Be Awesome

Look, our forefathers died for the "pursuit of happiness," okay? Not for the "sit around and wait of happiness." Now if you want, we can go to the same bar, drink the same beer, talk to the same people every day or you can lick the Liberty Bell. You can grab life by the crack and lick the crap out of it.
--Barney (HIMYM)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Helping Hands

The US Embassy in Jakarta has a group of Americans and FSNs (Indonesian staff) that conducts various community service events.  This organization is called Helping Hands.

Earlier this month, I was able to participate with this group in a trip to the Yayasan Bhakti Luhur orphanage in Jakarta.  This organization runs orphanages for abandoned or disabled children around Indonesia.  For this event, the Helping Hands organization was participating in a holiday party with the children.  The DCM Kristen Bauer and her husband also joined the event.

Activities for the children included face painting, singing carols, dancing, and lunch.  Oh, and also the exchange of presents!

Ms. Bauer giving a speech.

Time for presents!

Batman walking away happy.

Then there was dancing.

Always need a group photo!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Indonesian Weddings

I always enjoy weddings.  They are fun occasions with many happy people celebrating together.

In past month, I've had the opportunity to attend to two Indonesian weddings so far.  The first was a Batak wedding and the second was Sundanese wedding.

The Batak wedding was held in a two level reception area in northern Jakarta. The ethnic group Batak are originally from Northern Sumatra.  My general impression from the wedding was the emphasis on community, as if a village were coming together to all celebrate the marriage.  What was interesting was the separation between guests whom were Batak as opposed to guests whom were not.  When entering the reception venue, there were separate lines and guestbooks for "Tamu Batak" (Batak guests) and "Tamu Nasional" (all other guests).

The bottom floor of the venue also was reserved for Batak guests while other guests went to the top.  The top had a buffet and several stalls for food while the Batak guests ate traditional Batak style.  When the bride and groom entered, family and friends carried sacks off food and supplies for a wedding as if the village coming to support the wedding.

Two story venue.

Flower girls.

Traditional attire.

The community coming to the wedding.

A cow!

The bride and groom.
video

The Sundanese wedding I attending was very different than the Batak one.  This wedding was held in Bogor, a city just about an hour south of Jakarta.  This was a more modern style wedding with modern attire and held at a golf club.  The food there was fantastic.

Very nicely decorated venue.

There were even a couple ice sculptures in the back.

At the back of the venue, it looked like a beach resort.





Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Types of USAID FSO Positions

There really isn't a spot on USAID's website that really explains the different roles or positions (Backstops) that USAID FSO's can take anymore.  So below is what used to be on USAID's website that explains in a general sense the roles each type of officer can play.  Of course, every assignment an officer takes is different and duties and capacities can vary greatly:
 _____________________________________________________________________________________________
USAID Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) apply both technical knowledge and a variety of program design, management and evaluation expertise in order to ensure that U.S. government foreign assistance programs meet the needs of partners and beneficiaries in a cost-effective manner and achieve foreign policy objectives. FSOs work directly with the governments and people of the countries in which we serve and also collaborate with other USAID Offices, the Department of State, other U.S. Government (USG) agencies, other development/donor agencies, and non-governmental entities in the not-for-profit and for-profit private sector. Mid- and senior-level officers normally are responsible for large programs and/or lead offices and teams, whereas junior officers serve as team members and are responsible for specific projects or tasks. The following is a brief description of the positions in the USAID Foreign Service.

Population /Health/Nutrition (PHN) Officer
USAID Population/Health/Nutrition (PHN) officers are responsible for developing, overseeing, managing (staff, financial and technical resources), and evaluating PHN programs in any or all of the following areas: population/family planning and reproductive health; child survival (including immunizations, acute respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases); maternal health; HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections; infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria; nutrition (including micronutrient supplementation and fortification); social marketing of commodities as well as behavior change endeavors; population, health or nutrition policy reform; operations/programmatic research and biomedical/clinical research; commodity/pharmaceutical logistics and supply chain management; health systems strengthening and health economics. An example of the kind of project a PHN officer would design or manage is the Pakistan Initiative for Mothers and Newborns, which is transforming traditional birthing practices by collaborating with community-based organizations all over the country.

