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Wonders of life as a Foreign Service Family – Life at the New Post.

Greetings from Brasilia!

Brasil_MeioAmbiente2

After several weeks of ‘transitional homes’ we safely made it to our permanent housing assignment. And why is it important to mention it is a ‘permanent house’? Maybe for the curious ones, with friends cruising thru the joys of the Foreign Service life, there’ll be a long explanation out there waiting to be spelled out. :o For now, it’s enough saying we’re glad we don’t have to move to a difference residence. We’re comfortable and settled down. At least, as comfortable as possible – kids have enrolled into a Summer camp program, and we’re getting to know new families, learning the ropes for the city…

What and where to find our immediate needs for the house (forgot to mention that, although we like our ‘new place’, it’s pretty bare, hence the need to go out and buy not only groceries, but trash cans, cleaning products… You name it!).

The illusion of two hands together reaching up to the sky creates the Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasilia
The illusion of two hands together reaching up to the sky creates the Metropolitan Cathedral of Brasilia

Despite all the usual initial difficulties, inherent to the nature of the move, we believe we’ll have a nice time here. That’s the ultimate hope. We now have cable TV and internet – a great milestone! Kids have already made friends with some other children who would likely be attending the same school. We’re trying to build our own niche, despite the smell of fresh coat of paint that greets us every time we come back to the house… :)

I believe we’ll be happy here – at least we’ll try… Right now, wearing my most-hopeful-foreign service-spouse hat… The only one I was able to fit on our suitcase… Yeap, the same suitcase I’ve been living out of, for the past 8 weeks… But, who’s counting, right? :)

Now, let me get back to checking on my 3 little ones – just heard some clapping, so, I’m assuming the movie outside-and-popcorn event just ended – will go hug my kids with the most thankful smile to the Summer Camp supervisors and organizers: they enabled this very busy mom to enjoy some quiet time (and a coffee!), while getting back on the blogosphere horse!

Ate mais!

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Wonders of life as a Foreign Service Family – Random Thoughts on Home Leave

Well, we’re back in Washington, DC – the last part of our ‘transitional’ Home Leave, surviving thru the perks of living out of our suitcases since May 19… but you know, not bad at all! :o No complaints on hauling our three children around, departing La Paz, Bolivia, heading to California for some family catch up… taking the kiddos to Disneyland and Legoland, surviving the long lines, the screaming, the cries for attention and for over-priced popcorn… picking up a few family members along the way, driving all of us to witness in loco the magnificent views offered by the Grand Canyon… and flying back to the East Coast… much has happened, and definitely, no time to spare… not even for blogging!

Need to do a better job trying to catch up with our lives… Haven’t had much free time, I must admit – the little ones keep me on my toes, and as any parent around here must know, Summer Break has all of us [parents] pulling our hair trying to find educational, recreational, interesting and fun activities for our lovies, during this time… it’s work, people… and we’ve been doing this for some 5 weeks already.. again… living out of suitcases, staying with family, long car rides… a few car sicknesses along the way… always fun! :o

Now, it’s home stretch – a few days in the DC area, and we head out to our newest work and life adventure – Brasília, the capital of Brazil [yeap, the beautiful country that just put out the most unbelievable performance during the recent World Soccer Cup – don’t even get me started on that… as a Brazilian-born soccer-passionate soccer-mom-wife, I’m still recovering from the ‘bad dream’ many of us witnessed these past weeks…] Our family will be in Brasília for the next 3 years. Husband’s duty, as many wives/spouses here would relate and sympathize... :o

Presently writing from a government-per-diem-acceptpleasant hotel room, packed with my noisy and restless adorable and very understanding little children, enjoying some quite time while I gather my blogging thoughts together [who am I kidding?? And why do we need to have both TVs on, and so loud??] But, all in all, I guess we’re ready for what’s in store for us… let’s wait and see! :o

Classic pic, right? Gotta have your moment in the sun with Mr Mouse! A quick snapshot from our first stop during Home Leave 2014 - not-yet-tired parents at Disneyland!

