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December 2010

2010: The Year in Review

Screen shot 2010-12-27 at 12.31.03 AM

 Happy New Year, readers!

It's been a wild, crazy ride. 2010 has been one of the most rewarding, challenging, life-changing years for the Two Crabs. If 2011 is half as good as 2010 was, it will be a good year!  Here's our year in a nutshell:

January:  The Two Crabs were living and working in London, waiting patiently for "THE CALL."  It finally came in mid-January, when I received and accepted an offer to join the LEGENDARY 152nd A-100 Class. By then, it had been 14 months since I took the FSOT, 9 months since passing the FSOA, and nearly seven months of waiting for my security clearance. Was it worth the wait? Hells ya! In the meantime, I was still busy finishing writing my travel guide to Costa Rica.

February: Frantically begin the frantic process of moving back to the U.S. of A.  In mid-February we took our annual ski trip to Austria. But other than that, every waking moment was spent sorting and packing. What do we want to take with us to DC? What can go into storage? What can we give away to charity. How the heck did we accumulate so much crap!?!? 

March: After nearly five years in London, Mr. and Mrs. Crab moved back to Arlington, Virginia in mid-March. Mr. Crab began A-100 on March 28. 

April: Flag Day came and big surprise: Bahrain. Back to the Middle East, where Mr. Crab has spent much of his professional career. At the end of April, Sec. Clinton herself presided over our graduation ceremony and administered the Oath of Office. A-100 was by far one of the best times of my life. I met some lifelong friends and will always look back fondly on my times at FSI. 

May: After A-100, the next few weeks were spent in "tradecraft" courses including Pol/Econ class. We got the word that we would be moving to Bahrain in less than two months. Oh, snap! A weekend camping trip to Shenandoah National Park with our 152nd classmates was one of the highlights of our time in DC. 

June: A few more classes at FSI including Area Studies, Duty Officer training and Security Overseas Seminar. Most of Mrs. Crab's time was spent re-packing and preparing to move to the Middle East. We managed a quick weekend trip to Houston to visit Mr. Crab's sister & her family. On June 30, we flew out to post. Leaving on a jetplane, not sure when I'll be back again.

July: Landed on July 1 to 122F degree temperature. Month 1 in Bahrain. Lots of new sights, sounds, smells, tastes. My first official work event was the annual July 4 party for embassy and host nation guests. Fun times!  Lots to learn about work life in the Foreign Service.

August: Mr. and Mrs. Crab celebrate their 10TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY.  So, this is what summer in the Middle East feels like? We're talking about 115F on a cool day. Ramadan was an interesting experience, with lots of representational events, iftars, and many late nights drinking countless cups of cardamom tea, Arabic coffee and sweets!

September: The Two Crabs took a 5-day trip to CYPRUS during Eid. So sweet being back in Europe again. Still getting the hang of my job. 

October: Mr. Crab attended an Econ conference in Dubai. Afterward Mrs. Crab flies down for the weekend. And hey, it finally rained for the first time!

November: The Two Crabs welcomed our first house guest, our friend from London who now lives in Dubai! Yay!  Also attended our first Marine Ball. The busy season for our section begins. Work is really ramping up, long hours but rewarding work. 

December: It was all hands on deck as Sec. Clinton visits Bahrain!  The Two Crabs welcomed our first house guest from the U.S., Mrs. Crab's college roomie from NYC. Welcome!  Christmas in Bahrain was nice family time and lots of house parties with fellow embassy workmates. 

 (I got lazy after August above. Sorry) 

STATS: Two Crabs has received nearly 20,000 page views to date, and is averaging 98 unique visitors per day from around the globe. Thanks for visiting! 

We're famous @

The Department of State's official website was completely redesigned this week and -- surprise, surprise -- Two Crabs has made the short Blog Roll of Foreign Service-authored blogs!  The Forum/Blogs page notes: "The U.S. Department of State provides an inclusive atmosphere and collaborative environment in which all employees are encouraged to communicate and exchange information."

We are truly honored, especially considering the fact that there are now probably hundreds of FS blogs (some of which are linked to the left of this page). I guess this means we'll now have to be EXTRA careful about what we post! 

  Special thanks and shout-out to all the hard-working folks at  If you have a moment, surf their new site and check out the great interactive tools, learn about the Foreign Service and what we do, read and watch interviews with current Foreign Service Officers & Specialists, and register to take the February 2011 test!  The list of overseas sites offering the FSOT was released today, and I can now confirm that Embassy Manama is proud to host the FSOT.  

Click HERE to get more information on the FSOT and FSO selection process.  You can register to take the test now. Seat scheduling begins JANUARY 3, 2011. If you intend to take the test, do not delay registration or seat scheduling. Many test sites, especially overseas locations, have limited seats.

Good luck!

