Monday, July 28, 2008

First Goodbyes

I said my first round of goodbyes tonight - a good friend is leaving this week for a month-long vacation overseas, and he won't return in time to see me before I go. (Actually, he gets back to New York at about the same time I'm leaving... unfortunately, our overlap of 2 hours is useless because he's at a different airport.) Oofh. It's finally beginning.

Housekeeping notes, also known as I'm too tired to make this into anything more coherent than a collection of sentence-long updates.
  • I ought to have my second assignment by 8 August, and things are just getting more exciting in my first-choice city. If I go to Istanbul, my arrival date there is June 2010. A lot can change between now and then. (For that matter, the summer of 2012 is probably the earliest date that State will discover how well qualified I am to work in Baghdad, and a lot of developments, hopefully all for the better, will occur between now and then.)
  • I've been following a new website, Crossroads Arabia, for the past few weeks, and I think it offers a refreshing look at Saudi society, which isn't the uniformly oppressive and scary face that we so often see in the media. The author, a former FSO, does a good job highlighting the often glacial attempts to reform civil society and governmental structure in Saudi Arabia. Keep an eye on that author for a more nuanced view of the Kingdom.
  • It's official: I will be the next-to-last person in my class to leave the country. I'm excited.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Final Final list

Friday update - this is the official thing. I should find out in a few weeks where I'm going.
  1. Istanbul, Turkey - political
  2. Baku, Azerbaijan - political/economic
  3. Bauk, Azerbaijan - political
  4. Nicosia, Cyprus - political/economic/public affairs
  5. UN general assembly + Madrid, Spain - political
  6. UN general assembly + Ljubljana, Slovenia - political
  7. UN general assembly + Ljubljana, Slovenia - economic
  8. Vienna, Austria - political/economic
  9. Berlin, Germany - economic
  10. Kyiv, Ukraine - economic
  11. Yekaterinaburg, Russia - public affairs
  12. Kyiv, Ukraine - public affairs
  13. Kyiv, Ukraine - management
  14. Adana, Turkey - consular/management
  15. Bern, Switzerland - management
  16. Manama, Bahrain - political
  17. Skopje, Macedonia - political
  18. Belgrade, Serbia - political
  19. Prague, Czech Republic - consular/political
  20. Lisbon, Portugal - political/economic
Vacation planning, here you go!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Short List

I'll have to narrow this down a bit more still (I have to calculate exactly how long training would take for each case) and put it all into the proper order. Some cities are repeated here to represent multiple positions. Also, I will be bidding on a short stint at the UN General Assembly from September-December 2009 in New York. But here's the casting call for my second tour. Comments?

Key: bold is relative high interest, italic is relative low interest. I culled these from a list of over 500 positions, so they really are all good places, I believe.

Adana, Turkey, consular/management
Ankara, Turkey, consular
Ankara, Turkey, information officer
Astana, Kazakhstan, management
Baku, Azerbaijan, political
Baku, Azerbaijan, political/econ
Beirut, Lebanon, consular
Belgrade, Serbia, political
Berlin, Germany, economic
Bern, Switzerland, management
Bratislava, Slovakia, economic
Canberra, Australia, political/consular
Canberra, Australia, political
Caracas, Venezuela, economic
Chisinau, Moldova, management
Istanbul, Turkey, political
Istanbul, Turkey, consular
Jerusalem, Israel*, management
Kuwait City, Kuwait, political/consular
Kyiv, Ukraine, economic
Kyiv, Ukraine, management
Kyiv, Ukraine, information officer
Lisbon, Portugal, political/economic
Ljubljana, Slovenia, economic
Ljubljana, Slovenia, political
Luxembourg, Luxembourg, public affairs
Madrid, Spain, political
Manama, Bahrain, political
Moscow, Russia, political
Moscow, Russia, management
New Delhi, India, political
New Delhi, India, political
New Delhi, India, cultural affairs
Nicosia, Cyprus, public affairs/political/economic
Nouakchott, Mauritania, public affairs
Oslo, Norway, political/economic
Prague, Czech Republic, consular/political
Sarajevo, Bosnia, consular/political
Skopje, Macedonia, political
The Hague, Netherlands, economic
Vatican, Vatican, management/political
Vienna, Austria, political/economic
Yekaterinburg, Russia, public affairs


*The consulate's in West Jerusalem. Don't give me any quibbles about where it's legally located.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Whoops

Well, I'd planned on rolling out the list of my bids for my second tour with great fanfare tonight. Unfortunately, my top choice, a two-year political rotation in the consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, was attacked today by militants possibly linked to al-Qaeda. No Americans or American employees were killed, although three Turkish police officers were killed defending the consulate. I'll forgo the usual sarcasm and offer some comfort, since most of you readers are related to me.

First of all, if you'll note on the map I linked above, this particular consulate is on a hill, with no buildings immediately nearby. This building is very new, less than a year old, and it was built because the old US consulate in Istanbul, dating back to the nineteenth century, was in the middle of the older part of the city and consequently was not very safe - surrounded by other buildings, no room to expand or to establish a security perimeter, etc. Moving embassies and consulates to the edge of town is a growing phenomenon, especially after the embassy bombings in 1998. That event shook up the way we look at securing State facilities, and it's important to note that despite numerous attempts since then, no attack on an embassy or consulate has been successful. I'm not trying to say that security is perfect. I am saying that we don't hire morons to do security for us. You can argue for days (and I assure you, plenty of State people have) about whether or not it's a good idea to present Fortress America as our local, public face to the world. Me, I'll trade some aesthetic pleasure for safety.

There's always an element of danger when going overseas, more so as an employee of the US government in the Middle East. But hell, I face danger walking down the street in DC. So, I know you will still worry, and I can't change that, but at least I can offer you some comforting words and the assurance that this is what I want to do, danger and all.

That's it for tonight. I'll post my bids in the next few days for my second tour, so you can start planning your potential vacations (if you're still willing to go abroad, that is!).

Friday, July 04, 2008

Symphonies!

Jordan, like other countries in the region (Lebanon, Syria) stages outdoor summertime concerts for tourists and locals alike. The ones in Jordan are normally held in Jerash, a city with fantastic Roman ruins about an hour north of Amman, but sometimes they're also held in Amman. On my last night in Jordan, I got to see a Jordanian Berklee-trained composter perform with the London Philharmonic in a Roman amphitheater in downtown Amman.

You just can't do this in the States, folks.