Sunday, September 18, 2016

Great Post for Singles

It's bidding season. That time of year when Foreign Service Officers frantically research the list of projected vacancies, hoping to find the perfect at-grade, in-cone job at a post that suits their personal lifestyle. When a post profile says that a post is "great for families," it describes good schools and fun things to do for kids. When a post profile says that a post is "great for singles," it usually means there are a lot of bars and clubs and an active dating scene.

This may come as a surprise, but I don't particularly enjoy crowded bars and I'm not desperately seeking a husband. I don't claim to speak for all single female FSOs, but I can't imagine that I'm alone. So, here is what I consider to be a better set of criteria for a post that is "good for singles."

  • There are plenty of things to do on your own. There are festivals and museums. Hiking. Bicycling. Shopping. There are opportunities to pursue your hobbies.
  • You can go to a coffee shop, wine bar, or restaurant by yourself with a book and not feel awkward or completely ignored by the wait staff.
  • There are activities to do that don't require a partner and where you can meet non-work people. You can find a yoga or Zumba class. Join a book club. There are expat groups.
  • A single woman can walk around the city by herself without fear of being mugged or grabbed. 
  • The city is someplace your friends and family will want to visit.


I had started to write that I didn't think it was possible for a post report to describe a post in such a way to be useful for every possible variation of FSO. But then I deleted the sentence. Sure, it's possible. The first step would be for the Department to stop thinking about the diplomatic corps in outdated generalizations. Maybe that's a revolutionary idea for another blog post. For now, I'd be happy if we could update our thinking on what makes a "great post for singles."

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I Can't Stop this Feeling

While settling in to my new post in Vilnius, there have been multiple times when I realized how long it's been since I was at a "normal" overseas post. I left Nepal over four years ago, so that's how long it's been. My security in-brief here was considerably less onerous and scary than, say, the security in-brief in Kabul. It feels great to have a spacious living area, instead of a tiny apartment in Dupont Circle or a converted storage container in Kabul.

Adjusting to life overseas in Vilnius has been easy. I love everything about Vilnius. My apartment is in old town and there is so much within walking distance. Work is great. Vilnius is great. So, naturally, I'm just waiting for something to go horribly wrong. I mean, things can't stay this great, can they?

A few shots that capture the feel of old town Vilnius.
 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Settling In

Two years ago I learned that I would be arriving in Vilnius, Lithuania in the summer of 2016. Two weeks ago I finally made it to Lithuania. I'm still feeling my way around, but my first impressions are very good. Vilnius is lovely. The people are wonderful. My apartment is in an ideal location. The embassy and staff are great. So far I'm off to a great start. More soon


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Election Year Hardship Pay

As I conclude Public Affairs Officer tradecraft training before heading to Lithuania for my next assignment, my fellow classmates and I have spent quite a bit of time contemplating how to talk to foreign audiences about this presidential election. This will be my third presidential election overseas, but the first time I will likely have to directly answer questions from public audiences.

Sigh.

The typical public diplomacy tactic in this situation is to talk about the process, not about specific candidates or their policies. That proves difficult when one of the candidates suggests that the U.S. might not automatically fulfill its NATO obligations in the event of Russian aggression against the Baltics. What do you think our ambassadors in those countries (and their PD sections) will be talking about today (and tomorrow...)?

Foreign Service Officers get various differential pay adjustments for working in dangerous or difficult environments. Perhaps the State Department should consider "election year" hardship/danger pay for public diplomacy officers in the field during presidential elections.