State stories

In Uncategorized on April 29, 2010 at 1:54 am

Where I’m at: D.C. (Brazzaville in Nov!)
What I’m doing: watching the Caps potentially crush all the remaining sports enthusiasm this city had
Why I’m posting: storytelling

You know what’s badass? My job. Okay, maybe bureaucracy and brazzaville aren’t for everyone. But sometimes, pretty much everyone can agree that our jobs as diplomats are sweet. For instance, top secret briefings, bribes from foreign nationals (just kidding!), and days like today.

At the Main State building today, we got lots of briefings. The Pentagon briefed us. The Operations Center took us to their top secret “situation rooms.” Briefing on the U.S.’s Afghanistan policy with some really frank answers. And then we had a reception on the 7th floor.

For those in the know, the “7th Floor” is both an actual place and an idea. It’s the top floor of offices at State and unsurprisingly is thus where all the big wigs sit, including Secretary Clinton. The entrance to her suites is comically elaborate in that the drop panel, asbestos-like ceiling panels and drab paint around the corner immediately become doric columns, bright colors, and many leather-bound books. It’s hardly a wonder that it’s called “Mahogany Row.”

Well, hanging out on the 7th – “where decisions are made” – in H.C.’s office, the Assistant Secretaries (her right hand men, the equivalents of Major Generals) hung out with us as we nervously sipped our ginger ale (really? no alcohol here to loosen our lips? weak). Those guys were super cool and down to earth. An example: Asst. Sec. for African Affairs, Johnny Carson (believe it or not, a funny guy…big surprise there) walks up to me and starts chatting because he saw my Congo pin. He tells me he just got back from Brazzaville and loves it every time he’s there. He says, “I’m jealous of you.” “Oh yeah?” I say. “Well I’ll trade you jobs.” “Ha, you want to do my job?” he replied. “Sure, as long as you want it done poorly. At least you’ll make me look good.”

How cool is that?! I mean, this guy could eat me for lunch…legally…and he’s just shooting the shit with me. Hillary even stopped by our class to say hello and ask us if we were enjoying our orientation. Wow…I’m pretty…well, shell-shocked.

So if I seem overly enamored with the people I’m lucky enough to work with in the years to come, it’ll be for reasons like these. Good people, hard workers. Just like all the people I worked with back in Chicago. You’re all such beautiful people that it makes my work so enjoyable.

What can I say, I’m very lucky!
Who said it: former Sec. of State Henry Kissinger
Why it’s relevant: because it probably explains why I’m so enamored with these folks

The quote: “The nice thing about being a celebrity is that, if you bore people, they think it’s their fault.”

  1. Hey cousin!

    Congrats on the first posting. This sounds like an extraordinary first place to gain some valuable insight into international peacebuilding efforts and the challenges of a society moving (hopefully) to a post-conflict environment. It should be a remarkable experience and certainly a good way to gain some serious “street cred” in the diplomatic circles. As they say, a great place to “cut your teeth.”

    I am already promising to visit, so make sure to take full advantage of the sweet State Department perks and get a guest bedroom.



    P.S. I know you have this experience too from your time Uganda and Costa Rica, but it helps to play down the nature of civil strife with grandma so she doesn’t worry to much. Just a reminder.

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