Friday, March 5, 2010

Not recruitment material.

I was checking out this blog, one of my daily reads. life after jerusalem. The post was discussing a nasty article written by some nincompoop about how cushy the FS life is and how overpaid FS employees are. Here's the article crappy article. Also, it was referenced to in diplopundit. I found it all very interesting.
Obviously, this man, who was fired after two weeks with State, has an ax to grind, and bad information. He is uncredible.


But the credible part was in the comments. There were comments from various FS employees and family members that were refuting the article and adding personal stories as evidence that life is not cushy in the FS. It turns out life is hard. Very hard. Up-hill-both-ways-in-the-winter hard. I knew this. I know this.


But, geez, people, you're killing me here. I'm waiting to enter this life. I need a little more ignorance and bliss. These kinds of comments aren't exactly recruitment material.


"...locally, say in Bangladesh, all the food is contaminated by live sewage or sprayed with viscious pesticides that other countries have outlawed as wildly dangerous. We bleach every leaf of every vegetable we buy in countries like that. So we also eat bleach... 
...My kids could not ride bikes, scooters or other things kids in America could do and my kids were sick about 70% of the time with, at the least, mild nausea, stomach cramps and or diahreah. At worst, and several times, my young children were hospitalized with askaris worms, shigellosis, and one form of e-coli that literally almost killed my daughter...
...You can almost get used to the fact that human feces runs down an open drain that runs along the outside of your house's gate, but you never quite get used to the smell..."
"...watching your kids suffer is torture and anyone who says our lives are a piece of cake would do well to remember this. We had to watch our dog die slowly from a parasitic infection that the vets were unable to diagnose much less treat...
...We were confined to our house for weeks at a time because of civil unrest and violence (to the point that there was so much gunfire on the streets that I wouldn't even let the children play in our yard) and, ultimately, there was an evacuation which separated our family for 4 months...
...it isn't easy to live in many of the places where we have embassies and consulates and I challenge anyone who says it is to actually go do it. I challenge them to uproot their children every 2-3 years, help them settle into a new life in a new country in a new school with new friends and teachers and languages, etc. Then watch them thrive and grow and learn to love their new country-only to rip them out of it again in 2-3 years..."
"...Have you ever awoken in the middle of the night to find your baby daughter in a coma, dying of malaria? Awoken to the sound of automatic weapons fire in the street outside your house? Been shot at (on five separate occasions in three continents)? Stepped over dead bodies as you walked down a narrow alleyway too narrow to walk around them? Had worms and malaria simultaneously? I have. And many other Foreign Service members have had similar experiences.
...In addition to the above, in Mali, when the Niger river flooded, dead animals used to line my road to work. When they got hot enough, they exploded. In Mozambique, there was a war on, and we could see and hear nightly mortar fire from some embassy houses. When landing in Maputo in those days, we could tell we were getting close by the columns of black smoke from trucks burning on the road to South Africa. In Uzbekistan, my telephone was bugged and my comings and goings were overtly followed. In India, I lived in a city which the WHO ranked seventh in the world for air pollution. I also learned that my own apartment had been specifically targeted by Bin Laden’s organization (then not yet known as Al Qaida)..."
"... in the middle of mind numbing poverty, human rights abuses, and on and off again civil war, live in a house in which entire systems may fail repeatedly (what will it be today? Plumbing? Water heating? Electricity? Oh look, my cabinets just collapsed because termites ate them. How wonderfully cultural) and go to work with the knowledge that a rocket may come through the roof of your embassy office...
...populace often so hostile towards foreigners that you run the risk of being beaten by a mob if you end up in a fender bender, in the wrong place at the wrong time...
...water that can kill you if you get as little as a drop in your mouth while showering (or make you feel like you wish you were dead...
...Ever have to live with the debilitating fear that hits you when your child has a disease that has been virtually eradicated in the developed world, forcing an immediate medical evacuation?...
...I know people who would've simply been happy if they could get into the shower without getting a jolt of electricity from faulty house wiring (true story), have a single solid bowel movement, and could eat something other than dal bhat for the 25th time that month or a carrot that doesn't taste like it has been soaked in a Clorox wipe..."
"...I will have a decent place to live in Moscow, and probably will be spied on and followed, plus I will come close to being killed in chaotic traffic, inhale large amounts of pollution, get food poisoning multiple times. Last time we lived there, there were bombs going off in random places, and the theater siege by Chechen rebels. Of course I also get the expenses of setting up house in a new country every couple of years, and the challenges of keeping myself and our children psychologically balanced despite being uprooted and starting our lives over every few years (being far from family, starting out without friends, finding new work for the accompanying spouse, setting up new daily routines, doing all grocery shopping in a foreign language)."
"... served a year in Baghdad. I left my husband and two teenage sons at home to serve my country in a war zone. Yes, we lived in the Green Zone, but people were killed and injured on the Embassy Compound during my time there. Incoming IED prevented us from getting a decent night's sleep. We worked 12 or more hours a day, 6-7 days a week....
...Shall I tell you about the various tropical diseases my family and I suffered? or how my youngest son was born via c-section with local anesthesia because the doctor who claimed he knew how to do a spinal block messed it up? or how my husband had to be evacuated from post three days after our wedding because there was a "credible" threat that the Colombian cartels were going to assassinate some American family members?..."
...willingly ingesting fine dust particles (between 0.5 and 10 micrometres) in the Sudan...
...As to danger pay, that's an allowance for being a moving target overseas. But it would look bad if we start calling it the "moving target" allowance, right?  You may or may not know this but more ambassadors have died in the service of this country in the last 30 years than generals. You can look it up in the AFSA memorial plaque.  As unarmed representatives of the United States, our diplomats and their families put themselves in harm's way overseas simply because of who they are and where they work..."
..."Trust me, anyone who comes into the Foreign Service as an FS 04 could be earning MUCH more in in the private sector, but we choose to take a pay cut to serve our country...   
...the truth is that most FS spouses can not find work overseas... 
...the PTSD people return with after being awoken nightly by bombs, after losing colleagues to IEDs, after narrowly escaping death themselves... 
...Beijing, where one FS spouse has lost her health to the pollution. Her husband has lost his hearing from an unknown virus and poor health care..."
"...I find myself wandering around in my huge, fancy mansion (my house that hasn't had any heat in a week, that's bugged to the rafters so nothing is private, where not even my dog can drink the water)..."
"...Now please excuse me, I have to finish getting my three year old ready for the "school bus". Since we've had five running gun battles in the city over the last two weeks, Post has authorized armored vehicle coverage so he and the other pre-schoolers can safely get to school. Love this posh life!"


