Monday, April 19, 2010

What Do I Do With the Mail?

We were a local hire as residents of Washington D.C., so while Alan was in A-100 we stayed in our house. Being a local hire is a mixed blessing since you don't have to disrupt your life too much prior to moving to post, but you also don't get the full A-100 experience. You feel as though you are only half in the foreign service water during that time.

I now realize that another easy part to being a local hire is figuring out what happens to your mail. When we left D.C. for Kolkata, we forwarded our mail to our post's pouch address. It dawned on me last week, what happens to our mail when we leave post (which will have a month to travel round-trip if we are gone), then on home leave, then in Oakwood, then onto our next post? Whew!

Thankfully mail is becoming less and less important and the 80% we get is junk mail. Heck, the General Accounting Office just announced that the US Postal Service is not a viable business. But getting the mail still brings that warm, fuzzy feeling in my tummy, even if it is only credit card offers.

This is where I often digress into another topic...I have to add that the two things we did before we turned in our untenured officer bid list was decide on where we would live in the D.C. area and put Sicily on the waiting list for FSI daycare. We knew our next post would require a language, and with home leave requirements, we had a ballpark date for FSI.

The to-Oakwood-or-not-to-Oakwood decision was tough for us, since we are still D.C. residents. Tribal affiliations with living in NoVa, DC or Maryland are very strong in the area and living in NoVa just felt against our tribal rules. Well, add our new foreign service tribe and a toddler, and Oakwood seems like a good fit. So we decided to stay at Oakwood during our time in D.C. for training at FSI.

You can not reserve at an Oakwood until you have your PCS (Permanent Change of Station) orders from your HR tech. You then need to notify HR/EX PCS Lodging that you would like to stay at an Oakwood. They interact directly with Oakwood to make your reservation from your approved PCS orders.

Luckily, we did this as soon as we got the orders and were able to get into the Oakwood of our choice. From the chatter on livelines, Oackwood filled up very quickly for the summer transfers, so we are happy that we got in.

Along with the request for our reservation, came instructions including the fact that Oakwood is not equipped to hold mail earlier than two days prior to arrival, so we should put a hold on our mail.

So back to, what do I do with the mail? The US Postal Service will only hold mail for up to 30 days, so if you consider stopping the mail that is being sent to post at least two weeks in advance since it takes at least two weeks to arrive, then at a different location for home leave, then on to Oakwood, we will surpass the 30 day hold.

Enter the Employee Service Center and their Mail Forwarding Services at the Department of State. They will hold or forward mail. You can hold, forward or update your address with the Employee Service Center in person at their office, by email, and through their web page on the Department of State intranet.

This in combination with changing our address (and a possible hold) with the US Postal Service, I can plan on several fun-filled hours of sorting, opening and shredding credit card offers when we arrive at Oakwood. 

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Daniela said...

Which Oakwood are you going to stay in? We are at Falls Church and would love to get together for a play date.

Natalie Buda Smith said...

That would be great!

We will be in Oakwood Falls Church mid August.

Joanne said...

We're in Oakwood Falls Church until August...your blog was a fantastic help with all of our initial planning for FS life. I would love to thank you in person!


Natalie Buda Smith said...

Happy to read that it has been helpful! I will be the dazed person, mid-August, with a toddler and labrador. Hope to see you there!

Stefany said...

Do you have to change your address with all of the many departments that you had to give your address to at the beginning of A-100, like the medical insurance people, payroll, etc., each time you move, or does this service give each of them the updated information?

Natalie Buda Smith said...


We try to get as much as we can electronically (via email, download, etc.) instead of via snail mail. We have had to change our addresses every time we move with insurance, bank, credit cards etc. So far we haven't had to with payroll as it is all delivered electronically.

This State service will not change any addresses and if it works for you, I would not rely on it. So far the best way to transfer mail is a combination of the Change of Address with the USPS and post forwarding mail for a short time after you leave.

Some use or a family member's address in the U.S., so they don't have to change addresses so often.

Good luck!