Economist
Economists at USAID provide technical expertise to country, regional, and agency-wide programs, as well as directly to developing country governments. They carry out strategic analysis of current trends and emerging opportunities and challenges as an input to strategic planning. They also apply economic analysis and insight to help guide decisions concerning the allocation of resources among sectors, program design within sectors, and programs affecting cross-cutting issues such as environment or gender. In addition, USAID economists help design and implement programs directed at achieving more rapid, sustained and broad-based growth economic growth. In this capacity, they develop project proposals, prepare technical project specifications and related analyses, and initiate related procurement actions. Programs typically emphasize technical assistance and support for capacity-building among the host country government’s key economic policy agencies (central bank, finance ministry, etc.), as well as among private non-government organizations, business associations, think tanks, and academic institutions.

Agriculture Officer
USAID’s Agriculture Officers analyze constraints to agricultural development and recommend action to overcome them. They design, manage and evaluate a wide variety of interventions (including crop and livestock production and marketing, agribusiness development and trade, farm to market roads, irrigation systems, human and institutional capacity development, innovation systems, and agricultural policy) to enhance food security and increase rural livelihoods. They are proactive and utilize performance monitoring plans and evaluations to improve program and sector performance. For example, Agriculture Officers helped poverty-stricken villagers in Guatemala’s Chirijuyú community improve their quality of life through a program that established an association of agricultural producers, Labradores Mayas or “Mayan Workers.” Incomes increased after the producers became certified in international food regulation practices and started selling to international clients.

Education Officer
Education Officers with USAID provide leadership in the review, evaluation and analysis of education sector data and provide advice on education issues. They analyze constraints to development, both sector-wide and country-specific; develop, coordinate and manage strategies (e.g., basic education, higher education), policies, procedures, and guidelines for establishing programs in the education sector; conduct research and assessments; and initiate courses of action. For example, in Liberia USAID Education Officers developed a program that helps war–affected students complete their elementary school education, by allowing students who missed out on schooling due to the collapse of the system to complete six grades in three years. There are nearly 30,000 students nationwide enrolled in these accelerated classes. As education ambassadors, USAID FSOs meet frequently with high level country officials and advocate for sound education policies, programs, and interventions in the country of assignment.

Environment Officer
Environment Officers at USAID serve as technical leaders in strategic planning exercises and the design and management of programs across a wide range of development issues including climate change, natural resource management (forests, wetlands, wildlife and coastal and marine zones), biodiversity, water, energy, pollution prevention, environmental law, tourism, and urban programs -- that maximize environmental, social and economic benefits. Officers conduct policy and trends analyses and provide technically expert leadership to inform planning exercises at the country, regional, agency, and inter-agency scale. At a country level, officers analyze the status of environmental threats, environmental policy and governance, and their environmental impact. They coordinate and negotiate with host country and US government officials, community organizations, universities, Non-Governmental Organizations, corporations, other donors, and other USAID partners on what needs to be done and how best to accomplish it within the framework of the US foreign assistance program and the context of American foreign policy. For example, USAID partnered with the Government, Non-Governmental Organizations, and local communities in Namibia over a fifteen year period to empower local people to manage, sustain and benefit from their natural resources, particularly wildlife, through community conservancies. This highly successful partnership established 50 conservancies that improve management of over 14.5% of Namibia’s landmass and benefit 220,620 previously disadvantaged Namibians with an increase in their annual income reaching $5.6 million dollars.

Private Enterprise Officer
Private Enterprise Officers with USAID work across sectors and institutions in the public and private sectors to stimulate economic growth and create an environment in which private enterprise can flourish. Officers serve as a technical resource in their missions, assessing data and providing assistance and advice on economic growth issues. They assist in developing and managing strategies, policies, plans, procedures and guidelines for a wide array of private enterprise programs in the economic growth sector (e.g., enterprise development; commercial law and institutional reform; business association development; financial sector reform; trade and investment; fiscal reform; and economic policy and institutions). Private Enterprise Officers work closely with the USAID Global Development Alliance Office to promote and generate partnerships between USAID and the private sector to support development objectives. In Vietnam, USAID officers worked with the private sector, including Qualcomm and Microsoft, to create or upgrade technology learning centers and bring broadband and voice access to rural areas. The project enables youth to compete for better paying jobs and expands Vietnam’s potential for job creation.

