The last post covered 2001 to 2003. What happened then?
2004 and 2005 were good years. We were living in Bucharest, Romania, in a nice townhouse in a somewhat run-down but pleasant residential neighborhood. I had an interesting job as component manager of a large USAID project. Claudia was pregnant with our second boy, David, when we arrived; David was born in July 2003 and was a baby and toddler throughout this period.
Bucharest is an interesting town, and those were good years to be living there. Romania was desperate to join the EU, so my work was pretty easy and straightforward. The economy was growing rapidly, so you could see things getting better from month to month. We were two hours from the mountains and three hours from the beach. The expat community was friendly. I had a Dungeons and Dragons group. There were large, green parks with playgrounds, great for the boys. We lived in a small townhouse with a friendly landlord, easy walking distance from the supermarket. What was there not to like?
2006 was a complicated year. In January, I got a job offer from BearingPoint, a large consulting company. The job was to take over CLERP, a USAID project in Yerevan, Armenia. CLERP was a troubled project and USAID had asked BearingPoint to fire the Chief of Party. BearingPoint was casting around for a replacement, and they found me. Meanwhile, Booz Allen wanted me to go to Southeast Asia for a month. I ended up going to Southeast Asia (Laos and Cambodia) for a month and then moving to Armenia. At this point we had just-turned-four Alan, toddler David, and new baby Jacob, so things were getting a little challenging. But we found a pleasant house in the Arabkir suburb of Yerevan and settled in.
Here's a summary of my time in Armenia: I was there just over two years, of which the first six months and the last six months were pretty horrible. The year in between was just fine. The first six months were rough because the project was pretty messed up and needed a salvage job. The last six months were rough because 1) USAID cut our budget, which meant we had to end the project several months early, while slicing off a bunch of workstreams; 2) we got a new COTR (the client representative who gives direction to the project) -- the old COTR had been very good, pedantic and meticulous but honest and fair, while the new one was a crooked local with a chip on his shoulder; and, 3) BearingPoint was spiraling downwards into bankruptcy, causing the home office to become both incredibly difficult and almost completely useless. The year in between, none of those things were true, so it was actually pretty good.
We never did fall in love with Armenia -- we found it a difficult country in a bunch of different ways -- but we did have some good times there, including a wonderful trip to Nagorno-Karabakh. Alan had a good teacher, David had a good preschool, and Jacob learned to walk in the back yard (and ate figs right off the tree). And the view of Mount Ararat never palled.
But CLERP ended in March 2008. I stayed on another three weeks to do wrapup and write the final report, and then flew back to Germany -- where we had just bought our first house, in the small town of Fladungen, and where Claudia was several months pregnant. Good things both, except that I was now without a job.