Oh Man, Oman

A building that befits Jasmine.

When I was younger I thought Arabia must be a land that resembled something of a cross between Aladdin (the Disney adaptation) and the epic scenery of Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia. Yet, upon my arrival in Bahrain, I found it to be radically different from that vision. In fact, most of the places I have visited in Persian Gulf have been significantly less fantastical and although some retain elements that are traditional, much of what I found was sterile and modern. Places like Doha and Dubai evoke a sense of modern decadence and delusion, with their tall glass phallic symbols and dusty surroundings devoid of color and yet full of asphalt and artificial light. In the sole Arab country I have visited outside of the Gulf, Jordan, the countryside and squat buildings reminded me of a poor European country, and even the remarkable historical landmarks like Petra and the wondrous natural beauty of the Dead Sea transported me to a very un-Arab world (I did not make it to Wadi Rum, made famous by Lawrence). Oman, was the first place where the imaginations of my childhood were realized. Continue reading

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Getting Juiced About Honduras

This post is long in the making.  As I sit here drinking my breakfast of apple, pear, celery, and ginger juice I want to make two quick statements: we are going to Honduras for our next post, and I’m grateful to my friend for getting me the most awesome wedding gift, a juicer!  The Breville Juicer (no this isn’t an advertisement) is awesome!  Thank you to an unnamed friend in Seattle who hooked me up.  It will be making the journey with us to our next posting in Honduras.

Martha Stewart’s classic herb drink.

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Wives Who Watch Star Wars are Better

Source: fanpop.com

Now that the Olympics are over, it is time to refocus my attention for entertainment elsewhere.  Being abroad in the foreign service gives you ample time to forget most of the popular culture references you learned in the U.S., meanwhile providing the opportunity to never learn the latest that come to pass. However, I couldn’t let that happen, it’s just not my style. Unfortunately, I have learned, mostly from newly arriving colleagues, that it was becoming my style. I could do as some of my colleagues (including military guys) do and read Us, People, and Entertainment Weekly to keep up, but again, that’s just not my style. I’ve turned to relearning what I have forgotten and becoming a fan of new TV shows, movies, and music to try and keep myself somewhat in the know. Continue reading

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Olympic Obsession

(source: artdesigncafe.com)

I love the Olympics! My TV has displayed the games everyday since they began with arguably the most eccentric and amazing opening ceremony imaginable from the mind that brought us Trainspotting. They play in the background until some sport grabs me and I watch intently for the next few hours getting caught up in the commentary, wondering how I have not always been an avid fan of sailing or taekwondo. I caught every second of Usain Bolt’s 100 meter qualifying and victory, and most of the 200. The women’s heptathlon and men’s decathlon became two of my new favorite events, which begs the question: why we don’t bring back the Ancient Olympic pentathlon with the triagmos of long jump, javelin throw, and discus, along with a stadion foot race, and grand finale of a wrestling to decide the final victor?!?  LeBron James dunked on a seven foot Chinese guy and we dunked on the Chinese in the medal count, finally after trailing them for most of the Olympics. And who can deny that Michael Phelps has enough gold to be a Bond villain. Continue reading

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10,000

That, my friends, is the number of miles I have driven on an island a little more than three times the size of Washington DC. In a year and a half I have traversed a distance equal to driving across the state of Texas more than 11 times! It’s no small feat, especially considering that nearly all of the island’s population is concentrated in the northern third of its territory and due to security concerns more than half of that area is not recommended for exploration.  Thankfully, the gasoline is so wonderfully subsidized that it’s practically free.  There is some solace to be found in this seemingly crazy number of miles traveled over the course of a year-and-a-half by motor vehicle: it is actually a very small amount of miles to be traveled over the course of a year-and-a-half by motor vehicle.

The Tree of Life: the jewel of Bahrain’s deep south.

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Dilmun the Great, Friend of the Servant

“Dili” Dilmun Decker Kadkhodai

Dili, short for Dilmun Decker Kadkhodai, is the most awesome cat around.  Despite all the bogus harassment guys get for liking cats, I am proud to say that our cat is a great friend.  No, change that, he is a great ruler of his domain.  His name derives from where he’s from.  Dilmun is the name of the ancient trading civilization that included the island of Bahrain (and is also part of the Epic of Gilgamesh).  We figured it was as appropriate a name as any for our little guy, seeing as he was found nestled with his brothers and sisters under a water tank behind my former home in the Lari Park housing compound the Shi’a village of Barbar, which is also home to the 5000-year-old Barbar Temple of the Dilmun era.  It was no easy feat to catch Dili, the strongest and most curious of the litter.  It required a trash can top, a laundry net, some string, and dry cat food bait.  As if sensing his destiny was grander than the dumpster-diving street cats that make up the rest of his tribe, he risked everything allowing himself to be trapped by his future servant.   Continue reading

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The Price of Service

I recently realized the price I paid by joining the State Department when my cousin in Iran died. Continue reading

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Diplonaut

“The prospective colonization of space responds, not to the particular problems of the American nation, or of any other nation, but to those of mankind as a whole… In an ideal view, such an undertaking by mankind as a whole would tend to divert it from its present preoccupation with international conflict, would tend to channel its energies into the pursuit of a great common purpose.”
Louis J. Halle in Foreign Affairs, 1980

“I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I’m an optimist. We will reach out to the stars.”
Stephen Hawking, interview with Daily Telegraph, 2001

“In the long run, a single-planet species will not survive. One day, I don’t know when, but one day, there will be more humans living off the Earth than on it.”
NASA director Mike Griffin, quoted in “Mars or Bust,”
Rolling Stone, 2006

Do they have Skype out there?

And those are just the highlights of the quotes of great minds on why we must make our way into the great unknown with urgency.  And if there are more humans living off the Earth than on it, there will be a need for a diplonaut or two.  I coined this term.   Continue reading

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Study Suggests Serious State Staffing Shortages Start to Show

All alliteration aside, this is an important issue.  There was a great article in Foreign Policy about the staffing challenges the Foreign Service has and will have in the near future, especially at the midlevel.  I want to take a minute to examine this from the level of the individual.  Many Foreign Service Officers have and will rave about the opportunities that this shortfall presents, and yes some will excel despite being relatively junior in the foreign service, perhaps only serving two or three tours, as the head of a section in a small or medium-sized embassy.  However, the individuals that generally perform well in any organization, capable of managing in numbers, and most importantly, able to manage up, are those that bring previous managerial experience to their jobs.  So, despite the fact that opportunities abound and the dreams of becoming Ambassador in less than 20 years just may come true, the reality is that there is great risk to one’s psyche, health, and to the greater U.S. mission abroad, to have individuals thrust into managerial positions of great responsibility before they are prepared to make the leap.  Continue reading

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Peace Out Man

I met my colleague back in March 2010, when we were both just arriving at Foreign Service Officer School (i.e. Foreign Service Institute‘s A-100 Class).

Not many weeks later we both learned that we would be headed to the same posting in Manama, Bahrain, except that he was scheduled to head there many months before I would arrive.  It was not his top choice.  Regardless, he trailblazed a path for me to follow and set up shop in my future office.  Actually, I should say, our office.  We have shared probably one of the nicest offices available in the Embassy, the only one I know that has two couches in it, with a great view of Tubli Bay (easily the smelliest spot in Bahrain).  Well this post is a homage to my friend who will depart on Thursday to head back to the greener grass for training.  Here a few things I’ll miss (roast): Continue reading

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