Classic pic, right? Gotta have your moment in the sun with Mr Mouse! A quick snapshot from our first stop during Home Leave 2014 – not-yet-tired parents at Disneyland!

 

 

 

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A Traveler In The Foreign Service: The Best Foreign Service Blogs, by Dave Seminara.

Guest Post by Dave Seminara

smoking huge joint womanThe World Wide Web is saturated with amateurish blogs created by people who’d be lucky to command the devoted readership of their immediate family members, let alone the wider public. There are scores of blogs managed by Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and while many of them are worth reading, some aredownright bizarre. This post will steer you toward some Foreign Service related blogs that are well worth your time.
I started this series nine months ago to help people get a better understanding of what life in the U.S. Foreign Service is like. Many of the posts have been about my experiences but I’ve also introduced readers to an intrepid, single female diplomat fresh off of tours in Syria and Pakistan, a diplomatic courier, a USAID Foreign Service Officer currently serving in Afghanistan and others. But spend some time at the sites listed below to get a flavor of what it’s like to represent the U.S. Government in The Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Pakistan and dozens of other exotic locales.

One major caveat here is that FSOs have to be careful what they write because free speech only takes you so far in the precarious, uber-cautious world of government service. Most FSOs have disclaimers on their sites warning that the views expressed are their own, but many still tend to steer clear of tackling political issues or anything controversial.Peter Van Buren, a now retired diplomat who wrote “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People,” was effectively driven out of the Foreign Service partially because he posted a link to a cable on WikiLeaks and made some disparaging remarks, which he later apologized for, about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on his website.There’s no doubt that his experience has had a chilling effect across the board, so visit the sites below to get the low-down on the Foreign Service lifestyle and the travel opportunities, not the dirty underbelly of how diplomacy plays out overseas.Some of the blogs below contain little, if any biographical info, and I wasn’t able to read each one in its entirety, so my apologies in advance if my impressions of these blogs below miss the mark. That said, I would invite the authors of these fine sites to tell us more about themselves, if they dare, in the comments section.DiplodunitDomani Spero has no U.S. government connection and thus has the freedom to write about the world of diplomacy without having to worry about his career. Diplodunit is as close as you’ll find to one-stop shopping for a candid look at what’s going on in the Foreign Service community.

Adventures in Good Countries- Getting Along In The Foreign Service

I love this blog. The author, apparently a single female public diplomacy officer who, “doesn’t date outside the visa waiver program,” blogs with style and passion about life in Japan, Pakistan, Jordan and elsewhere, coping with Multiple Sclerosis and whatever else pops into her head. How can you not like a writer who offers advice to protesters on how to construct a good effigy? (“Don’t just throw something together with the rationale that you’re only going to burn it anyway – take some pride in your work.”)

We Meant Well

You might not agree with Peter Van Buren but you will want to read his blog, which is sometimes offensive but never boring.

Third Culture Children

This blog, which details the lives of a family of five living in Recife, Brazil, La Paz, Bolivia and elsewhere, is one of the very best Foreign Service related sites out there. It’s a particularly good resource for parents who are wondering what the overseas experience will be like for their children.

amy gottlieb usaidAmy Gottlieb’s Photography & Blog

Gottlieb is a doctor and a USAID FSO currently serving in Vietnam. Her portraits from Jamaica, Nepal, Vietnam, South America, Africa and beyond are as good as any you’ll find anywhere.

Adventures Around the World- A Foreign Service Officer’s Tales of Life Abroad

The author of this refreshingly candid and well-written blog is currently in Kabul and has previously served in Iraq and Nepal. Here’s how she described the “honeymoon” period at a new post: “The honeymoon period is the time frame after moving to a foreign country where the excitement of being somewhere new overshadows certain harsh realities of living in a foreign country. People burning piles of trash in the street give the place ‘character’ and bargaining with a taxi driver is part of the ‘adventure.'”

