Saturday, June 7, 2014

IRM Graduation - 19 Days To Go

Here's some ramblings on various topics as we have just 19 days to departure...

IRM Graduation

Yesterday was graduation from the core track of Information Resource Management (IRM) training. We had a little ceremony with the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to hand us yet another certificate. FSI never fails in giving you a certificate anytime you complete something. I don't need that kind of recognition and am glad we didn't have Kindergarten graduation when I was young. I would have been the smart ass kid asking why it's a graduation if we're coming back to the same place for more of the same. If I'm ever called a smart ass then I usually say it's better than being a dumb ass. As you can guess, I get called a smart ass a lot and it's usually by my wife. :-)

It was nice having this little ceremony with all of my friends of the past 4 months just so I could see everyone and share in our collective excitement for the future. They decorated the walls with these interesting paper flags with our names on them. It was a nice touch to a simple event and we took turns taking pictures with them. They seemed to be more popular than the certificates.

Some of my classmates leave at the end of July and a few don't leave for several months after that depending on when their post is ready to receive them and the status of their visas. They'll take additional training requested by their posts or other odds and ends to prepare them for their jobs to fill any available time. This is why a "graduation" feels a little silly because nobody's leaving yet and some still have additional training under IRM. We're one of the lucky ones that get to leave on the first day we can after the mandatory overseas security, basic medical, and supervisory training. We only have 19 days left!

Moving Company Survey

The moving company surveyed our temporary apartment this week. It won't be any different than any other military move we've done other than we're not taking everything. We've crammed our house full of stuff into an apartment after we sold it so there's a lot of stuff already boxed. They claimed if it's boxed well enough then they'll just seal it up and take it but we'll have to make sure they don't do that. We only packed things good enough to move a mile and not for long-term storage or the move overseas so they'll just have to repack it all like we told them. Fortunately the apartment is small so they can't split up to different sides of the house since only my wife will be home to watch them.

Cell Phones

I checked on the status of our cell phones and our AT&T contracts. I bought a Nexus 5 recently from Google which is off contract with any carrier so I can just slap a prepaid SIM in it when we land in Stockholm. SIM cards with the local carriers are immensely cheaper than international roaming which must mean they make a killing on anyone that roams with their U.S. number instead of buying a local SIM. We'll use Google Voice to text to the U.S. for free. Unfortunately it won't allow calls over cellular networks but we can call U.S. numbers with our computers. There's also Google Hangouts and Skype for computer to computer video calls.

My daughter had a contract phone but she already messed up that one so she's currently using my old Samsung Galaxy S3. We had exchanged SIMs to move it to her line and the contract lock is tied to the hardware instead of the line so I was able to request an unlock code. They emailed it to me since that phone was already paid off on my line. We'll have to pay a cancellation penalty for the phone she broke since the subsidy contract on her line isn't actually over. At least we can slap a SIM in the Galaxy S3 so we'll have 2 out of 3 working phones when we land.

My wife's phone is the same one on her line for the subsidized contract. Now this one is tricky. They'll give us an unlock code... several days after we cancel the contract and pay the subsidized phone penalty. She needs her phone and that number right up to our departure so I can't cancel it until we leave. Then I can request the unlock code and get it in a few days but she'll be without cell service until I can get that code or needlessly buy her another phone. It's a Galaxy S4 Active so I haven't found anyone online successfully unlocking their own phones for free (some phones have simple hacks). It's just not worth trying a paid service to unlock it if I can get a free code with just a little patience for what's still a nice phone.

International Driving Permits

Another thing we've done this week is get international driving permits from AAA. They're only good for a year but they said it's easy to renew through the mail with updated passport photos to glue in. It really isn't anything fancy other than the AAA stamps they put in it. It's just a little passport looking booklet describing that we're U.S. licensed drivers in 10 different languages and you have to carry a U.S. license with it to be valid. It was only $15 and they gave it to us about as quick as the walk-in. It's probably worth it just to have the translations booklet with our picture in it for a foreign cop to read if we're ever pulled over and can't speak the language. Hopefully that just never happens but it's good to be prepared.

This brings up the other problem of moving overseas combined with changing our state residency. We sold the house and the cars will be sold off soon. This cuts our ties to Virginia as our most recent residency so we can reestablish ourselves back in my home state of Texas. We started using my parents' address for bank accounts and other important things to demonstrate intent. We also tried to get Texas driver's licenses when we were there for Christmas, but they wouldn't let us since we had vehicles registered in Virginia. We would have to register them in Texas or get rid of them before they'd issue us licenses.

Here's the next potential problem. We're leaving Virginia and going directly overseas without going back to Texas. We'll be stuck with our Virginia licenses until our next visit, which isn't planned until we have home leave in 2 years. I've read on Trailing Houses (Facebook group) that Virginia has revoked some driver's licenses if they correlate a change of address with our driving records. For this I may have to use the pouch address instead of the DPO address for our post. Otherwise we'll just need to contact someone at the DMV that understands the Foreign Service to request a special exemption for keeping our licenses active. The Foreign Service relates to military service in many ways but it doesn't always get the same automatic protections and exemptions as when I was in the military. It seems we'll be constantly explaining that the Foreign Service exists.

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