Monday, August 24, 2015


I got promoted! Whoo hoo, par-tay, celebraaaaaaate! Oh wait, it was an administrative promotion*; I earned it merely by not getting fired over the last 18 months. Well, whatever, it still counts! If I keep up this rate of promotion, I think I'll be running the entire Department of State in like... 10 years. NOTE: That is not how it works.

On a more serious note, my cohort received our 18 month administrative promotions from FS 5 to FS 4 beginning this pay period. It's the first milestone in our IMS careers, next up: Tenure**. Unforunately, getting tenure is a merit-based-competitive thing, so we may not all get it at the same time (on our first try). Then again, my cohort was pretty awesome, so you never know.

* An "administrative promotion" is a pay grade increase that is guaranteed as part of your hiring. It is non-competitive and kind of represents the end of your 'training period.' Getting them depends on your position and the grade at which you enter the service. Since all IMS have the same job and grade coming in, we all get an upgrade after 18 months.

** Tenure is a formalization of your job with the State Department. It represents the end of your 2 to 6 year probational employment. Effectively, there's not much difference (for Specialists), except that once tenured you're eligible for competitive-promotion. Also, if you don't receive tenure on your 3rd attempt, you're effectively terminated from the foreign service.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Actually a Diplomat, Part 3: Now I'm just Cheating.

It kind of seems like I'm cheating at this point. I mean, I'm not sure it counts as "successful diplomacy" when I "score" a mention in the Consulate's facebook feed... but you know what, I'll take it anyway. You know how many government agencies put me on their social media before taking this job? Zero (At least... as far as I know?)
"If I had to pick my favorite thing about living in Chennai, it would have to be the food. I’m a bit of a fanatic when...
Posted by U.S. Consulate General Chennai on Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Traveling in India (or: how I learned to stop worrying and love staying home)

It takes so much willpower not to use a Dr. Strangelove style subtitle for every post... Anyway, let me start off by specifying that this post is heavily biased by the fact that I have a 3 year old, who hates being in the car-seat. We ordered a "mifold" booster seat for him (pictured); we're hoping that'll be slightly better, but they're not even being sold yet.

Traveling in India is not like anywhere else I've traveled. It is an enormous country, with countless things to see, but every time we go to plan a trip, we encounter the same stumbling block. Namely? It is an enormous country... and while there are tons of things to see, they tend to be very spread out.

Almost every itinerary we find includes a 2-4 hour flight and then several (often per day) 2-5 hours drives. Ooty is an excellent example. Every major Indian city has nearby "hill stations," high(er) elevation cities that are used to escape the heat of summer by locals. Mumbai has many within easy drive of the city (2 hours). Chennai's primary hill station is Ooty, which is a solid 2 hour drive... from the nearest city, which is a 6 hour train ride from Chennai. Alternately, you can fly and then drive 4 hours. Sounds like an easy weekend, right? There are exceptions, of course, but it seems like all the things on our "must-see" list are grueling trips.

Sightseeing with a small child is already pretty rough, but the idea of doing it interspersed with periods of screaming about being in the car-seat has really caused us to become home-bodies. Other than for work, we've done almost no travel since coming here. It's a depressing affair that we're going to have to remedy in our second year - if we want to hit all of our "must-sees." On that note, over the last year I have been awed at how much the "veteran" officers at post have traveled.  I kept thinking they must have seen EVERYTHING... and now I realize, they probably just procrastinated like we did... and are rushed to see everything before moving away!

It's going to be a busy year.