Worldwide Availability

This is a stunning photo blog from an American diplomat who was born on a farm in China and is currently serving in South Korea. Visiting this site is the next best thing to booking a ticket to Seoul. Also, for those who are curious to know how long it takes to join the Foreign Service, take a look at his instructive personal timeline for some clues.

Wanderings of a Cheerful Stoic

Anyone who features a photo of themselves (I presume) with a Gambian poached rat on their homepage is all right by me. This is a blog from a FSO posted in Conakry, Guinea, a place where “you tend to find yourself without a really specific reason.”

The Slow Move East- Thoughts on Being an Expatriate

Hannah Draper, a FSO currently serving in Libya, might be a “Type-A bureaucrat who professionally pushes papers in the Middle East,” but her writing is compulsively readable.

Where in the World am I? Notes from the Streets of Hyderabad, India

A FSO in Hyderabad who previously served in Burundi blogs about food and life overseas with gusto.

Cross Words- A Blog About Writing and Anything Else That Comes to Mind

Ted Cross, a FSO currently living in Budapest who apparently just signed up for Facebook last week (Friend him!), tells us on his homepage that his “dream is to be a published author.” I like someone who isn’t afraid to tell the world what he wants. He’s into fantasy and science fiction, neither of which interests me, but his blog is unique and his writing is lucid.

Four Globetrotters- The (Most Likely) Incoherent Ramblings of a Sleep-Deprived Single Mother Living Overseas with her Trio of Kiddos

Anyone who can pull off being a single mom in the Foreign Service is someone I want to meet. This blog, written by a former Foreign Service brat, isn’t nearly as incoherent as advertised.

Beau Geste, Mon Ami- The Chronicle of my Journey to and through The Foreign Service

Even a quick breeze through this visually appealing blog will give you an idea of how varied and interesting life in the Foreign Service can be. If nothing else, do not miss the photos of the tribal warriors in Papua New Guinea.

Zvirdins at Large- Jamie and Andrew’s Excellent Adventures

If you want a slice of life from the Marshall Islands, this is the place to go. I love this blog but I couldn’t bring myself to click into the video entitled “Pig Shooting” in a post on “Pig Butchering.” Yikes.

Let me know in the comments section if you think I’ve missed any great FSO-related blogs and if you’re the author of ones of the sites mentioned above, tell us a bit about yourself.

Read more from “A Traveler in the Foreign Service” here.

(Photos courtesy of Amy Gottlieb)

Read more from “A Traveler in the Foreign Service” here.

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This year’s April issue of the Foreign Service Journal (FSJ, April 2012) discussed the Family Member Employment, and the search for meaningful work overseas. Reading through the whole edition, you’ll find great stories about living and working as a Foreign Service spouse. Several FS spouses shared their experiences and impressions regarding working overseas. It’s an honor to be one of the contributors to this edition. Congratulations to all who contributed to that month’s issue. Here’s the link to another FS blogger, also sharing her impressions about family member employment.

Giving expats a hand

A Traveler In The Foreign Service: A ‘Trailing Spouse’ Speaks Out (gadling.com)

Career options overseas (anagentswife.wordpress.com)

 
7 Comments

Posted by on March 12, 2014 in expat, foreign service, TRAVEL

 

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{Weekly Writing Challenge} Parenting as a Cliffhanger…

When being called “Incredibly Good” is really not good for children?

Great Wednesday, although it began with a not-so-welcoming weather in La Paz – the rainy season has arrived, and flooded streets displaying the hectic driving behavior are definitely not the best place to be! The inspiration for this ‘quasi-op-piece’ comes from the idea of leaving the readers ‘hanging’ [thanks, Michelle W., btw!]’, while I freely start a discussion on possible strategies on parenting well-rounded children [or lack of thereof!].

