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, July 18, 2016

Star Trek or the Foreign Service?

FS Blog, SuitUpFSO, 2016 July 18.  I have returned successfully from Afghanistan to Indonesia to provide support to the Mission before moving to my next assignment in Thailand.  I found Afghans to be resilient people and I hope my time there will make some meaningful difference as they continue against with strife and conflict.  I look forward however to new challenges to come.
A colleague of mine will sometimes admit to seeing her work in the Foreign Service, and particularly of USAID, in a comparison to Starfleet of the Star Trek universe.  Thinking on this and with the pending release of the next Star Trek film, I felt this was an interesting concept to consider.

The Star Trek mission is one of exploration and adventure.
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.
However, the themes in Star Trek often involve humanitarian and diplomatic challenges with a healthy mix of issues such as human rights, racism, economics, and politics.

USAID's mission has a similar vein as follows:
We partner to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity.
The joint mission of State Department and USAID is:
To shape and sustain a peaceful, prosperous, just, and democratic world, and foster conditions for stability and progress for the benefit of the American people and people everywhere.
Personnel of USAID undertake 1, 2, or 4-year tours versus Star Trek's 5-year voyages, and the work involves meeting foreign government and host country people to learn their culture, perspectives, and languages while addressing very local issues such as economic development, governance and rights, or environmental issues.  USAID also frequently works in the more challenging developing countries with ways of living very different than that of the United States fitting the aspect of exploration and adventure.

But a key component to the comparison is the sense of community and togetherness, in cases called "esprit de corps", of the foreign service.  It's having a common purpose and circumstance where this small group of Americans are bound together in the Mission to achieve the objectives of our programs in strange and faraway lands.

Of course, there are many contrasts like how Starfleet is more of a United Nations organization but USAID is representing a single nation, albeit the US is a nation made up of a conglomerate of ethnicities and people with backgrounds from all over the world.  But I think there are still some strong, similar threads to the analogy.

Comparing the foreign service and Star Trek is a fun exercise that really helps highlight to me some of the most interesting aspects I find in the profession.  The camaraderie, the sense of mission, the travel to new and exciting places, and the challenge and adventure in trying to understand and make a difference for other people.

Well enough that.  I don't think this analogy was too highly illogical and I'm done givin' her all she's got.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Home Stretch

My tour in Afghanistan is rapidly coming to a close with just a couple weeks left.  The many goodbye parties have already begun and this will be the time to focus on finishing outstanding work and begin to transition away responsibilities and hopefully establish tools to improve continuity for those to come.

This second year was challenging in that many of the colleagues with whom you became close with and spent so much time suddenly switch out and you begin the process of starting over with the new people who have come.  Fortunately, there were great people, new friends and old, that arrived and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to meet, work, and live with all of them.  Kabul really is a unique place where you can form such close-knit relationships in a brief amount of time.

The last few months have been busy and exciting.  I took a trip back to the US and went on the first trip in a decade with my brothers, saw lots of friends, explored several of the national parks in the southwest, and had some great experiences at work.

The next chapter of my foreign service adventure will take me back to Indonesia where I will help support my old office for nine weeks on temporary assignment.  It will be great to see old colleagues and friends and it will reunite me with my wife.  Then, it will be a brief home leave back to the US for a couple of weeks and then off to the next big chapter beginning in Thailand.

I'm excited and anxious.  Let's do this!
The flowers are blooming!
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