New reality of Foreign Service hiring

In recent years, the U.S. Foreign Service has been on a hiring/spending spree. The rate of FSO hiring more than doubled in FY 2009 and FY2010.  That the hiring boom happened to coincide with the worst American economic downturn in decades was a welcomed relief for seasoned folks (like Mr. Crab) who were looking for a new career, or recent college grads who were jumping into the global recession dead pool.  It was a good time to join the Foreign Service. Sadly, the hiring hey-days are coming to an end.

This belated post below comes from Harry Kopp, co-author of Career Diplomacy (an excellent must-read for any FSO candidate or current employee):  

The Department of State, even more than other agencies, is likely to see its budget cut as austerity becomes fashionable in the administration and on Capitol Hill. The change in mood is reinforced by the change in parties and personalities in the House of Representatives, where Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida will replace Howard Berman of New York as chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Kay Granger of Texas is likely to replace Nita Lowey of New York as chair of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations. CQ Today, part of the Congressional Quarterly family of publications, wrote that Ros-Lehtinen “said she was prepared to ‘propose a number of cuts to the State Department and foreign aid budgets,’ which said have ‘much fat’ in them. Her spokesman, Brad Goehner, said the chairwoman was not prepared to release those proposals, but had already submitted them to the Republican leaders for their input.”

The Department of State’s hiring program, carried forward under the name Diplomacy 3.0, will likely come to a halt. The program as originally announced in 2009 planned to increase the size of the foreign service by 25 percent over fiscal year 2008 levels over five years, ending in fiscal year 2013. It now appears that the program will end, or be suspended, well short of that goal. When hiring with fiscal year 2010 appropriations ends, as it soon will, the Department will have achieved an increase of about 15 percent over the FY 2008 base, adding about 1,900 foreign service employees (1,200 officers and 700 specialist), bringing the total service in the Department of State to about 13,400 (7,500 officers and 5,900 specialists).

If new hires in FY 2011 are held to the number needed to replace retiring employees and other departures, the number of new hires will drop from a projected level of around 830 under Diplomacy 3.0 to around 400, which is projected attrition. Similar levels are likely in FY 2012 as well. That means tougher competition for candidates.

On top of that, the State Department is currently operating in a "Continuing Resolution," meaning the FY2011 budget has yet to be signed.

Bottom line: It's going to be a lot tougher to join the Foreign Service in 2011.  Best of luck to all who are studying for the February FSOT, and to folks waiting patiently on the A-100 registers.

Christmas in Bahrain

Merry Christmas, originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

Merry Christmas! Though it doesn't exactly feel like Christmas when it's 75F and sunny!  Despite being a Muslim country, Bahrain is surprisingly in the Christmas spirit.  Palm trees are decorated in lights, partly because of the large number of Christian expats in Bahrain, but also because Christmas happens to nearly coincide with Bahrain National Day on Dec 17. The shopping malls are all decorated like any American mall, with Xmas trees, decorations, an occasional Santa and piped Christmas music (though generic non-religious songs only like "Jingle Bells" and "Let it Snow"). Most of the restaurants in town offer Christmas dinner specials. Christmas is even more impressive in Dubai, where we visited the weekend before the holidays.

DSC01942   Mr. and Mrs. Crab celebrated Christmas home alone together, opening presents with family & friends back home via Skype, cooking a full turkey dinner (Note: it was our first time "brining" a turkey. Perfectly Juicy! End note) and enjoying our annual tradition of watching "A Christmas Story!"  Earlier this week, we also hit a few holiday parties thrown by our fellow embassy colleagues.

Celebrating Christmas in a non-Christian country takes some advance planning. Christmas deocrations can be hard to come by. Luckily here in Bahrain, most of the stores including the US Navy base stock Christmas decorations for the large number of Western expats. However, decorations are limited supply and VERY VERY expensive. A real Christmas tree imported from Europe costs $300; fake trees are of pathetically poor quality. We ended up buying a used Charlie Brown, wobbly, wonky, leaning tree from a charity shop (second-hand store) for $30. A strand of white Christmas lights can run $45 or more.  Learn from our mistake when you pack your HHE: bring a high-quality artificial Christmas tree, indoor & outdoor lighting, a transformer (if needed) to power said lights, extension cords, wrapping paper, ornaments and other Christmas decorations!

Merry Christmas to all! And to all a good night!

Sec. Clinton visits Bahrain!

IMG_0477In case you've been wondering why I haven't been blogging (apart from plain laziness) is the fact that I've been a bit busy. And now you know why. Sec. Hillary Clinton this weekend traveled to Bahrain to attend Manama Dialogue, a regional security summit hosted by the British think-tank IISS. It's been a very challenging but rewarding experience.  Yes, Mr. Crab even got to meet Madame Secretary. Unfortunately, there are no photos to prove it. But I did manage to shoot a few good photos at the Embassy "Meet & Greet" event including the image above. You can read a transcript of her Manama Dialogue speech here.