Crisis, Stabilization and Governance Officer
USAID’s Crisis, Stabilization and Governance (CSG) Officers research, plan, negotiate, implement, and evaluate emergency, crisis, transition, humanitarian assistance, food assistance and democracy and governance(which include rule of law, electoral and political processes, civil society and media, and good governance) programs. These programs also include conflict management and mitigation, transitional governance, security sector reform, and demobilization, disarmament and reintegration. CSG officers manage U.S. government financial and human resources, implementation teams, contractors and grantees to achieve specific program objectives and results. CSG officers develop requirements and subsequently manage financial instruments (contracts, cooperative agreements, and grants) with Agency partners. In addition, CSG officers develop strategies, assessments, concept papers, project authorizations, and project amendments in line with regulations and guidance. For example, in the Philippines, CSG officers working in USAID’s Democracy and Governance Office carried out a program that strengthened the capacity of the Human Rights Commission to investigate and prosecute human rights abuses. The program contributed to a significant drop in extra-judicial killings of political activists and journalists. In Ethiopia, CSG officers working for USAID’s Food for Peace office arranged to move U.S. donated food to feed chronically malnourished children, while officers working for the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance directed the USG’s response to the tsunami in Indonesia.

Engineering Officer
Engineering Officers with USAID provide technical expertise in design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure facilities and other construction projects including water and sanitation infrastructure, roads and transportation, energy, hospitals, clinics, schools and other public facilities and housing). Officers research and analyze data, and provide construction management advice and services (design and bid documents for performance-based and incentives contracts, design-build and design-bid-build contracts, construction oversight and management services, etc.) using advanced engineering techniques that support lesser cost, decreased construction time, or better product. Officers are experts concerning the requirements for constructing and designing any project under host country standards and laws and are responsible for reviewing, modifying, accepting, or rejecting claims which builders may present for additional compensation and/or extension of time, considering the legal and engineering constraints of the contract. In Egypt, USAID engineers have advised on projects from renovated classrooms in the country’s most remote regions to Cairo’s main power stations and water treatment facilities.

Executive Officer
Executive Officers are key to the functioning of our overseas Missions and serve as primary advisors to the country Director on administrative matters. Executive Officers provide overall direction for general service operations, facilities management, information technology and security, occupational safety and health programs, and construction management. Officers possess strong knowledge of federal rules, regulations and guidelines concerning management issues and develop/monitor internal systems and procedures ensuring efficient and proper use of government resources within the mission. Executive Officers collaborate with all other Mission units on staffing and workforce planning issues; plan and direct the personnel management operations; coordinate training and staff development activities; and provide counseling to employees and their families on a wide range of subjects(e.g. allowances, education, medical evacuations). They sign administrative procurements and personnel contracts. Executive Officers represent USAID on numerous inter-agency committees such as the Housing Board, the Interagency Administrative Council, and the Post Employment Committee. The Executive Officer interacts regularly with the Embassy Management Officer, Budget and Finance Officer and General Services Officer and collaborates with the Regional Security Office and USAID’s Office of Security to ensure compliance with and implementation of all security programs. In addition, officers are responsible for the administrative budget for the Mission in coordination with the Controller. The Executive Officer provides regular advice to USAID implementing partners on administrative issues.

Contracting Officer
Foreign Service Contracting Officers with USAID serve as one of the key business advisors in our overseas Missions. Unlike many other agencies, USAID Contracting Officer responsibilities include the negotiation, award and administration of both acquisition and assistance and as such, officers must possess detailed knowledge of federal and agency acquisition and assistance laws regulations and policies. USAID Contracting Officers use their expertise to support key programs in support of US foreign policy interests including disaster assistance, HIV/AIDs, and environmental programs. Contracting Officers train and support technical staff in the implementation and monitoring of sound development programs while ensuring compliance with award terms and conditions.

Program/Project Development Officer
Program/Project Development Officers play a critical role in planning and managing USAID programs worldwide. They are responsible for country strategy development, policy formulation, performance reporting, programming/budgeting of resources, coordinating with other donors and USG agencies, and public communications and outreach. Program/Project Officers also ensure sound planning, design and implementation of a wide variety of international development programs, by providing policy guidance, advice and support to technical program teams in the overseas field missions. They make sure cross-cutting issues such as gender, climate change, food security, youth, and other issues are included in projects as appropriate, and that programs comply with federal law and agency policy. They prepare and negotiate program agreements with host country governments. Duties also include building alliances with clients and partners, supporting senior management decision-making, defining strategic development objectives, monitoring and evaluating performance, and managing the budget cycle.

