Friday, May 31, 2013
Well, folks, we have moved again. When I joined the foreign service five years ago, I never thought I would have served in four foreign countries in those five years. My first assignment (2008-2010) was Freetown, Sierra Leone. My first hardship post and probably the most poverty stricken country of all, it created my best memories and my longest lasting friendships. I always say if I survived Freetown, I can survive anywhere. Next stop was five months in Washington, DC, which, after two years in Africa, felt like a foreign country. Language training was challenging and unorganized, but I muddled through. Let's just say that taking the oral text on the last day of class was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do besides giving birth, Next time I will take all 5 months of the course instead of joining late due to "needs of the service." Not having language skills at your future post hurts you for the duration of your assignment. Note to new readers: If your position is LD (Language Designated) TAKE the full language training. You will never regret it. After DC, I spent a year in Berlin. What a cold year that was. I didn't write much because I was very busy at work and very busy on the weekends visiting Lee, who lived 7 hours away. In summer 2011, I was invited to work for Ambassador Rowe in Maputo, Mozambique. It was thrilling to be back in Africa again--back to the warmth of the people and the weather. We made so many good friends there. I still cannot believe we were only there 18 months. But during that time, we lived our lives to the absolute fullest.
Insert interesting paragraph here: One of the great benefits of foreign service life is sharing your overseas experiences with family and friends. We invite people to come and visit us and a LOT of them actually come! People living in the United States tend to be fairly sheltered when it comes to traveling. I know I was NOT a geography guru before I joined the foreign service. I want people to experience other corners of this vast world--to see new things and to have empathy for other cultures. How can you really learn those ideals and values if you don't actually spend time in country? CNN can only go so far. I really believe if we understand each country more, then we would have a better chance to create peace and harmony. In Mozambique, we had our dear friends Cathy and Ro and Jim visit us for nearly two weeks. We had my niece Lynn, visit for three weeks, and we had my niece Amy and her husband Chris visit for over a week. But the absolute outstanding visit of all was when we invited my daughter and Lee's daughter to visit over Easter vacation and somehow we ended up hosting 6 guests all at once! Then, after taking those 6 guests to three foreign countries in five days, we topped off their visit by GETTING MARRIED! We not only showed them the unique culture of South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique, but we shared the wedding customs of Maputo by having our very own wedding on the beach. The photos were stunning, the kids had a great time and I like to think we sent 6 mini-Ambassadors back to the U.S. to tell their family and friends what Africa is really like.
Which brings me to my current posting: U.S. Embassy Banjul, The Gambia; my third African post and also my third hardship post. Lee and I have been here a month now, and have formed a few impressions and had a few interesting exchanges with this little, tiny country that is almost totally enclosed within the country of Senegal on the west coast of Africa. Antidotes to follow in my next blog, as this one seems to have grown to a length not originally intended by the author.
Keep living life to the fullest, challenge yourself to learn new things, smile at strangers and look forward to my next blog involving seashells and cow manure.