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Posts Tagged ‘Brazzaville’

Brazzaville: the next boomtown?

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Where I’m at: at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlingon, VA
What I’m doing: checking in between French classes
Why I’m posting: contemplating the future of Africa
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A famous subscriber to this blog (Bryan- who also punked out Carlos Zambrano, probably leading to the latter’s current anger-management issues…see earlier post: “A funny punk-out”) recently finished a report on Africa’s economic future.

Okay, it was actually his now-former company McKinsey, but I’d like to give my buddy the credit anyway. I’m mainly just posting to give the link, which is this: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/24/world/africa/24africa.html?_r=1&ref=world

But while I have the floor, I’d like to post a quick question/thought on our new home in Congo-Brazzaville, specifically. If my colleagues can or wish to chime in, please do so.

Yesterday, my super-conservation biologist wife, Colleen, showed me the bad news about a now-approved plan for a commercial highway that will cross the northern Serengeti in Tanzania. The road was first proposed by the World Bank 20 years ago to connect a fairly isolated section of Tanzania to the main cities. However, perhaps showing some 20-20 hindsight, the World Bank has since joined with scientists in decrying the northern road route and supporting a southern route below the Serengeti. The new route would connect more people, cost less, create more jobs, and perhaps most importantly, not destroy the Serengeti. The northern road would directly block the migration route of the wildebeasts, which is one of the most famous spectacles on earth. It would also endanger the World Heritage Site status of the Serengeti (which would cost Tanzania money, among other things) and endanger neighoring Kenya’s Serengeti access. In short, it seems like an ill-advised plan for many reasons, and one which has an obvious better alternative.

Well Congo-Brazzaville is itself in the middle of a grand infrastructure process (http://www.afriqueavenir.org/en/2010/07/02/the-congo-brazzaville-modernizes-its-agricultural-sector/). And I wonder, will these projects similarly unnecessarily damage the already tangible asset – nature – of the country? Who was consulted in these plans? What research was done? I need to find these answers…

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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
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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!
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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.”

And the winner is………

In Uncategorized on April 24, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Yesterday was Flag Day, which for us new diplomats is not the obscure holiday but rather the day we find out where our first post is located.

And so I found out yesterday where Colleen and I are headed by year’s end to spend the next couple years. And that place is…………….

Brazzaville!

Yes, Colleen and I are headed to the Republic of Congo. We’re super excited as this was our top choice. We have so much to learn about our new home and new jobs, but it’s going to be awesome doing so.

If you’d like some more stats, etc. on Brazzaville and our new life there, check out our embassy’s site: http://brazzaville.usembassy.gov/

So big changes are ahead for us. Thank you all for the support! I can wait to start posting about cultural and linguistic (French) lessons I’ll be learning over the coming months. Keep an eye out!