Financial Management Officer
Financial Management Officers with USAID work as members of the USAID Controller’s team. The Controller is a member of the Mission’s senior management team charged with the responsibility of accounting and budgeting for Mission operations and conducting a broad range of financial analyses on Agency programs and local implementing partners, including host country financial systems. The officer will assist the Controller to provide advice and assistance to all components of the Mission regarding financial practices and procedures applicable to program implementation. Financial reporting responsibilities include providing Mission management with the information necessary to make operating decisions, as well as providing USAID/Washington with uniform information for central reporting and monitoring. The officer can be expected to liaise with the Inspector General (investigations and audits) staff, and local CPA firms approved by the IG, to review and comment on audit report findings, and work with the Mission to address and close findings. At the request of the Ambassador or the USAID Director, the officer could assist the Controller to perform self-audits or analyses of various USAID field activities or internal administrative operations.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I get to take that pretty girl of yours to a ball..

Every year in the foreign service, there is an annual occasion where everyone gets to dress up in fancy dresses and tuxedos and drink and dance the night away.  That occasion, warmly referred to as "adult prom", is the Marine Ball.

US Embassies and Consulates around the world have a small detachment of Marines who serve in the capacity of Marine Security Guards.  They work, in conjunction with diplomatic security, to protect classified information and systems as well as protect US citizens within US premises of the Mission.

Every November, the Marines celebrate the "birthday" of the formation of the Marines with the US Marine Corps Ball.  The entire embassy community is invited to attend as well people from other countries' diplomatic missions.  The event included a ceremony, presentation video, several speakers (including the US Ambassador to Indonesia), and, of course, dinner and dancing.

I had a pretty good time for my first Marine Corps Ball and we ended staying till near when they kicked us out around 1AM.  It's a fun event and a good excuse for men to go get a tuxedo and for women to get a nice dress, and since the embassy community is fairly large in Jakarta, the ball was pretty well attended.  Ticket prices were a bit steep nearing $100 (nope, the event isn't free, at least, not for the average employee) but still it's an event I would gladly attend again.

Didn't really take nearly enough pics!
The flags displayed at the entrance.
What's a birthday without cake?
This table honors fallen Marines.
Our table.
Keepsake from the event.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

North Jakarta: USS Cowpens, Old Town, and Ancol

The Columbus Day weekend was a weekend of exploration and adventure.  The destination this time was North Jakarta. 

In North Jakarta, is the pier and shipping areas.  We visited the area called Sunda Kelapa, an old shipping area in Old Town Jakarta.  Smaller shipping vessels loading what appeared to be construction materials and sand were in this area.  The vessels here definitely were beginning to show their age and the pollution in the waterways was noticeably visible.

Pepto manufacturing

The most interest occurrence while at this pier was a rather odd fellow that trailed behind us attempting to show off card tricks, speak random phrases of English, and sing any song he might know.  He was not at all seeking money and he was harmless; an interesting character perhaps not all there in the head.  Upon departing, he sought to gift me his deck of playing cards which I could not accept.  From our brief hour at the pier, he clutched the cards as his treasure but it was very kind thought.
He was a very odd man.
Next up that weekend was touring a Navy ship.  This was my first experience on a military ship and while we did not have to the opportunity to see everything, we were able to see everything on the deck of the ship and some of the inside.  The sailors were very hospitable for our tour group and we really appreciated their time.


Maybe my HHE is in one of these containers..

Battleship


After touring the ship, we ended the day with a trip to Ancol in North Jakarta.  This is an area where they have Jakarta's theme park, sea world, as well as a couple beaches (not good beaches).  This is also near the area where you can board boats to take you to one of the many "1000 islands" to the north for a nice weekend getaway.  We came for the seafood!


Picking out our crab.

Oh yeah!

Grilled fish.

Trying the snails!



Sunday, September 30, 2012

Moving to My Permanent Home

Moved to my permanent home today.  For the past two months, I've been in temporary housing.  The last place was a two bedroom, 2 bath apartment with a really large living room and dining room.  I'm now in a very tall building apartment in a 3 br, 2 bath apartment.  However, in just size comparison, it's probably actually smaller in terms of square feet. 

