When does it start feeling real?
Posts tagged ‘Embassy’
Nearly lost in the shuffle of Kenya’s elections, our departure preparations, and last-minute travel was the fact that S has a new job, which she started at the end of January. In fact, she had accepted the offer to join the Embassy’s Economic Section last June, but the new job required a security clearance, which took many months to acquire.
One of the biggest draws of the Foreign Service is the opportunity to move every couple of years – to explore a new country, become familiar with a new culture, and then relocate to a new place to start the process of social exploration all over again. One of the few drawbacks to this lifestyle is that one has to move every couple of years. Packing up one’s whole life to start afresh elsewhere is apparently much more difficult and time-consuming when one has pets, kids, cars, and a whole house full of stuff than it was when we packed a couple of suitcases to study abroad for a year in college or join the Peace Corps.
Curious how life tends to loop around on itself sometimes. Like running into an old acquaintance while traveling in some remote part of the world. Or discovering that you and a new colleague lived a couple of miles apart as kids and had the same math teacher in high school. For D, life came full circle during a recent work event.
Even though it took almost a year for D to get his security clearance, the timing could not have worked out better. His swearing-in ceremony coincided with S’s graduation from grad school, and several weeks later we departed for our first overseas assignment. Although this timeline made for a hectic move, it also meant that S did not have to look for a job while she was finishing her degree in international public health. Not only did S not have to disrupt her career to follow D abroad, as many Foreign Service spouses do, but we also hoped that joining the Foreign Service would give her career a boost.
In the aftermath of the 1998 Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, a fierce debate ensued among our government leaders. On the one hand, some argued in favor of diminishing our presence on this continent, and especially in the volatile Horn of Africa, to reduce the risk to our diplomatic and development corps. Others countered that to withdraw in the face of terrorist attacks was the wrong response. They argued in favor of increasing our footprint abroad while making security upgrades to lower the threat profile of our embassies. This view ultimately carried the day, and not only did the State Department build a massive new embassy in Nairobi, but the Mission also began to grow by leaps and bounds.
Although we missed being home, Kenya was probably the best place to be outside of the United States to watch last night’s election coverage. With the first polls closing at 3am Nairobi time, and the election viewing breakfast set to start at 5am, we knew that a victor would not be declared before sunrise. The Kenyans who had been invited, however, did not want to miss a single thing and flocked to the event in droves. Arriving at the Ambassador’s residence a quarter before five, D found a long line of invitees snaking along the pavement, waiting to go through security.
The abrupt, and rather spectacular resignation of our last ambassador left a brief power vaccuum in the Embassy’s Executive Office. If this had been a small, sleepy post, the Embassy would have likely functioned without an ambassador until after the U.S. elections. Given Nairobi’s geo-political importance, however, the State Department deemed that the post could not go long without an acting Chief of Mission.