Thursday, May 17, 2012


I am supremely new to "foreign service blogging" as a community. In fact, I am pretty sure my readership is still entirely made up of family. I haven't even put up the standard FS blogger disclaimer because my mom knows I have no official capacity to say anything about anything. I am also pretty new at actually talking about thoughts and opinions on my blog, previously sticking to travelogues and the cute things the kids say and do.

But here's the thing. This is a "Foreign Service blog" anyway. No matter who hears it, thinks it, or believes it. No matter if there isn't a single actual or potential member of the Foreign Service who reads it, has ever read it, or has even heard of it. When one member of the family becomes paid by the US Government to be in the Foreign Service, everyone else is immediately recruited.  What my children and I say and do is being watched (and not just in the spy thriller way). I bite my tongue when, in the USA, I wouldn't. We're not just along for the ride, we are part of it.

One source of frustration for me has always been meeting FS people, either paid or family, who are surprised by some facet of our life that is easily discovered through any of many online or print resources. As an academic at heart, I research everything thoroughly. The more important the issue, the more important is having full access to all relevant facts.

There is a theme here. There is a reason I'm ranting about this in a post entitled Nipple. Gimme a minute.

The #1 reason FSO/FSS leave the Foreign Service is family issues. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to train and security clear each person. It's really in everyone's interest to be sure that person intends to stay. If the spouse is unhappy, and said Officer/Specialist still likes said spouse, that staying is less likely.

Blogs are one of the very best ways to learn about the real nitty gritty of FS life. You have hundreds of people writing about their actual daily life. Living "on the economy" is very different from living somewhere as part of the FS community. It matters to know what it's like. It matters to enter an A-100 class with every literate family member having some sense of what's coming up. Because what happens to the Officer/Specialist happens to the family. We get separated and employees go to places where they will be shot at. We DON'T get separated and family members come down with dread diseases, risk kidnapping and muggings on a scale not one USA city can match, or our parents die while we're still on the flight back to be with them during their last days.

One member of our community, one of the earliest and best Foreign Service Bloggers, was recently removed from the blogroll State uses as a recruitment tool. Jen Dinoia's story is here and here. The gist is, receiving the diagnosis of breast cancer while your husband is on an unaccompanied tour is too personal and not FS enough. One specific example of inappropriate content was her mention of "nipple cozies". The odd thing is that the story itself, how DOS let her husband curtail from an AIP assignment, found him a job in DC to be with her throughout the ordeal, and MED working to find a suitable onward assignment the entire family could go to, is a great recruitment tool - a story of how State put families first.

Here's some more bloggers who are writing about this in solidarity with Jen, much more eloquently that I have.

Here's from Life After Jerusalem: What makes a blog an FS blog?
And Connie at Whale Ears and Other Wonderings: Not FS Enough
And Sadie Abroad: Nippletastic: A Rant for FS Bloggers
And Noble Glomads: Don't tell us who is relevant to us
And The Wandering Drays: "Nipped in the blog"
And Well That was Different: It's the Little Things
Four Globetrotters: Nipples, Nipples, Everywhere
dp's Blog gives us: I guess I'm not as important as I once assumed


fourglobetrotters said...

Just found your blog and love it! And thanks for the link! I'm so glad to see so many people rallying around Jen. She deserves it.

Donna said...

I'm a reader!

Donna said...

I'm a reader!

Becky said...

I've read your blog for a bit. Very well said. I'm so glad people who are better at saying this stuff than me are speaking out. (I can't seem to get a coherent post together lately.) I am a researcher too. Just wish I'd found the blogs before we joined because it would have helped. I didn't know much about blogs in general before we joined. Just recently I was chatting with someone who was reeling from the spouse joining State and feeling totally in the dark. I don't know how many times I meet "trailing spouses" who just seem like they are in shock. It always makes me worry about the viability of the marriage and/or of the career. Like you said, retention issues can get expensive.

Lynne said...

Thanks ladies :) Becky, I'll admit I doubt I found any blogs when I was deciding whether we should make the jump, but I know I did enough research to be confounded by some of the things the other spouses said to me during training about their expectations.