Friday, November 23, 2007

Thoughts on the MESA Conference

i survived the one-two punch of MESA in Canada and Thanksgiving this week. A few highlights of the trip:
  • The wonderful experience of being back with academics. i've missed it, really. The talks i got to attend were very useful - ranging from security strategies in the Gulf to sociology of the Saudi ruling family.
  • My first real interaction as a Department of State employee with academics. My name tag had the DoS affiliation on it, and i got dirty looks from some people, and more than a few double-takes from people in conversation, as they realized halfway in that i worked for The Dark Side. It's a good thing to keep in mind, i suppose, but i do think it's a shame that this rift exists. There's a lot DoS could pick up from these conferences if they would send more people to them, and perhaps it would do something to burnish our reputations somewhat.
  • The book fair. Several major publishers were there, offering 20% to 30% discounts on their titles. A lot of those are available online, so if anyone is interested in perusing the Middle East publication lists of Brill, Palgrave, McMillan, and others, let me know. You can use the codes i got (Laura, Joanna, Mark, et al, i'm looking at you).
  • Canadians. Amazing, amazing people. When we got off the bus from the airport to the train station in Ottawa, i didn't realize that my wallet (with driver's license, two credit cards, and all the cash i'd just changed into Canadian dollars) had fallen out of my pocket. The bus actually stopped and waited while one of the passengers got out and chased me down the sidewalk to return it. As the bus left (and my and my colleague Joe's jaws hit the ground), everyone on it cheerily waved at us. Sheerly, utterly amazing.
  • Attempting to get into various US diplomatic missions. We took photos in front of Embassy Ottawa, and our entreaties to get in to Consulate Montreal were quickly rebuffed - evidently our excuse of "we're entry-level officers going to consulates next year, and we'd love to meet with some of our colleagues here to talk to them about their experiences here" didn't fly. (To be fair, our real goal was to use the bathrooms inside the consulate, just to see if our State ID badges would get us in. No dice.)
That's about it for now... my mind is a bit fried from constant travel and to-dos for the past week and a half. Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday!


  1. Thats really cool about their returning your wallet.

  2. hmm . . . maybe i really should move to canada