Monday, May 30, 2011

Shot Card

Accepted: Polio Booster, Typhoid Pills, Japanese Encephalitis Vaccination
Declined: Rabies Prevention Series

I hope that doesn't come back to bite me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Goal Two: Make Them Love Us

At one point in CAO training, I feared they might pull out a Fulbright reliquary for the class to venerate.* This would not have been out of step with the general tone of the course: people doing the US side of the work appear genuinely passionate about their programs, and I suspect rightfully so. I don't recall fervor like this in Pol/Econ training, with the exception of a few key offices in DRL.

I want to be excited about it, too -- but I'm a little overwhelmed. One officer could never do all the things that are being presented to us. Seriously, never. Not well, anyway. And certainly not me, who'll only be in post for one year, sans local language, and maybe sans freedom of movement. Knowing that the Pakistan PD shop is actually fully funded to do all the things being presented to us is even more daunting. Having adequate funds is not the same as having adequate resources, and it does not necessarily equate to being able to accomplish tasks with ease.

So thank you to the panel presenter today who advised, "Be realistic and choose just a few goals." I think, however much it goes against my nature, that that is precisely what I will do.

Goal one: get through the entire year without hosting a single jazz or tap dancing group. That's the Pol equivalent of trying not to use the term 'interlocutor' in any of your cables -- probably futile, but worth the effort.

I'll poll the FSNs to figure out what should be our goals two and three.

*I skipped the lunch time screening of "Fulbright: The Man" to watch the President's Arab Spring speech, so I'm not entirely sure that this didn't happen.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Low-Level Dread and Other Diseases

"This shouldn't frighten me, but it does," was the only thing I could think when amended orders suddenly showed up in my inbox. The message delivered on bureaucratic letterhead was very clear that my year of Arabic study would be in Jerusalem, the same location as my subsequent job, meaning four years total in the same place, maybe even the same house. I didn't want it to, but it felt like a jail sentence. How ironic that the prospect of staying put for so long was the most foreign thought I'd ever had in my entire Foreign Service career. The last time I could claim to have spent four years in the same location, I was 11.

I'm not sure what I'm worried about. The chance to really get to know a city? The thought of being able to properly cultivate a garden? Actually, that's a lie: I know what I'm worried about. I worry about being alone for four years. And I worry about being bored. And I worry about being 37 when I leave and still without a partner, looking at the same scenario all over again at my next post.

So I remind myself that I like my job. Because I really do. And to do something else would only mean having to choose a place to stay forever. And the world is so big.

And shouldn't I be worrying more about the open-ended question that is Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan...?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Time to Move On Now

Number of days in CAO training thus far: 5
Number of independent mentions of USIA: 33
Number of years since USIA merged with State: 12

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


First day of CAO tradecraft: "You look familiar. Were you in Amman?" "Why, yes." I'm blinking at her. She does not look familiar; she looks, rather, young. A sudden dawning. "Did I give your student group the ACS 'scared straight' talk once?" "Yeah, then you met with some of us later in a cafe to talk about the Foreign Service." I'm so stunned I nearly lose hold of my bingo ice breaker activity sheet. "And you joined?!" "Well," she shrugs, "you guys were pretty convincing."

If she sucks and / or hates the job, I take no personal responsibility.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Thanks for the Encouragement

Two days into pre-Pakistan training, and not an hour of it has gone by without some fellow officer telling my how "difficult," if not "impossible," my job in Lahore will be. And that's if the person is being kind: one guy today was more frank in his assessment that Pakistanis hate us so much and so deeply that PD work in Pakistan was a "waste of time." He felt the need to press this point for some number of minutes. It was a little uncomfortable.

It's hard to respond to the cynicism -- somewhat problematic in and of itself as responding to cynicism looks to be the core of my duties over the next year. I'm not someone who thinks reaction to US policies and actions can be papered over with free concerts, and I loathe all the talk about needing to 'brand' our aid, as if the point of our spending was to buy friendship. I do think, however, that personal relationships between Americans and people of other nations can make a difference in attitudes, enough to maybe, hopefully, transcend the ups and downs of politics. That thought was why I chose the Public Diplomacy cone over the Political cone all those many years ago.

I hope I don't regret my choice. I really don't want to spend the next year wasting anyone's time, least of all my own.