Back to work, as expected, and having the opportunity to read the paper before the work day starts is key! The Washington Post column on ‘Parenting’ called my attention with an article on ‘Stop heaping praise on your kids’, by Amy Joyce, really brought some thoughts up, as well as, a few questions and concerns.

STOP PRAISING YOUR KIDS??

Not really, but let’s keep on moving on. Also, nobody should be telling us what to do regarding the way we bring our kids up, correct? :o

We’ve all done it, stated Amy Joyce. But I’m sure not all of us knew we might be hurting our kids by doing it… At least, I did not know. How could I? Simply trying to work my best magic tricks when it comes to parenting…

Why would we, parents, knowingly harm our children?

Let’s start thinking! Continue reading

 
19 Comments

Posted by on January 8, 2014 in children, expat, FAMILY, foreign service

 

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‘Backward’ Tale – The Boy and The Girl.

 WeddingIt’s been a nice hand, more precisely, a full house,

with three Queens and two Kings

It’s been a roller coaster… living and moving…

And adjusting… and moving again.

They traveled because of work,

They moved because it’s their passion.

It’s been nine years and eleven months
Since the boy and the girl have wed.

One decade awaits to celebrate their togetherness

But it was not always like that


The boy had dreams

The girl had fears

And yet, they were so alike…

The girl had left her home country,
Her job would take her to a far away land

The boy would wait for her.

He had found a job, he had finished school.

His job would yet take him to far away lands

But the boy liked to travel

And so did the girl.

boy and girlThere have been financial difficulties.

There have been physical distances

There have been emotional challenges

But the boy and the girl have never given up.

That boy and that girl had met some twelve years back

And could not wait to meet up again… and again…

They traveled to see each other

They traveled because of work.

They traveled to unknown places, for the ordinary pleasures of moving, seeing and learning…

Even if there had been no money to travel, they would still do it

And simply pay for it later.

Some twelve years ago,

The boy had gone to the girl’s home country

To learn a new language,

To learn a new culture,

To find himself into a whole new adventure.

Without even looking for it,
He discovered love

And so did the girl.

Neither one of them had ever believed in love at first sight.

The boy and the girl were probably the most skeptical people on the face of the Earth,

But those two were so wrong!

And they found what they were missing, on each other

Some twelve years back…

Now, the boy and the girl have aged

And they are proud to show their hand: they’ve got the most perfect full house

With three Queens and two Kings….♥

king-and-queen-of-hearts-playing-cards-courting-each-other

This post is written in response to WordPress’ Weekly Writing Challenge. The details of the challenge can be found here.

 
36 Comments

Posted by on September 9, 2013 in FAMILY, foreign service, LOVE

 

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UPDATED: “Moving is the 3rd most stressful life event”…

A long time has gone by since I prepared this blogpost… And yet, it remains so current! Even celebrated my birthday surrounded by bubble wrap & moving boxes – it was pack out season! :o The original post was “Inspired by the FS Blog Round Up, I decided to do some research and put together a pack of interesting information about moving and packing, including my personal comments. Some of the “facts” were actually quite new to me.

Others, made me laugh. What about a bit of my life as a ‘rolling stone’? :o That’s exactly how I feel, moving every so often!

Also found some “advice” on moving with small children – supposedly, “moving with kids could be a breeze, if you plan ahead”. This is probably my favorite, and I ask: “how much ahead to you need to plan? maybe before you were joined by your kids??” :o

Anyway, here are some of the ‘facts’ about moving and packing:

Comment: Really?! Would have never guessed! :o Moving is trauma, ranked right up there with getting a divorce, losing a job or burying a loved one. But chances are you already know that. So here comes the question:

So.. Why we do it???

** just a rhetorical question! We all look forward to those intense

finding-sorting-wrapping-packing-storing days!

