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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)

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7 Comments

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

 

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2013 in review – according to the WP Stats Monkeys!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 49,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 18 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on December 31, 2013 in BOLIVIA, foreign service, TRAVEL

 

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What’s up with 1,337?

 

ImageSo, just got a note today that this blog had achieved [the mark of] 1,337 followers… Strange number, right? Not round, not exact… far from cabalistic… But, hey, I’ll take it… For whatever reason it is, WordPress people decided it was worth to send out the note… :o Oh, well, I do appreciate the ‘achievement’, and welcome any positive thoughts towards this blog’s way!!! 

Thank you for reading [and following!] <3

 
15 Comments

Posted by on April 24, 2013 in TRAVEL

 

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23 months of blogging, with over 120,000 visits… Thank you!

120,000 hitsMarch 2011 marked my very first blogpost: shared impressions from the world’s largest street carnival. It was obviously in Brazil, the country that lives and breathes popular festivities, and our assignment with the foreign service from 2010 to 2012.

From that point on, blogposts began to come out quite often, increasing the number of subscribers, comments, Facebook Page fans [over 230], Twitter followers [over 350], and blog followers [now at 983]. Being picked to be Freshly Pressed a couple of times by the WordPress editors was definitely a good burst on the social part of it, coupled with the recent popular vote for best Expat Blog about our current home, Bolivia; and the mention of being one of the best parental/family blogs for families wondering about life with kids in the foreign service, according to Gaddling, the world’s top travel blog. Many thanks! 

Screen shot 2013-02-27 at 8.40.18 AM

Today, another milestone was reached, having me surprised and pleased, finding out that our ‘family travel & photoblog‘ displayed over 120,000 visits.

Being passionate about your life experiences, sharing images and impressions, reporting what one sees happening around, somehow, pays back. At least, in the blogsphere… I’m inspired by the several bloggers who take part at the writing prompts, Weekly Photo Challenges, FrizzText and Jake Austria, probably being my very first inspiration (thank you both!); as well as, all the beautiful ideas shared by Ailsa, from ‘Where’s my Backpack?‘, with her travel theme challenges, and The Island Traveler, a parent, like many of us, who decided to share some beauty from their regular lives with the world…

Thank you all out there, parents, expats, bloggers, friends, for reading, commenting, following, and for offering a great deal of inspiration… blogging is fun! :o
What is your NEXT MILESTONE? Your Blog Milestone? Share here, if you care! Thanks!♥
 
12 Comments

Posted by on February 27, 2013 in expat, LANGUAGE

 

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2012 in review, according to the WordPress stats helper monkeys…

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 68,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

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A look back at 2012: why people came to this blog? At the end, we’re all stats junkies!

2012 will be over in a couple of days!

A very intense year, in many levels, scenarios… Our family moved several times throughout the year… we got to live in 3 different countries [Brazil, USA, Bolivia}, lived out of suitcases for a long time; kids had to say goodbye to their dear friends, and say ‘hello‘ to the ones becoming their new friends and teachers, adjusting to a new school, new cultures, and now, we’re happily settled in Nuestra Señora de La Paz, capital of Bolivia

Expat Blogs

At this moment, looking back at 2012, and preparing the ‘retrospective’: popular posts, interaction with other bloggers, popular searches/forums… good discussions… Good therapy, some may say – and I’m glad to agree :o – when it came to blogging, got a lot done this year, sharing our experiences, challenges regarding parenting, multilingual living, cultural adjustments… work… expatriate and family daily life…. So, why visitors, readers, commenters, came to this blog? Most of them are expatriates, like our own ‘nomad family’, some belong to the Foreign Service community, and are well familiar with the challenges faced by the 5 of us. Others, are parents, travelers, adventurers, looking for images, photos, tips about travel options, or simply… curious eyes in search of a good reading, or a funny/intriguing/amazing image from our travels and/or not-so-fantastic daily life!

Now, I find myself with some time after the Christmas holidays, and with a chance to pull together the ‘highs and lows’ of 2012, displaying my gratitude to the readers, commenter, frequent visitors, who always enrich this blogging journey! A big thank you to all!

For a ‘visual summary‘ of 2012, please hop over to this other post, especially crafted for WordPress‘s weekly photo challenge, the last one of 2012: A year through images!

For all the ‘fellow stats junkies’ out there [don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about! :o] here it is, this past year, through numbers… Who came in, looking for what, and the most popular posts… 

Top visitors {countries}: 

United States

Brazil

United Kingdom

Canada

India

Australia

Popular Posts/Articles

Highlights of 2011: Blogging one day at a time… Thank you for reading!