OK, folks.
Don't think I'm naive. I know what I'm getting myself into. My eyes are open.
It's kind of like having kids. I love my kids and all the wonderful things about them. Life is richer for knowing them. I have a different view of the world due to them. I wouldn't trade it. I also know childbirth hurts. I know what 10cm means. I read all the books and knew what to expect when I was expecting. And I chose no pain meds, three times. But when I see a friend pregnant, expecting her first child I don't tell her about 10 cm, I don't tell her about stitches or other gory details.

Here's my "10 cm" staring me right in the face...sewage, feces, smells, parasites, diarreah, vomit, bombs, PTSD, exploding animals, dust storms, coma kids, damaged membranes, bugged houses, armored vehicles, overworked, underpaid, disease, evacuated, carjacked, surveillance, loneliness, isolation...Thanks people.








5 comments:

Connie said...

Everything has pros and cons, and you need perspective. If you go to Cairo, you'll find the traffic is horrible, You get hit often. However, people drive slow and you don't get hit hard. Drive in DC, cars move faster... you're less likely to get hit, but it hurts more if you do, and you have ice and snow too. Anyway, the great thing about being in this life sytle, is you are NOT in it alone. :)

Digger said...

Okay...sorry about that.

The problem is that so many Americans have this image of us that involves fancy dinners and living the high life. They do need to know that isn't an accurate picture, because it is one of the reasons we don't get all the resources we need.

That said, you are not making a mistake joining us. Life can be hard, but as Connie said, you are not in it alone. Many of the people you serve with become like family to you. And I wouldn't trade the experiences I have had for anything!

Bryn said...

I agree with the others...this life is hard, but great. How many people can say they've experienced so many different cultures and seen so many different incredible things? Yes, there is danger and yes you don't get paid well AT ALL. We took a massive pay-cut coming into the foreign service, but it was worth it for the many many doors that will be open to my children as they grow up.

In the states, there is constant worry that someone will bring in Polio, etc. and infect those who haven't had the vaccination. It's everywhere! No worries!! You'll have some crazy times, but you won't regret it. The guy who wrote that article is just bitter and never got to REALLY experience the FS.

Jodi H said...

Don't know if you saw, but you were featured in Diplopundit today with this post. I loved it too, btw.

Bridget said...

I am really glad I found your blog. My husband and I are FS candidates- I passed the OA recently and he takes his soon. And we have two kids, 2 & 4. And I have lived in Africa and don't see how i can take my little kids there. Maybe when they are older. And those responses you cite scared the you know what out of me. It's one thing to do this alone, on my own. But to bring my children to a potentially dangerous place? I want this so badly, but I'm scared. I look forward to following you. Thanks for the honesty. Bridget