I’m nearly done here. It’s time to move on. My replacement has arrived and she is learning to take over my responsibilities. This is the nature of this business; you move to a place, finally settle down and begin to understand what motivates the people that live there, and then it is time to say goodbye. As the days begin to pass more quickly and my colleagues begin positioning themselves to manage our office’s responsibilities without me, I find myself clinging to relevance. A relevance that is likely imagined, but seemed real every once in a while. I realize now that I am in no hurry to relinquish my life as a Political Officer in Bahrain, but I know that is exactly what is happening, whether I like it or not.
The last two months have been a whirlwind, likely the reason I have not taken the time to post anything despite the wealth of topics to choose from: visiting Vietnam (the best trip we have taken on this tour), my wife finally moving from Doha to Bahrain, my father visiting for ten days, an election party extravaganza, helping my successor adjust to her portfolio, an official farewell party that moved me more than I expected (and featured speeches from two of my contacts!), and working as a control officer for the IISS Manama Dialogue (largest official event I have ever had to work that saw the likes of Deputy Secretary Burns, Senators [including McCain] and Congressmen, Assistant Secretaries Jones and Posner, as well as other dignitaries from all over the world).
What will I miss? More than I expected. The highlights:
- the unique and colorful characters and personalities at the embassy
- the adrenaline rush of working a high-level visit
- the adrenaline rush of knowing Washington is waiting for your information
- the local holidays and events that add a special flavor to the Bahrain experience
- banter with my colleagues that breaks up an otherwise busy day
- finding new restaurants and giving them to friends as recommendations
- visiting my awesome tailor and chatting about what new suit I should get and why
- hanging out with third country diplomats and comparing our experiences
- official meetings with traditional coffee servers and cardamom coffee
- late afternoon meetings at my favorite place in Bahrain – the Bahrain Fort coffee shop
- learning about the ever interwoven history of families in Bahrain
- reading the wacky headlines in the local newspapers
- watching a country in transition and seeing Bahraini history written each day
- trying my best to have just a tiny positive impact on the future of this country
- and especially my Bahraini friends who have left an indelible mark on me
Even though I have had an extremely rewarding experience, I would be remiss to not address a few things I will be less sad to leave behind:
- the oppressively hot and humid summers
- testosterone-filled teenagers and weekend warrior Saudis driving recklessly
- over-boozed brunches that last too long and cost a fortune
- cheesy interior design
- shades of tan as far as the eye can see
- living on an island with almost no beaches
- a country that doesn’t observe daylight savings time
- flying to get nearly anywhere
The pros and the cons have coupled to make this a real adventure, filled with surprises and challenges that have solidified my view that we are trying desperately to do important and sometimes unenviable work abroad. I hope that I will have the same sense of satisfaction, and subsequent disappointment when I leave my next post in Honduras.
I will spend the next few postings reflecting on my experience in Bahrain and what we have to look forward to in the next few months and years.