If you think about it, Americans love public ceremony and putting others on the spot. Thus our obsession with reality TV where folks find out life-changing information (engagements, court adjudications, interventions, etc) in front of millions. And so, in very American fashion, my classmates and I found out our new homes for the next two years in a game-show-esque Flag Day Ceremony.
The fact that Flag Day occurred at all was the first happy surprise. Thursday over a foot of snow and rain paralyzed DC and the federal government was shut down. Fortunately David’s parents arrived a day early to beat the weather, so we spent the day watching Olympics. Thursday night the snow started again, but thankfully the government was only a two hour delayed start. So Flag Day went ahead as scheduled.
On the advice of someone who recently went through the process, David and I spent some time on Thursday night listing positives about some of the posts. Since around 25% of our 99 potential posts were in Mexico, we thought through each of those. One of the major positives about the majority of posts was that we’d learn Spanish, which would be highly useful inside and outside the U.S. I went to sleep fairly convinced that we were headed to Spanish-speaking Latin America, and I was okay with that.
I slept poorly Thursday night, dreaming on loop that David and I were headed to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where I was fighting off drug cartels. That morning I was so nervous/distracted that David practically had to force feed me, and I ended up leaving the apartment without my suit jacket and then running back for it. The morning’s class was essentially a write-off since I couldn’t concentrate on anything aside for the huge map at the front of our classroom.
Finally it was time. I met David and his parents and we headed in.
Minutes before the ceremony started, one of my classmates’ family arrived. They had driven from Michigan after their flight was cancelled the day before (read the heart-warming tale here). The ceremony started with a few greetings to the dignitaries and then they launched into announcing our fates. A flag was displayed, the city and country announced, and then one of our names. The excitement and energy in the room was palatable. Fist-pumping and huge smiles were common, and some practically bounded up front to get their flags. One carried his baby above his head in triumph to pick up his Mexico flag.
After fewer than ten countries had been called, the flag for Haiti was revealed, and I thought to myself – “Oh yeah, I forgot Haiti was even on the list.” And that my friends, is when my name was called.
I must have looked as shocked as I felt, because everyone started cheering and laughing. I tried to look back to see David’s reaction, but ended up only turning around half way before I made my way up front in a daze. Our class mentor, Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy, handed me my flag and said, “Felisitasyon!” Can’t wait to see what I look like in the photo with him, because I felt like a deer in the headlights.
I was happy and excited, but I was mostly surprised. I had assumed that we’d be learning Spanish, but now we’re going to be learning French and Haitian Creole. Not one, but two languages! David and I hadn’t done any research about Haiti, so I felt at a total loss for what to expect. More to come on our thoughts about moving to Haiti and some details, but for now I’m excited about the adventure ahead.