Monday, March 25, 2019

Waters of March: Reprise

I sit in my home office in Maine.  As I look at the window, I see the waters of March. They are dripping off my roof, the solar panels, and the trees as a fog rolls in and thickens.  When I arrived home a week ago, deep winter still reigned.  On Monday the temperature bottomed out at -18C, and I could almost feel I was back in Kazakhstan.  But winter comes to an end everywhere. In this part of rural Maine, it's coming to its end this week.  Perhaps there will be another deep freeze or two, but by early April mud season will be in full swing, some 2-3 weeks earlier than it would have been in Astana.

This is a reprise.  Two years ago I wrote Waters of March as my impending departure from Kazakhstan was beginning to feel real.  I had long told friends and adopted family in Astana that as long as there was snow and ice, I wasn't leaving.  As the first days of above freezing temperatures came upon us, I knew my time was growing short.

So it is now.  I have just 24 weeks left until retirement.  I go back to DC on Monday and have those 24 weeks ahead of me, but as temperatures rise and the Maine snows melt, retirement is no longer a distant mirage.

Winter Sunset from my Porch in Maine
The Washington ride of the past 18 months has been rough at times.  I'm a transient in DC, living out of a suitcase with friends who had a guest bedroom for rent.  (At $500/month, I expect I have the cheapest rent of any Foreign Service Officer in Washington.)  Weekends are spent with friends, my sisters, or my son and family.  Every other month I come home to Maine for the feeling of being in my own home and sleeping in my own bed.

As anyone who has read Out of the Muck knows, I am ending my career in an office different from the one where I expected to.  I owe deep thanks to those who got me out of the Muck Operations Center and into an office that is dealing with human rights programs around the world.  I am ephemeral in that office on what is known at State as a 1-year Y tour, but the energy of an office of committed young people is infectious.  My job is the comparatively simple and administrative one of making the bureaucratic wheels turn so that these young people can do their jobs with minimal impediment.  In Kazakhstan and before that in Romania, I have been on the receiving end of some of their human rights grants for lgbtqi+ organizations.  I know the good work that this office is doing even at at time when the administration in power at the White House seems intent on turning back much of the progress we have made on human rights.  It makes me want to do a better than a just adequate job in this final year.  I have fired up the after burners on this 40+ year long career, infected as I am by the enthusiasm of the people around me.

For indeed it has been 40+ years in not one but two careers.  Make that three if you add my years of research and publishing as a historian.  More on that at another time.

For the moment, however, I'll just end as I did two years in Astana.  As the waters of March fall, they remind us of the promise of life in our hearts.