop them. Of course my friend to the left starts crying with me, while still waiting to hear her name. Then suddenly another Near East post comes up and my friend on the right gets excited. This is a good post too and another one of her highs. They call her name and she much more gracefully than me goes and collects her flag. We are going to be neighbors, sort of. Well region neighbors. My friend on the left is still waiting, and they haven’t called any of her India dream posts. She’s in a full state of freaking out all while I’m sitting there trying to hold it together. One of my colleagues told me during my public speaking exercise that behind a podium I look like I’m trying to burst out of a jar. That’s how I felt sitting in my chair.
Suddenly, an India flag flashes on the screen and her dream post is called, followed by her name. Commence screaming. Two of my other friends got their absolute #1 posts as well. Dreams for everyone! I’m so happy with the people who are also in my region. But let’s rewind again. Why was I so excited to get Egypt? Many of my friends and family are concerned about the current state of affairs in the region. Well, back in the day, elementary school to be exact, I wanted to do a few different jobs. I wanted to be an architect and cruise ship captain. But I also wanted to be an Egyptologist. I’ve been fascinated with the culture and history since at least first grade. I even gave a report in front of the entire school in a Cleopatra costume. That’s elementary school dedication there. Ever since, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Egypt. It is the sole place on my bucket list that is a requirement. It was where I originally wanted to go on a post Peace Corps trip, but couldn’t at the time. I almost bought a book to learn hieroglyphics at one point. I’m so excited for this challenge. I guess I need to actually look up post information about Egypt. I’m going to have plenty of time though, as I will now be learning Arabic.
What an adventure! And now for a quick way to wrap up my life: