What makes a perfect bid? According to the bid list instructions, it’s simple: a perfect bid is one where the timing of the end of your first tour, home leave, and training all works out to get you to your new post right when they need you, not too early, not too late. Based on this definition my list runneth over with perfect bids, including much coveted, highly sought after positions like consular work in Ciudad Juarez and just about every other Mexican border post. Avoiding a consular job in border towns was one of the main reasons I volunteered so enthusiastically for Conakry the first time around, and I can’t say I’ve really warmed up to the idea since then. Fortunately, 8 of our 30 bids may also be “imperfect,” meaning in this case that you would get to post up to a month before or after the month the new post really wants you. This broadens the spectrum considerably and has allowed me to put together a solid list of 30 jobs, any of which could offer me a pretty good two years. But now I have to rank them, and I’m completely at a loss.

Unlike my buddy Seamus*, who is bidding at the same time as me and has fallen head-over-heels in love with Montevideo, I don’t really have a top choice. Maybe not even a top five. Every job on my list has some flaw. It’s a good job in a bad place, or a bad job in a good place. Or maybe it’s a good job in a good place, but I’d have to quarantine the cat, or it’s in a bureau I don’t plan to spend much of my career in, or I’d have to spend nine months learning a language only spoken in that country. How badly do I want to be able to speak Vietnamese? Would I rather go someplace dull and European with all the amenities or someplace more exotic but a bit less developed? How much money do I want to make and spend, and how do I balance that with everything else? I just don’t know. In one sense the freedom of choice is killing me; if I had to base my decision on something like school quality or jobs for a spouse these minor quibbles wouldn’t much matter, but in my footloose singleness I can/have to draw the lines a little finer. I guess I have a little more thinking to do before I decide what makes a perfect bid for me.

*Not his real name, but he picked it out.