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Part-Time or Two

June 5, 2002

Dear Friends and Families,

The last diary was about a long train journey. This is about another long journey, the road back to work. This part of our Roadtrip was always a bit iffy. Mid-fifties, thousands of miles from home, and seriously unemployed is not a condition for the faint of heart. I'm not sure I'd do it again, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Looking for a job

Some background: As long ago as last December, I had talked with companies about work after travel. There were a few expressions of interest but most said something like "Call me when you're ready; maybe we'll have an opening".

Back in Kiev, one of the possibilities was to work in a different role on the same Chornobyl Shelter project. Having an opportunity to see if I could be effective from a different role sounded interesting. The job would last several months with the possibility of follow on through 2002 and into 2003.  This put the inevitable exit from Eastern Europe off a bit and it all seemed set when I went off to the States in early April for a family visit.

By the time I came back, it was just a week before my new start date.  Then one of the companies in the consortium with my prospective employer vetoed me.  It seems they didn't like the way I advised the nuclear safety regulator in my previous job.  While I may consider that a vote in favor of having correctly advised "independence" with our client, it rapidly turned the future around for Marianne and me.  I was a week away from a return to work.

Now what?  Return to the States and make those "I'm ready" calls?  Frankly, I was torn between waiting for a "good" (or even "great") job and just another job.  Of all the earlier contacts, just one had good or great promise.  My friend Roger (remember the great train chase last year?) had been to a meeting at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission where a company called Framatome ANP (FANP) discussed their return to the nuclear plant supply business.  They were going to commit to certifying a new design over the next several years.

Design Certification?  That's actually something I know about.  A new nuclear design?  That's also something I believe in for a number of reasons, not the least of which is a decreased world dependence on burning things.  Burning makes bad gasses and getting "things" like oil and gas involve any number of drawbacks, not the least of which is war.  Whats's more, the project would be a U.S. certification of a German design by the French company Framatome.  Another multi-national project like the last one.  I have LOTS of scars from that one but maybe I have a bit of wisdom too - or at least a history of marginal choices that I won't repeat.

The hitch is that there was no work yet, at least when my new Kiev job evaporated.  The project still needed deliberations by the company Board.  They also needed the endorsement of the whole concept that would come about by a pending Finnish Parlimentary decision to request bids for the first nucelar plant order outside of Asia in 15 years.  Great, my future depends on a French board of directors and politicians in Finland.

But, you know what, a couple weeks ago everyone voted for moving ahead.

Did I mention that my discussions with FANP had centered on a job in Germany, near Frankfurt?  Now that the job discussions could also move ahead, I ran into the reality that my schedule for a job was sooner than FANP's plans.  They could not offer a full-time job, at least at the beginning.  They could not assure long-term employment.  But, in the end, half a job is better than none, particularly since this could end up being a great job.

Next week, Marianne and I are going to Frankfurt to look for housing and for a job for her.  She managed to have some friends of friends who are in the American and International schools around Frankfurt.  At least one has said that substitute teaching would be a certainty.  That's not what Marianne wants but it's a start. 

Two part-time jobs for the Roadtrip team, more to come?

Other Life

Now, this hasn't been all that we've been doing.  Since coming back on the infamous Budapest to Kiev train, I've been to Maryland twice and Marianne managed one trip to California.  In April I went to look for work and to help my sister and brother-in-law build an apartment in their basement.  You've heard about the look for work.  The basement was almost a bigger project.

When this idea first surfaced, the object was to create a rental space for a bit more income.  I was unemployed, remember, and so was my brother-in-law Ron.  What could be easier than converting most of the basement to a small "efficiency" apartment.  Does the phrase "fools rush in" ring any bells?

We started during my visit in mid-April.  We came up with a plan.  We contracted out the plumbing since we didn't know how to make the drain stuff go uphill.  The we started building walls, buying appliances and running wires.  I drafted son Geoff who was most generous with his time.  After all, he actually has a five-day-a week occupation since he continues his PhD research.

During my May trip, we finished walls and wires and moved on to wallboard.  I ended up with a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome and shoulder strain but the place was looking pretty good when I returned to Kiev.  Ron still has lots of work left, but what seemed overwhelming in the beginning, now can be finished.  Of course, he is returning to regular work, so that makes it three new jobs!  We may all recover yet!

By the way, Geoff must have ended up feeling very domestic during the home remodel because he managed to squeeze in a marriage proposal to girlfriend Suzanne on his 28th birthday.  They're a great pair, even if I do say so myself.  The April and May trips were great fun for me just to have more time with them than is normally possible in our diaspora life.

Speaking of diaspora, Marianne checked in with her family in California.  Gabby's doing well, getting ever closer to an end-of-the-year graduation from San Jose State.  She landed her summer internship at a Salinas TV station.  Pretty soon, I'll be able to get a cameraman job in her production company.

Down in Monterey, Marianne and Gabby went to the baby shower for brother Chris' wife Leisa.  Baby showers are always fun and festive.  From there, it was off to Fresno and a good long visit with Marianne's Mom.  It's been a difficult year for family relations and Marianne has felt she needed to help Mom through some of the difficulties.

Finally, at the end of May, Marianne and I rejoined in Vienna airport and flew back home to Kiev.  It was nice to be together in our own home.  At least for a couple weeks, we can enjoy our quiet village life before we head back out into a new, unknown world as residents of Germany. 

Maybe by late summer, we'll truly be "off the road".  Between now and then we'll look for housing, pack our home, get our car, and start a job or two.  For sure we'll miss the peace we had here in Kiev, but I guess we've asked for all this. Stay tuned.

John and Marianne.













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