...is not where I'm going. However, one of my colleagues is going there and I'm really happy for him. Anyway, today was Flag Day, the day we all received our first assignments. The day's second event very early this morning was a meeting on the Hill. That's Congress for those of you who aren't familiar with Washington DC. The first event was actually breakfast at Annie's house. She is one of my colleagues who lives in DC and she invited the other forty-three of us over for breakfast since she lives just a block or two from the Capitol Building. She deserves a medal for hosting forty-three donut eating, mimosa drinking, coffee swilling entry level Foreign Service Officers with topics of conversation that ranged from ... "Where do you think you're going?" ... all the way to ... "I hope I get sent to (insert country of choice)".
After breakfast we marched over to the Rayburn Building for our meeting and listened to three pretty good speakers describe the current relationship between the State Department and Congress. It boils down to this; 'we do foreign policy, they hold the purse strings. However, sometimes they want to do foreign policy and they still control the purse strings'. Part of our jobs, especially as entry level officers, will be the care and handling of CoDels or Congressional Delegations. Surprisingly enough it seems that it will be every bit as damaging to our careers to lose the Speaker of the House's luggage as it would be to lose the President's. Who knew? It's ironic that I, who worked in the airline industry for many years and know from experience that there are only two types of baggage..carry-on and lost, will now be responsible for ensuring that senior government officials don't have to buy an emergency tube of toothpaste from the nearest 7-11 or borrow underwear from the entry level officer closest to them in size.
After our meeting on the Hill, we had a couple of free hours to ramp up the stress levels before our Flag ceremony. I ran home to my computer to see if I could pick up a new pitcher for my fantasy baseball team, but others just wasted this free time. Then, at 3:00 o'clock we gathered at the Field House at the campus and the festivities began. All the senior officials from the Foreign Service Institute were there and with much ceremony they carried in a table with the flags of forty-four countries stuck into little stands. The head of the Career Development Officers pulled each flag out in turn, we shouted out the country and then he announced the lucky student's name. In several cases there was more than one job being filled at the same post so he stated the job and then the student's name.
It may interest you to know that the flag of Pakistan is green and white with a crescent and a star on it and while he was able to pronounce Islamabad perfectly Dean sort of slurred his way through my name and Larry isn't all that difficult to say. So, I'm going to Islamabad, not Geneva. They are alike in many ways apart from Geneva being in Switzerland and Islamabad being in Pakistan and the Swiss speak French and German and the Pakistanis speak that other world language, Urdu and the Swiss have a history remaining neutral and the Pakistanis ... don't.
Fortunately for me, I much prefer the Islamabad position. The truth is that I couldn't be happier with my posting and the competition for this job was pretty serious. I'll be in training in Washington until the end of October and then I'll leave for Islamabad to begin work around the beginning of November. I'll be the GSO or General Services Officer at our embassy. This position is an administrative one rather than a political job. I won't be involved with political, economic or consular affairs, I'll be working to keep the facilities and infrastructure trouble-free. Ironic again, isn't it, that I, who has been known to drive in a screw with a hammer because it was faster, will now be responsible for the maintenance and care of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of government property?
Orientation ends next Friday and then we'll begin the second phase of our training and then we'll depart for our posts. I for one am already practicing saying, "I'm sorry Mr. President, your baggage seems to be on a camel headed for Karachi. I've got a pair of undershorts here you can use if you'll just hold this screw for me while I hammer it in?"