The facilities though are nice!  The apartment is fully furnished and has a pool and gym so I'm excited to getting back into the fitness routine.  The embassy has a crossfit group every day after work but I always struggle to make it out on time since they begin at 4:30 in the afternoon.

It is also very newly constructed and modern.  I already received my UAB (Air shipment) and now I'm just waiting on my HHE (house hold effects, shipped via boat). I'll really start to better understand the extent of Jakarta traffic as before I was able to walk to work and now I'll have an actual commute.

One quirk that I will have to get used to is the sound of prayer and religious chanting/music.  The apartment is near a residential neighborhood and the local religious group uses a loudspeaker or sound system to broadcast out.  So from morning till late evening, it's easily audible from inside all the apartments.  Really is a reminder that I'm in Indonesia!

On the different note, I went to karaoke with some friends and had a blast.  Happy to have found a new karaoke group!

The master bedroom.  Artwork came with the apartment.

The kitchen and dining table.

Opposite of the kitchen is the living room.

Guest bedroom.

Third bedroom or office.  I think I'm going to use it for storage.

The view during the day.  I do also hear the construction from across the street during the day.

The view at night.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

First Month at Post / Front Office Rotation

Since arriving in Indonesia, after a brief two weeks getting settled in and supporting my home office in procurement, I've been on rotation to the Mission's Front Office.  Essentially, this position is a mix of being an Executive Assistant and being a Staff Aide.  Responsibilities include preparing agendas for senior staff meetings, taking notes in meetings for the Mission Director, and miscellaneous document preparation in response to "Embassy Taskers" (these are requests from USAID, typically for State or for the Ambassador, to provide input on documents, prepare talking points or briefing memos for meetings, and various fact sheets on USAID programming).

So far, it's been a pretty good experience and I'm learning a lot about how the Mission operates, the USAID interaction with the embassy community at-large, and the various personalities and protocol within the Mission.  A fun aspect to this rotation is attending various events and meetings with the Mission Director and getting to see some of the programs that we are implementing.

Socially, there has been a pretty good group of other officers in Jakarta.  I tend to spend most of my free time going out with other USAID colleagues and colleagues I knew through language class.  Continuing to work on building the social network, but I'm pretty content with things so far.  Jakarta has a variety of places to go out to eat, numerous elaborate brunches on Sundays, and lots of shopping options.  I think prices generally are higher than other South-east Asian countries, namely Bangkok, but are still OK.  There also seem to be a lot of nightlife options and I hope to eventually check those out as well.

PRESTASI
The first event I attended was the PRESTASI Pre-Academic Training Orientation.  This is a one of USAID Indonesia's scholarship programs for graduate studies.  This allows Indonesians to pursue Master level degrees in the US or in Indonesia.  This particular launch was to first meeting for the scholarship recipients to get together and understand processes for applying to universities and how the scholarship worked now that they were selected.  Various USAID technical offices came and congratulated the recipients as well as imparted the imperative that they study and obtain the knowledge and skills in their various fields and bring that back to make an impact in Indonesia.


USAID Mission Director and Office Reps speak to the scholars.
Group shot with the scholarship recipients.

MTV EXIT Documentary Launch
I also attended the MTV EXIT launch event for the anti-trafficking documentary that takes place in Indonesia.  This event took place at the Hard Rock Cafe Jakarta.  The event was attended by Indonesian celebrities and the various supporters of MTV EXIT, which includes USAID, AusAid, ASEAN, and more.  The documentary series is just part of the MTV EXIT campaign and also would include a concert that would be held in the city of Bandung in Indonesia.




The Mission Director providing remarks at the event.


Mission Director with an Indonesian official and the project head of MTV EXIT.

Secretary Clinton Visit to Jakarta
Secretary Clinton also dropped by Jakarta during her travels.  During her time here, as per protocol, she held a meet and greet for embassy staff.  It was only for a very brief moment of time, but it was still good and she commented in her address the great work of USAID's programs, particularly our education programs here in Indonesia.  Unfortunately, she didn't have any time for individual photos.  Ah well, maybe some other day.

Being introduced by the Amb. to Indonesia and Amb. to ASEAN



So that pretty much highlights some of the more noteworthy events thus far.  Looking forward to what else will come.


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