I've been on the medicine for a week. I've advanced past the first week starter kit (smaller doses to make sure you don't go psychotic and kill someone, which has apparently happened in the past) and I am now on the regular regiment. I was surprised to see that the small pills were no longer white, but a soft shade of blue. As I took my medicine this morning before work, I was really hoping that they hadn't accidentally put in the wrong small, blue pill.
Although the pill has a number of scary side effects in rare cases, I have been relatively side effect free. No weird, vivid dreams. That's not entirely true - I normally have fairly vivid dreams, but I have not noticed any uptick in either the vividity or the strangeness of subject matter in my dreams. No psychotic episodes. No nausea or diarrhea. The only side effect I have noticed is that I get hunger pangs when I should not be hungry. Like right now - I just finished lunch 30 minutes ago, but I feel hungry.
In terms of the stated purpose of the medicine, it is definitely working, but not in the way I expected. Everyone who I have talked to who has taken this medicine has told me by the end of the first week, when it is time to quit, they don't really want a cigarette anymore. So, I fully expected my cravings to go away, but they haven't. I still have all the same cravings - after a meal, in the morning, when I get home from work, when I am drinking. The difference is that smoking a cigarette doesn't satisfy this craving in any way. Smoking a cigarette is just not enjoyable.
For someone who has never smoked, this can be hard to understand. As far as you are concerned, they probably just smell gross and cost too much money. But for a smoker, cigarettes are relaxing. A cigarette would calm me down when I was really stressed out. It would settle your stomach after a big meal (seriously). It would give you something to do when you were waiting or bored or at a party where you didn't know anyone (this is honestly my favorite time to smoke). Much of this is purely psychological, but as I have learned this week, it is partly physical too.
Imagine if you will, being stuck in the middle of the proverbial desert, when an oasis appears in front of you. You reach the oasis and immediately begin to gulp down water. Now, all of your experience in life has taught you that when you are thirsty and drink water, the thirst goes away. But with this medicine, the thirst does not go away. Your thirst remains forever unquenched. You could continue to drink in order to satisfy your unquenchable thirst, or you can give up drinking the useless water. About half way through this past week, I didn't want to quit smoking, I wanted to quit Chantrix.
The worst part about this medicine will be my inability to enjoy my final cigarette. There is something I find pleasureable in enjoying what I know will be my final cigarette. Smoking the final cigarette, but not actually enjoying it will be disappointing. But, knowing that I won't enjoy a backslide cigarette should definitely help going forward.
I leave for Panama tomorrow and I should be more excited than I actually am. Between the quitting smoking, the upcoming bid list and the fact that the only guide book I have that covers Panama doesn't provide much info, I haven't really planned at all. As of now, I plan to meet my sister at the airport tomorrow night and then we will stay at one of my A-100 friend's apartment. We will spend Friday and Saturday in Panama City. Our tentative plan is to then take a flight to Bocas Del Toro (near the Costa Rican border) and then work our way back down the isthmus. This itinerary is completely subject to change.
Pictures and stories will be posted when I get back
On Monday, I got an e-mail from my Career Development Officer, letting us know we'd be getting the bid list this week. The instructions were to come out Tuesday and the actual list tomorrow. Bidding for your second tour is a bit different than the first tour. As you recall, on the first bid list we had just over 100 posts and we ranked each 'high', 'medium', or 'low.' We then listed three preferences and the CDOs worked their magic.
For the second tour, I will get a list with about 200 jobs on it. I have to rank, in numerical order, my top 30 bids. I will also write a line or so about each of my bids explaining my rationale. Since I am still on language probation, I will have to bid on only language designated positions. This means no London, Singapore, or Wellington in my future. Since I have already done a consular tour, I can bid on any job, but my colleagues who did non-consular tours must bid only on consular tours for this tour. As part of a new requirement, I do have to make at least 6 in-cone (Consular) bids.
The big hang-up on second tour bidding is timing. Each position has an estimated time of arrival and required training. If your expected date of arrival (based on when you leave, amount of home leave, and what training you need) doesn't fit with the position, then you can't bid it. There is some leeway built into this. For example, my expected departure month is June 2012, which can be the beginning or end of the month. I can then take between 20-30 work days of home leave. This means that I could start training as early as July 1 or as late as August 15. Plus, not all of my bids have to fit perfect timing. I am allowed 8 imperfect bids, which allow me to finish training two months early or one month late.
Before the last bidding cycle, they did all six months of summer or winter bidders together. This meant that there was a strong chance that your dream post could be on your bid list, but even with all the leeway, you still couldn't make it work. Now, they split each bidding cycle into two tranches. Everyone who is bidding with me is expected to leave their post between May and July 2012, which means that almost all of the bids should be able to work out one way or the other.
One of the other differences in second tour bidding is equity. For equity, they combine your hardship differential and your danger differential to give you an equity score of between 0% and 70%. They try to assign those with the higher equity to their posts before those with lower equities. Those who have a 20% equity or higher will have all their posts assigned first. Those posts are then removed from the bid list and those with 0%-15% turn in their bid lists. Belmopan, at 20%, just makes the cut into the first group. While I may not get my first choice if someone from Nigeria wants the same post, I will get my choice ahead of those with lower equity.
My final bid list is due on June 27, so I will have just over a week back from vacation to finalize it. The lower equity individuals are due on July 13, so I should have my next posting sometime in early July!