About us

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

Why “3rd Culture Children”?

Scientific investigation during Carnaval 2012…

The Supermoon and Cinco de Mayo

2012 displayed an average of 246 blog comments/month, averaging 186 views a day.

Here are the ‘top commenters‘ [thank you for the very positive interaction!] :o

journeyman1977 – Lucid Gypsy – colonialist – eof737 – fgassette – travelgardeneat 

And which ones were the most commented posts? The ones with the strongest human interaction? [Again, my deepest gratitude for all the feedback received!]

Post/Page

Comments

about us

157

Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrast

86

Weekly Photo Challenge: Through

77

Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting

70

Weekly Photo Challenge: Down

67

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sun

66

Weekly Photo Challenge: Two Subjects

64

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hope

63

Weekly Photo Challenge: Two Subjects [as one composition]

60

Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebration

59

See you all back in 2013! Let’s all have a great, peaceful and successful New Year! :o

Thanks for stopping by!

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…so, the blog morphed into more than just a quasi-travel and photo journal. I liked the idea of organizing not only our travel notes, but also providing resources for other parents, and encouraging an exchange of ideas through comments, questions and suggestions from viewers. The name for the blog came from the term itself: “3rd Culture Children” (TCKs, more information here) are children whose parents come from distinct cultures, and grow up under a hybrid environment, experiencing diverse cultural growth. 

Travels in Brazil, posts related to outdoors activities, cultural events, such as attending the world’s largest open air theater for the Re-enacting of the Passion of Christ, as well as the ones showing scientific investigations and natural discoveries, seemed to be quite popular! 

‘Adventure‘ popular posts:

Visiting the Archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, swimming along with marine dolphins (Brazilian Atlantic coast, World Heritage Site, according to UNESCO)

Builiding a Hanging Garden using Recycled PET Bottles – teaching the importance of respecting the environment.

I’m grateful to Ruth Bailey, for the recent nomination – the 7 x 7 Link Award, where one’s supposed to highlight 7 recent important blogposts. Many thanks to Cyclingrandma, for offering the Good Apple award.

Nominated by a couple of bloggers in 2011 & 2012

Thank you, ClaudiaJohnson, for the nomination!

For a working mom, juggling with the work-life balance, in charge of anything from grocery shopping to planning trips, I’m honored. I’m so pleased to share with other expatriates, parents, and traveling families, the beauty and excitement of traveling, exploring nature (I’m a biologist!), languages (we’ve got Spanish, Portuguese and English in our household!), social/cultural adjustments, and our not-so-professional advice as “parents-on-the-go“ – imagine hauling this family of 5 around, raising multi-language TCKs, and keeping the passion for photography and story-telling?! 

 
 
14 Comments

Posted by on December 29, 2012 in expat, foreign service, post a day, TRAVEL

 

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Twenty months of blogging, and the 100,000 hits milestone is reached. Thank you!

Credit: Google Images

http://sassandbalderdash.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/one-lovely-blog1.jpg?w=227&h=270&h=270 March 2011 marked my very first blogpost: shared impressions from the world’s largest street carnival. It was obviously in Brazil, the country that lives and breathes popular festivities, and our assignment with the foreign service from 2010 to 2012. From that point on, blogposts began to come out quite often, increasing the number of subscribers, comments and blog followers. 

Today, a great milestone was reached, having me surprised and pleased, finding out that our ‘family travel & photoblog‘ displayed over 100,000 visits.

Being passionate about your life experiences, sharing images and impressions, reporting what one sees happening around, somehow, pays back. At least, in the blogsphere… I’m inspired by the several bloggers who take part at the WordPress writing prompts, Weekly Photo Challenges, FrizzText and Jake Austria, probably being my very first inspiration (thank you both!); as well as, all the beautiful ideas shared by Ailsa, from ‘Where’s my Backpack?‘, with her travel theme challenges, and The Island Traveler, a parent, like many of us, who decided to share some beauty from their regular lives with the world… It’s great to have wonderful people out there, to look up to! I’m very grateful for all the support, and couldn’t have found a better time to show my gratitude [Thanksgiving just around the corner!]

Thank you all out there, parents, expats, bloggers, friends, for reading, commenting, following, and for offering a great deal of inspiration… Now, moving on to the next 100K visits… blogging is fun! :o

Now, now is it, for you all? What is your NEXT MILESTONE? Your Blog Milestone? Share here, if you care! Thanks!♥

 
20 Comments

Posted by on November 8, 2012 in expat, foreign service, LANGUAGE

 

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