We have officially hit the “less than 2 months left at post” mark, which means we are pretty much in full speed ahead mode with trying to finalize everything before our packout in July. Part of this means tidying up all of the planning for our home leave, which is the 4 weeks of time off that we get to go visit family and friends before we head to DC to start training.
I say “we,” but it’s still up in the air as to whether I will be taking Thai language class at FSI or not. A lot of people have asked me about this, so let me clarify the deal with language training: EFMs get put onto a waitlist (you can have the officer request this for you through their training technician. M put in the request shortly after he got his confirmation that he was enrolled in the course), and they do not release open spaces to EFMs and MOHs until a minimum of 3 weeks before the class starts. For us, that means early August. Unless I get a job with a company that I could feasibly continue to work for when we move to Bangkok, the plan is for me to take Thai. That would mean 7 months of language class from about 8am-4pm everyday. Classroom instruction is only for part of the day, and the rest is self study. It’s pretty intensive, and potentially not really necessary for me – particularly since English is pretty widely spoken in Bangkok and the vocab taught will most likely include a lot of Consular speak – but it definitely can’t hurt for me to learn as much of the language as I can. Knowing the local language really helps with everyday life — you feel more immersed, and more confident with tackling everyday tasks. And, since my physical appearance screams foreigner, it would be helpful to know the language and increase my chances of not being treated like a tourist everyday. So fingers crossed that there are open spaces left in the class, and that M and I don’t get placed in the same section, where our competitive natures have serious potential to get crazy! haha.
So back to home leave…for part of our leave, we’re doing a road trip cross-country. M’s parents and family are in Florida, and my parents are in California, so it felt like a pretty good opportunity for us to do the drive from one side to the other. M has also never done the cross-country road trip, so this was the perfect opportunity, especially since we don’t have little ones to tow around with us.
While planning the drive, I’ve come across some good tips on the Trailing Houses Facebook group (if you haven’t joined it, search for it and request to join! It’s an amazing resource for all things Foreign Service that I wish we had known about earlier.). Road trips seem to be a popular home leave activity, so there have been some posts flying around about apps to help you plan your trip, and potential itineraries.
One app that I’ve decided to use is called “Roadtrippers.” I’m still exploring its capabilities, but it basically allows you to input your stops and places you want to see, and gives you a physical map with times, distances, and cost estimates. It’s pretty nifty. Here’s what our route looks like so far:
I’ve blacked out a few things, because, well, this is the internet. 🙂 But this gives you the basic idea of what the main page looks like. You can add in “waypoints” for each of the places you’ll stay overnight or for tourist attractions. You can either search for these places in the searchbar at the top of the page, or you can search for things by category (restaurants, scenic drives, shopping, attractions, the list goes on and on) by clicking on the “Find Places” icon. It’s as simple as that!
This blog post on lifehacker was also posted on the FB group, and has some good tips for planning your trip. There’s also another planning app recommendation on there. I haven’t explored that one yet, but the description sounded pretty good as well.