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May 2017

Greetings from Europe, Part 1


Above: the beautiful cliff side village of Positano on Italy's Amalfi Coast.

The Two Crabs are currently on vacation in Europe -- our first time back here in over 3 years. One of the great pleasures and benefits of this job is we have made friends all over the world. Our first stop was Naples, Italy to visit our friend and supervisor from my previous post. She's one of the best consular officers I've ever met so naturally I consider her a mentor. Our next stop was the Netherlands to visit with some old friends from our previous lives. 

While in Holland, I had the pleasure of meeting my hard-working colleagues at US Consulate Amsterdam. One of those officers turned out to be a fan of this blog and reminded me that it's been ages since I've updated this blog. Part of the reason is I've been super busy in Calgary but the main reason is pure laziness -- it's a lot easier to just update my whereabouts on Facebook for friends and family. But I forget there are many folks who aren't on FB or whom I don't personally know. So my belated New Years resolution is to try and maintain this blog better whenever I have a free moment. I'm drafting this post on a long train ride from Amsterdam to Groningen, a beautiful little city in northern Netherlands.

Incidentally, European trains ROCK. In most places in Europe, you can set your watch to train schedules and now many trains have free wifi. My biggest complaint however are train prices. The romantic notion of grabbing a EuroPass and backpacking Europe by train is long gone. It's now much cheaper to just hop a low cost airline flight. That's how we got from Naples to Amsterdam: 49 euros per person one-way! 

A few more photos of our trip so far: 


The post below was written by a Foreign Service professional, in response to proposed huge cuts at the Department of State. This post was making the rounds among FS staff for several days but now it's officially gone viral. I have no idea who wrote it, but it's worth repeating. With credit to the brave author: 

"I don't ever wish ill on people. If I were the sort of person who did, I'd wish that every single commenter who is reacting in ignorant delight to the proposed cuts to State would encounter one or several of the following:

1. not being able to get a U.S. passport in time for a vacation and missing flights/losing a ton of money
2. losing a passport overseas and being stranded, unable to get home to a job/loved ones
3. having a family member pass away overseas and having no assistance learning about the situation or planning a repatriation
4. being the victim of a crime overseas and having to navigate a foreign justice system without any information in English, nor recommended lawyers
5. losing high-paying jobs/companies in their home town due to lack of skilled workers, foreign investors, and/or any foreign awareness of the U.S. business as a customer or supplier
6. losing massive tourism dollars to their hometown hotels, restaurants, and local attractions because no one issued visas to any of the visitors who otherwise flock there
7. not being able to adopt a child from overseas and bring them to the United States
8. marrying a foreign spouse and not being able to bring them to the United States
9. not being able to have foreign friends or relatives come visit them due to no visas being issues
10. facing more, and more crowded/violent anti-American protests everywhere they travel due to lack of exposure to positive American cultural values
11. living under the real, daily threat of violent conflict with countries capable of causing us harm
12. having no credible representatives of American interests in negotiations on security, countering narcotics, fighting transnational crime, protecting the environment,keeping dangerous debris out of space, ad infinitum

Ok, seriously, I don't wish those things on anyone. Not only that, I work every single day to keep those things from happening, as do thousands of my smart, talented colleagues from across the political spectrum who could all be earning a whole lot more in the private sector.

Those of us who do this work overseas miss births, birthdays, weddings, funerals, anniversaries, and reunions to do it. We give up a spouse's lucrative earning potential and often even sense of professional satisfaction.

We work in places that are exponentially more dangerous than in the United States, whether through pollution, disease, traffic accident incidences, sanitation, food safety, lack of easily available potable water, street crime, sexual harassment, xenophobia, terrorist threats, also ad infinitum. We put on hold, or sometimes sadly lose, the supportive network of family and childhood and college friends who hold us up when we are able to be at home. We learn foreign languages and try to communicate in our daily lives, often feeling like idiots or permanent tourists.

We take on these commitments willingly and embark on the work only after we swear or affirm an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against enemies foreign or domestic. And we take our responsibilities enormously seriously.

I'm not asking for credit, or the recognition others who serve our country get. With fewer foreign service officers than professional band members than in the U.S. armed services, we have no ability to influence Congress through numbers, nor sufficient understanding of who we are or what we do. All I'm asking is that people stop blindly criticizing us and put away the shoes they're polishing to dance on our graves. Metaphorically-- if it's literal, they'll use the deaths as an endless political football to finger-point and then threaten to cut our security budgets if unrelated politicized policy goals don't go their way. Well that's just Congress, but still.

If you're reading this, I ask that if you hear people delighting in the misery of me and my colleagues, you please challenge their misconceptions. If you have questions about what diplomats do and why their jobs matter, I hope you feel like you can ask me. Your support would mean a lot to us."