When you sign up with the Foreign Service you commit to being “worldwide available,” ready to go anywhere – and they do mean ANYWHERE – the State Department needs you to go. I wonder how many people are really truly aware of exactly what they’re signing up for when they check that box. I certainly wasn’t.
You guys, the world is big. BIG. It has SO MANY places in it, and the U.S. has a presence of some kind in more of them than any other country does. I consider myself to be a relatively smart, educated type of person. I read the Economist, I follow world events, I watched a lot of Carmen Sandiego as a kid. I think I have an above-average grasp of world geography. But when I got my first bid list I had to do a lot of Googling just to figure out where the hell some of the places on my list were. Same for list #2: my Africa geography has gotten a lot better since moving to Conakry, but there are plenty of other cities in other places about which I just have no clue.
To drive this point home (and pass some time on a lazy Saturday) I am proud to present the Worldwide Availability Geography Quiz: Places You’ve Never Heard Of But May One Day Live In. Some of these are on my bid list. Some were on my first list, so I have friends in these places right now. Some of them I just put on there because I thought they’d be fun/challenging, but every single one of them is home to a U.S. embassy/consulate/branch office/mission of some kind. Enjoy.
(Not that you need one or anything, but here’s a cheat sheet.)