The Foreign Service Journal, July-August 2022

30 JULY-AUGUST 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL FOCUS ON FS TRANSITIONS Just Another Glamorous Move Deborah Derrick, a Foreign Service spouse since 1990, is a writer and global health expert. She has served overseas with her husband in Poland, South Africa, Canada and Chile. She is the author of Half Lives , the true story of an atomic waste dumping ship, its veterans and a protracted government cover-up. Relocating around the world every couple of years is the “good news” and “bad news” of the Foreign Service career. BY DEBORAH DERR I CK T he last time my husband, Baxter, and I headed overseas, we invited a Foreign Service friend over for a pre- departure beer. We were on our way to Chile. The packers were coming soon. Our air freight occupied the liv- ing room. Our sea freight was in the bedroom. The rest of our stuff was scattered around the house like litter, tagged for storage or Goodwill. Our friend declined the invitation. “Just thinking about what your house looks like right now makes my heart race,” he said. Because only a handful of things in life are more fraught than moving, and adding a new country and language to the mix is a jolly good test of one’s resilience. If most Foreign Service transitions are difficult, though, Baxter’s and my move to Durban, South Africa, was a high-water mark. It was 1993. We were flying halfway around the Earth, tak- ing the longest flight in the world with three toddlers: a 2-year- old daughter and 1-year-old twins. Having flown with our little ones before, Baxter and I decided to seek pharmacological help for the New York–to–Johannes- burg leg. We asked a Connecticut pediatrician—whom we didn’t know—for a mild sedative. He looked at us skeptically and, given what later happened, probably gave us a placebo instead. Passengers on the Johannesburg flight looked aside or down as our family lurched onto the plane. I knew they were hoping we’d be seated far, far away. b The airline had assigned us five seats in a center row. Before the plane took off, however, a stewardess leaned over to tell Baxter and me that they required a one-to-one adult-to-child ratio in each row. She said we’d have to put one child in a different location. I was just imagining the reaction we’d get, asking some stranger to babysit our 2-year-old for 19 hours, when Baxter bit back. He told the stewardess he doubted anyone would be willing to care for a lone child. He said she could ask around, though. The stewardess slunk away, leaving Baxter and me alone in our misery.