Friday, April 07, 2006

Radio Silence

My apologies for the long delay in posting -- I still don't have internet access at home, and don't particularly want to get in the habit of blogging at work (especially as my computer movements are being tracked!). However, to give you a brief idea of what I'm doing, I submit the following excerpt from an unclassified Consular Affairs cable:

----------------------------
UNCLAS STATE 035306
FOR ELOS AND CONSULAR MANAGERS FROM CA A/S MAURA HARTY

SUBJECT: PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE CONSULAR SECTION

- Visa work is challenging and the decisions you make
every day affect the well being of our country. In
addition, it is what the Department needs you to do. Your
commitment and performance is what public service is all
about. ...

- I realize that visa work may not be what attracted many
of you to the Foreign Service, but it is the crucible that
forges new and untested officers into strong officers.
Visa adjudication helps new officers learn how to handle
ambiguity, sharpens their decision-making skills, provides
opportunities to cultivate emotional self-control, and
teaches officers to become adept at reading people. All of
these skills are critical to a successful career in the
Foreign Service. I encourage you to make a deliberate
effort to cultivate them.
----------------------------

This is difficult, draining work, but not necessarily unpleasant. There are only 3 JO consular officers here at ConGen Osaka, and at the peak of the summer season we will be handling around 400 visa applications a day between us. Currently, I'm still moving very slowly (about 50 to 75 a day), but am searching for ways to improve my processing time while still treating the applicants like people. That's the hardest part of this job so far... There's a lot to memorize, and a lot of bureaucratic mess to deal with, and you can forget sometimes that the person standing in front of your window is even more clueless about the process than you are. Balancing efficiency with kindness and attentiveness is difficult, but I feel like if I ever let that balance slip, I risk becoming just another rubber-stamping, jaded bureaucrat. Cynicism is the enemy every bit as much as any intending immigrant or terrorist.

I'll talk more later, when I'm not in the office.

Have a great Foreign Service day!

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