Friday, September 21, 2012


Right around the time the middle east imploded, I started a new job at the Embassy. I don't mean to imply that those two events are connected, but there you have it.

Technically, I'm probably not supposed to blog about work. But I'm going to cheat a little bit here and tell you something about what I've been doing.

The State Department has a program called the Professional Associates program. In a nutshell, when a post is understaffed, they can apply to Washington to hire a qualified spouse instead of finding another foreign service officer to fill the gap. Interested spouses have to take a business writing test, and fill out all sorts of forms, and sit through an interview or two, and if you're selected, Washington will hire you into the job and treat you like a regular FSO. It's a great gig if you can get it (there aren't a lot of them). It's probably the best paying job you can get at the Embassy, and it's a "real" job - not typing, filing, shredding, or escorting visitors around the building. It's really, really hard for a spouse to find a real job at most Embassies, so when you get a chance, you have to jump on it.

I applied, and I was selected to work in the public diplomacy section. Which, if you don't know, is sort of the public face of the Embassy. In public diplomacy, the officers talk to the press, and maintain the website, and monitor the Embassy's social media programs, and bring in guest speakers, and organize cultural events, and manage the English language programs, and translate American books into Arabic, and arrange web chats with prominent writers, and, and, and. So: the public diplomacy section sells America.

Now I'm in public diplomacy. My first week there, I invited myself along with a new colleague who was managing a visit, just to see how it all works. She had arranged to have a well-known graphic novelist, Craig Thompson, come from the States to tour Jordan and teach technique to students and professional graphic artists alike.

The day I joined the tour, Craig was at the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt, Jordan, where he was running a seminar to teach cartooning and story telling to the deaf students there, who ranged in age from about 5-15.

It was really so cool to watch the kids interact with him, and to see their focus as they created their stories and then told those stories using sign language. And it was awesome that this well-respected, award-winning artist took the time to teach these kids what he knows. The kids really responded to him, and they were all so excited to show him what they could do.

Watching the whole thing unfold made me glad I'd chosen to take on this new job.

The author with some of his students.


Each group of two took turns drawing their story on the board and then signing their story.

The author with the man who runs the school.

This kid loved seeing his own picture.

I snapped a photo of these guys....

... and they insisted upon taking one of me.

I loved this little girl...

This one, too.

After we finished the class, we took a tour of the workshop, where the older kids learn skills like needlework and pottery so they can make a living in the future.
Making carpets in the workshop.



Becca said... [Reply]

cool gig!!!

Adrian Pratt said... [Reply]

Congrats on the new job. Well deserved. You're going to have a great time.

Dorothy Handelman said... [Reply]

This sounds like a great fit for you and your photographs are a great addition to making events memorable! Good job!!

Tradeurbeads said... [Reply]

I think that it is great that you have one of the Professional Associate jobs at the Embassy, but I was taken aback by your comment " It's probably the best paying job you can get at the Embassy, and it's a "real" job - not typing, filing, shredding, or escorting visitors around the building." For a spouse any job he/she can find overseas is a "real job" even if it is escorting a visitor or an electrician around the Embassy. If any or all Management or H.R. Officers felt this way spouses would never have any opportunities to work, gain experience in an Embassy, get clearance and start to make a career for themselves while moving every 2-4 years.
I wish you the best of luck with your new job.

Mommy said... [Reply]

Congratulations! I have a read A LOT about the trials and tribulations of the "trailing spouse" and work opportunities (or lack thereof) at post. This may be a really "duh" question but it has always baffled me. Why doesn't DOS make more of an effort to put qualified spouses/EFMS into jobs that are currently held by local hires? I get that an EFM is going to have to be replaced in 2 years and a local hire has more longevity potential. But it seems backwards to me that they give more opportunity to local hires than the very citizens who are there serving their country, even if they are no the direct hire i.e. FSO, FSS, etc. I get that local hires are a great means of diplomacy with the host country--but sometimes it angers me that seemingly more preference in jobs is given to locals rather than qualified Americans. Am I mistaken on this? I'm sure every EMB is different...but this just seems to be the general trend and have always wanted to understand it more. I'm especially interested b/c I am awaiting my OA as an FSS and my husband would go from a top level intel analyst with the military to potentially escorting the guy who waters the plants and it just seems so wrong!

Alex said... [Reply]

Welcome to public diplomacy! Sounds like a great gig. Hoping it keeps going well!

To answer Mommy -- when there are jobs open at an embassy EFMs DO have an advantage over locals in the hiring process, assuming they meet all of the requirements (which they sometimes don't due to high-level language needs). The problem is that new jobs don't necessarily open up all the time, or at the right times for arriving EFMs.

Sara said... [Reply]

That's really cool!

Mommy said... [Reply]

Thanks Alex for the insight...I appreciate it and it does make sense :)

Daniela Swider said... [Reply]

Awww, congrats on the new gig! It seems pretty awesome! You are a great fit for it. Loved the story of the cartoonist teaching the kids his art. That's public diplomacy at its best and you get to be part of it. That's pretty darn fantastic!

McKeatings said... [Reply]

Congrats on the new job and thank you for the beautiful post! I LOVE seeing art and kids being an important part of what PD is doing there. So cool!

Please. Write your own stuff.