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So Where Have I Been? August 1, 2009

Posted by KG in FS Life, India, State, Travels.

The wife and I returned from Delhi on July 2, and were thrown directly into the wonderful world of Overseas Mission Fourth of July Parties.  See, back in America the Fourth is about chillin’ and grillin’.  When you’re working for the Department, overseas?  It’s work.  The Fourth of July is the day the office (Embassy, Consulate, whathaveyou) invites out important contacts to wine and dine them, with an inevitable red, white, and blue tinged theme.  The wife took care of decor for Consulate Mumbai’s party this year, while I served as MC.  And there were burgers — real burgers!  Sadly, no hotdogs.  Maybe next year.

Fate and U.S. policy priorities meant that there was no rest after the 4th.  The entire consulate immediately started working on the next big thing, a visit from the Secretary of State. Hence the rollercoaster.

Many of the more frequent destinations for a Secretary’s visit have well established procedures in place.  Mumbai is not a frequent destination — the last time a sitting Secretary came to Mumbai was in 2000, and that trip was reportedly for about five hours en route to somewhere else — so we weren’t so lucky.   We’re also an extremely “young” post, at least amongst the American officers and specialists, with about 90% of us on our first or second tours.  (The big boss is magnanimous about this, calling us a “next generation Foreign Service post.” In my more snarky moments, I prefer “inexperienced.”)  The lack of institutional knowledge was huge.  We faced a number of other challenges, ranging from the city’s geography and infrastructure, to the minutaie of the local airport’s operations, to the late-coming but still drenching clouds of monsoon.  And since almost every single movement of a Secretary of State needs to be planned for in excruciating detail, we had a hell of a task ahead of us.

Thankfully, we pulled it off, though the runup was extremely stressful and more than a bit chaotic.  Circumstances and plans were fluid until the last possible moment, as were our roles.    I think the final count for the number of role changes the wife had stands at 6, and I didn’t receive final instructions on what the office needed me to do until around three hours before the Secretary landed.  It was no rest the entire weekend of her trip, but word from HQ is that everything went extremely well.

And after that?  How about another trip?  I was “control officer” for our Consul General on a trip to Aurangabad.  The CG met with student groups and local business leaders, and the meetings were rather interesting.  One theme that emerged: local literary types are fascinated by African-American literature, and do a substantial amount of comparative work between it and the writings of Marathi dalits.  We had no idea about this fascination, but I took every opportunity to reach back and talk about literature with some very erudite people.

Now: we’re bidding.  And planning a vacation.  There’s a list of jobs and places that we’re staring at every day, and emails we’re sending to friends around the world for advice, for insight, for contacts.  The entire exercise of trying to figure out where to go next is harrowing and frustrating.  Actually, that’s too kind.  Let’s be honest: no matter how good or how connected you are, bidding sucks.  Show me an officer who says they enjoy bidding, and I’ll show you a liar.

That’s that from my end of the world.  Long blog hiatus, I know.  If it were because we were busy having fun, I’d feel a little better — but really, I don’t think the stress of late is of the “fun” sort.  R&R, however, is 27 days away.



1. Digger - August 14, 2009

I have never met anyone who said bidding was fun. I am doing it for the fourth time in four years (ah, one year tours…) and I HATE it.

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