Friday, July 24, 2015


Visitors. Talk to any expat and they'll almost certainly tell you, "No one comes to visit you." It doesn't matter where you go, how cool it is, or how easy (or hard) to get to it is. The sad fact remains that far fewer people come to visit you than you (or they) think will come. When we got this job we heard a chorus of "We'll come visit you!" When we got assigned India, we heard a multitude of people say, "I've always wanted to go to India, I'll definitely come visit!" However, in the end... the showing tends to be poor. I like to think this isn't a reflection on us (I do bathe...) or the people involved. The reality is that people have limited funds, limited vacation time, or other obligations that tend to get in the way. Also, once you're gone, there's an out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality.

Of course, we're not actually a good example, we've been fortunate enough to have a bunch of visitors, both family and friends. We've had people come for a few days or up to several weeks. It's been a huge morale boost for us. Every time a new person comes, you get the sense of awe and wonder of living in a new place all over again. There's a certain joy in dragging your visitors around town to experience all of your favorite or most unexpected things. We've definitely seen an appreciable increase in our moods while we have visitors. Besides which, it motivates us to get out and do things (fighting the constant intertia to hang out at home).

The downside to being in Chennai, is that almost everything our visitors want to see... is in north India, several hours' plane flight away. It's like visiting a friend in Florida, having always wanted to see the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls. Generally speaking our visitors just stop by on their way to see the more famous sights in India. Don't get me wrong, we still show people the local hot spots, and they certainly get a less touristy view of Chennai. We just feel bad every time we put someone on a plane to go see the Taj Mahal without us, because we're really not interested in seeing the same thing over-and-over when it includes 10+ hours of travel each way.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Actually a Diplomat, Part 2: Bastille Day!

Happy (early) Bastille day! (As previously mentioned, nobody wants to work on a holiday.) Tonight was the French representational event, celebrating Bastille Day. I was rather surprised to receive an invitation, but was grateful to accept. Let's be honest, who can say no to an evening of French food and wine!? It was a fun time and I left feeling sorry that the French Consulate is so far away (3 hours by car, in Puducherry), since it makes it hard to hang out with people I would otherwise have considered to be new friends.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Don't Cry for Me, Argentina (is my Next Post!)

Well... I won't say I had a pleasant evening. I must have eaten something that disagreed with me, and I spent all night paying for it. I was so ill that I couldn't walk more than a few feet without a break in the morning... HOWEVER, the one nice thing (?) about being sick in the middle of the night... is checking your work e-mail and seeing your next assignment!

Summer of 2016 will be busy: I'll be packing up, leaving Chennai, spending a summer in the US on home leave, and then settling in my second post, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Bidding wise, B.A. was in our top 10 (number 10, to be exact) and was a "high bid." We can't complain with that, especially considering the moderate hardship diffrential rating of Chennai, which directly effects bidding power.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Job Perks

Generally when you talk about "job perks," you're referring to monetizable benefits. Joining the Foreign Service is pretty much the opposite. This job is all about the "experience" fringe benefits. I'm not even talking about the swanky parties, getting to live overseas, or (possibly meeting) visiting VIPs.

Closer to 'work,' we have frequent drills and micro training sessions. Some are pretty normal (fire drill), but others can be quite novel! For example... I can count the number of times I put on a hazmat helmet or extinguished a fire at my previous jobs (any of them!) on zero hands. Besides, I (finally) have a job where I occasionally get to hit computers with giant hammers! Let's face it, that's the biggest job perk of them all.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Second Tour Assignment Update

Good news, everybody! We get to wait another week before learning the results of our bidding. I know what you were all thinking... "One week of suspense wasn't nearly enough, we really need to eek out as much anticipation as possible!"

All joking aside, it was kind of a bummer to get the e-mail announcing the delay, but that's how it goes. This is still only a taste of what we'll have to go through next bidding cycle, when we're not entry level anymore. It'll make this year's four weeks start-to-finish look like a cake walk!

Update: I got assigned!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Birthday United States! (Ok Ok, it's a few days early, but no one wants to work on a holday, right?) Tonight was the US "national day" representational event. Every country's diplomatic community celebrates one major holiday at their overseas posts ... It's fairly logical that ours is Independence Day. This event is loved by some, feared by others, but as the only event we throw that is allowed to be sponsored (by American companies...), it tends to be a big deal. Most of the Consulate staff participated in some way or another. It ended up being a heck of a party, with lots of good food and interesting people.

Forgive the glasses... my eyes looked like I was a madman...