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)

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Sometimes, I feel like the busiest times I had were back in college.  Going to 4 classes a day, going to the gym, organizations and clubs, and countless evenings spending countless hours in the library studying and preparing for the next day.  Work-life for me in Kabul reminds me of those times.  10+ hours in the office each day, working out regularly, and organizations and clubs (mainly Green Team and every other week trivia night).

A common thing between these two experiences for me is that I'm interacting with the same people day-in and day-out throughout every activity of the day.  And living in the "kabubble" as a friend likes to call it, it's similar to a college town.

Separating work from personal life has been challenging, and it all just starts blending together.  After a difficult day at work where I leave the office with hanging problems or decisions to make with no present clear answer, I often find myself laying awake at night pondering the issue and thinking of what discussion needs to be had to find resolution.  This is the same as how I would brainstorm and develop ideas in college thinking of a thesis or topic for the next paper or the solution to some complicated problem.  It's hard to fully disengage.

Stakes can be quite high here.  Government work is not like a commercial activity where each days labor could be easily measured by the revenue or return from the output and it's clear to see the benefit of what your spending your time and money on by the return.  In government work or development, it's much more difficult to ascertain the exact impact you might be having at each particular moment of time.  You could calculate the cost per day of having a contractor on the ground working, or even embassy staff for that matter, but when you think about what exact results you are getting for the resources spent, it can sometimes be easy to become jaded.  Working in infrastructure is a bit easier because a physical structure is the end product and that every day delay carries with it a huge financial impact.   So vigilance is needed to monitor and manage projects to keep things on schedule and budget.

Another thing both similar yet with a marked difference are the people and way discussions are held.  This isn't necessarily specific to just Afghanistan, but the Agency has many intelligent people similar to as you would have a large degree of pretty intelligent people at a university. In a university class, students are typically encouraged to debate and discuss and challenge theories and assumptions with professors.  In the foreign service, there is a much more limited degree of debate and discourse, as challenging one's superior, particularly if at a senior management level, is pretty much not viewed favorably for a career.  But I suppose the same is true no matter where one works.  But in development, there really is no one definitive answer or solution to a problem, so a need for good discussion is essential to find the best solution.

A new change that will further enhance the feel as if going back in time is that I'm moving to an apartment with a roommate, a colleague I had from Indonesia.  What's funny is that we did language training at FSI together and sometimes, they would joke that we'd have to be roommates when we got to post in Jakarta as we were younger and we were entry level junior officers.  Who would have thought we'd actually end up being roommates in Afghanistan?

I think I went little all over the place again in this post.  Perhaps that reflects my attention span these days as I have to switch gears all day from project to project.  Anyway, they say that there exists a foreign service or embassy bubble for every post.  But I'm not sure things can compare to the uniqueness of the kabubble.

Goodbye CHU!

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