Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Good Days & Bad Days

Well, they told us there would be good days and bad days in the Foreign Service. I just didn't know they would occur right after each other. Then again, a bad day is relative. I have friends who have lost their jobs in the past six months, so what I am about to whine about probably isn't even close to the description of a bad day.

Let's start with the good day first. Yesterday was the inauguration of our 44th President, Barack Obama. What an amazingly good day. We hosted an event at the Embassy in which 200 members of the local community (foreigners and Americans) watched the inauguration on the big screen. As I watched, I realized I was sitting between an African American business woman whose father was from Sierra Leone, and an American businesswoman from the east coast who does humanitarian work here. As President Obama said in his speech; 60 years ago in some places, African Americans were not even allowed to sit next to white people in the United States. Now, here I am in Africa serving my country and working for the US Embassy and sharing the event with people of all nationalities, cultures, and religions. I thought back to where I was a year ago and I never could have imagined I would be in Africa and watching our first African American president take the oath of office. I felt so proud of my country and the progress we have made. Here in the international community, the feeling is one of hope. It's as if President Obama is the "people's President." I have not heard one negative thing about him from anyone here; Americans or foreigners. Everyone wants to believe in him, wants to have hope that things will improve. I hope so too.

Ok, now for the bad day scenario. This is a part of life in the Foreign Service that sneaks up on you and causes you to remember that you have given up some personal freedoms to take this job. These are the sort of small annoyances that remind me that I desperately need a vacation away from Post and that the word "hardship" has substance. I came home tonight to the unwelcome sight of a new door on my apartment. Did I order a new door? No. Did I want a new door? No. Did I love the beautiful old antique wood door? Yes. Apparently there was some rumor that our doors were not meeting security code, so new doors were to be installed immediately. I was first on the list. The doors here are set in concrete block. They have to be chiseled out....and that creates a huge cloud of dust. I not only came home to an unwanted new door, but to an inch of dust covering every flat surface in my apartment. I don't know why they use the phrase "an inch of dust" because of course that's not anywhere near reality, but if you can write your name in the dust, then it's more than a little. If you are afraid to touch anything, then it's too much dust to tolerate. I left my apartment this morning at 7am and everything was clean and livable. Of course I can't clean anything tonight because this being Africa, they hung the door crooked and they have to chisel it out tomorrow and re-hang it. That means more dust tomorrow. Oh goody. Did I mention the 6 inch gap between the bottom of the new door and the floor of my apartment? I have to be very careful upon entering and exiting my apartment, less I fall into the moat area. They promised to find a solution to that dilemma tomorrow. For now, they have little pieces of cardboard and wood strips to remind me to hurdle the door frame. I hope no rats or small cats decide to enter my apartment tonight for the free lodging provided by the gap on the bottom of my lovely new steel door. At least the color is After I carefully navigated the moat, and discovered all the dust, I decided to change out of my Embassy attire and pour myself a nice glass of wine. Unfortunately, the workmen had locked the hallway leading to my bedroom and had not left a key! After two phone calls to track down the foreman and waiting 30 minutes for a response, someone called me and told me they had hidden the key under my tv remote control. How clever! By this time, I really needed that glass of wine. I didn't want to eat inside with all the dust, so I took my leftovers and the coveted glass of wine outside to my patio. Even dumber idea! Here in Sierra Leone, it's Harmattan season. That's when a strong wind blows across Africa and brings the dust from Sierra desert and spreads it all over everything outside. Of course all the chairs and the table on my patio were covered in dust, so now I have to deal with dust inside AND outside. I think I'll change that glass of wine to a bottle!

Love you and miss you....and you can be sure I'm busy planning that much needed vacation!