Thursday, December 22, 2011

Open Letter to the Secretary

Dear Secretary Clinton, 

I have a suggestion that would instantly boost the morale of every single Foreign Service Officer. Get rid of the Fly America requirement for official travel. It's stupid and more often than not it costs the traveller more time and the Department more money. A more efficient way to handle official travel is to determine a maximum cost for a route, let the officer arrange his/her own flight, and reimburse the officer up to the max amount. Just like we do for hotel costs. This change may require an act of congress, which I realize makes the chances of this actually happening close to zero. But if you could pull this off, you would be immortalized in bronze right next to Ben Franklin at FSI.

A travel-weary Foreign Service Officer

Friday, December 16, 2011

Balancing Solo

Occasionally I hear the catch phrase "work-life balance." It's often used in the same sentence as "family." My colleagues with families have great built-in excuses for maintaining a healthy work-life balance - "my kid's birthday is this weekend" or "tonight is my anniversary." My work-life balance activities, on the other hand, don't sound quite so noble - "I have a tennis lesson this weekend" or "I have a Pilates class tonight."

This is not a slam against my married-with-children colleagues. I know plenty of FSOs with families who work late when necessary. But for single FSOs, it's too easy to ditch our non-work activities for something that may seem urgent (but is it really?).  I think it's even more important for single FSOs to make a concerted effort to maintain a non-work life. We don't have kids in play groups or spouses in book clubs to help us meet non-work friends. CLOs seldom recognize the unique needs of single FSOs. So in most cases we're on our own to develop a non-work life. That can be difficult.

The last few months have been insanely busy. I've missed a lot of Pilates classes and can't remember the last time I played tennis. Maybe my new year's resolution for 2012 should be to take better care of myself.  Yeah, right.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Road Warrior

I rarely drive in Kathmandu. After I rear-ended a bus that stopped in the middle of an intersection for no apparent reason, I hired a full-time driver. But he has Saturdays off so that's the day I drive myself to the American Club. The normal road hazards encountered in Kathmandu include: narrow roads, potholes, piles of trash (sometimes burning), insane motorcyclists, clueless pedestrians, and sacred cows that are used to having the right of way. But today I had to battle a new hazard - hanging electrical wires. I've never had to navigate a vehicle around live electrical wires so as not to snag my side-view mirror (they didn't teach us that in Crash and Bang). I still can't believe some genius in DC decided to decrease Kathmandu's differential to 20.