When I first received notification that my next assignment is Baghdad, I immediately started reading as much as I could about the embassy, the job, the country, etc. Although I'm not required to learn Arabic, I enrolled in a distance learning course so I could study the languge during my free time. I worried a little that learning a foreign language while still in Bucharest might interfere with my Romanian language abilities. Ha! After reviewing the Arabic alphabet for the last 2 weeks, there is no danger of my brain suddenly swelling with Arabic proficiency at the expense of my Romanian skills. Arabic is hard. If it was just a matter of learning a different script, I think I could handle that with a lot of studying; although, having 4 variations of a character depending on where in the word the character is located does seem like overkill. But the real challenge is the pronounciation. Some of these sounds just cannot be made by a mouth that was born and raised in suburban America.
Besides taking Arabic lessons, I've also started making other preparations for my departure. Being the plan-ahead perfectionist that I am (two terrible qualities to have as a foreign service officer), I have taken the initiative to start organizing my departure from Bucharest and my training schedule in Washington D.C. To be precise, I have taken the initiative several times now, because the training program for Iraq-bound officers keeps changing. Almost hourly. You would think that after 2+ years in the Foreign Service I would remember that planning ahead is futile and will only get me in trouble. A good friend recently expressed her frustration about planning her departure from Post as "barely contained rage yoked to an apparently misplaced desire for reasonableness."
But it will all work out in the end. And I have a big bottle of Migraine Strength Exedrin to get me through. AlHamdu lillh!