  • One-sixth of all Americans, an estimated 43 million people, move each year. (U.S. Census Bureau)

Comment: And 50% of all moves take place between Memorial Day and Labor Day – that’s just weird – no idea why the preference! [** And recently I learned it was because of the U.S. school year/calendar (thanks, Carla!)… now it does make sense – another hint that I’m a foreign-born spouse!] :o

  • Individuals move 11.7 times in their lifetime. (from: U.S. Census Bureau)

Comment: Already crossed that mark, even before meeting the husband and joining the FS…

  • The typical moving customer is a married couple between the ages 25 and 44, with one or two children between the ages of 2 and 11.

Comment: Good to know we’re not alone. It comforts me to know there are several other parents out somewhere, screaming and kicking … 

And here are some of the “advices”:

  • Get back to normal: For the sake of the entire family’s happiness, try not to take too long to resume doing what your family enjoys.

Comment: I’d really appreciate knowing how to get back to normal after a move, not taking long to resume to your ‘normal’ routine. Maybe I’m always too busy trying to prevent the kids from killing each other, that I may loose focus…

  • Pack late (late?) – The actual process of packing up and putting things away in boxes may be emotionally trying for preschoolers, as they see familiar and favorite objects disappear into boxes. Try to pack your preschoolers’ belongings as late in the moving schedule as possible, and reassure them that their belongings will be going to the new house.

Comment: You don’t realize how much stuff your kids have until you start packing.  BTW, where are the kids? Make sure the answer to your question is on the top of your to-do list! 

  • Pace Yourself: Your already busy schedule keeps you on your feet at all times, and moving adds a whole new list of things to do.  Plan ahead. Give yourself several weeks to pack for your move, that way you are only packing a few boxes a day. This will decrease the amount of time you need away from your everyday responsibilities, including your kids. In other words, it’s not only about keeping your kids busy, but it’s about making yourself more available during your move.

Comment: Would love to know how to pace myself. One day I’ll learn. Not next year. Not in this decade. Also, how could I “buy” several weeks ahead, for packing before a move? If I’m able to manage a semi-smooth “packing & moving” event, ensuring that our car keys and travel documents won’t be packed away with our HHE, I’ll be pretty lucky!:o  Here is some good advice (at least for me!) about keeping it real for the traveling children (thanks to “Family-Travel-Scoop”): Do talk frankly with your children about the move Do let your child express his/her feelings Do acknowledge their frustrations/anger Do research the country you are moving to with your child Do let your child say goodbye properly to the place you are leaving Do expect an adjustment period when your child has mixed emotions Do keep traditions from home alive in your new home Do maintain regular ties with family back “home” Do bring items (e.g. framed pictures) and put them in each home you live in a similar place Do involve your child with any decisions that may affect him/her if possible

Good luck to all the ones moving out this season! I’m glad we don’t have to think about packing for at least, another year…

 
28 Comments

Posted by on April 8, 2013 in FAMILY, humor, TRAVEL

 

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‘Hardship Homemaking': contributing to the collaborative blog…

Post originally prepared as a contribution to the Hardship Homemaking collaborative blog, which is a back to basics blog for recipes, tricks, and tips to make life overseas at hardship posts easier”. The blog is a collaborative effort, with several authors, each one sharing unique experiences and life backgrounds, most of them, with real examples of life in the Foreign Service, its implications, challenges and strategies to overcome them.

“Handling Fruits and Vegetables: Sanitary Tips

Living at hardship posts offers more than challenges to all ‘household managers’ out there. If offers us the opportunity to learn – through advice from our peers, through our own research, through experience and why not say, through mistakes – ours or someone else’s – while facing similar situations. A common concern among families living at hardship posts is ‘how to offer the best, healthiest diet to my family?’- and that includes not only how to “optimize” your grocery shopping budget, but how to ensure those beautiful fruits and veggies will be safe for consumption, even before they’re tossed in the fridge, or beautifully displayed on a fruit bowl!…” [continue reading]

Curious to learn more tips on this and other topics? Hope over to the Hardship Homemaking collaborative blog! Thank you for the interest…

 
4 Comments

Posted by on March 6, 2013 in expat, FAMILY, FOOD, foreign service

 

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