It’s been quite a while since I last posted. Work has been increasingly busy, and I’ve been on a few trips since my last blog post. Due to the new security restrictions, it has been more important to get out of the country to recharge. Thankfully, we have had no other large attacks and things have been relativiely quiet in Dhaka (well, as quiet as anything can be in Dhaka…).
First, some work updates. We are still on Authorized Departure, and nearly all the children and spouses are gone. In the consular section, this means that we try to fill some of the gaps. We are all getting rotationally trained in American Citizen Services, and the workload overall feels like it has increased. I still love the work, but I know it will only get busier as some of our consular folks leave post and new ones have yet to arrive. Embassy Dhaka is incredibly tight-knit and I feel like I have a very large extended family, which helps with the challenges of not being able to go anywhere. We have organized sports, game nights, happy hours, dinners at each others houses. Nevertheless, getting out from time to time definitely makes me feel less clausterphobic!
In early August, I travelled with a colleague to Dubai, UAE for her birthday. It was hot as hell there, but we managed to have an amazing time. We ate delicious food, burnt our feet on the beach, went dune-bashing, perused a gigantic mall, and generally just lived it up for a weekend.
In late August, we got word that Secretary of State John Kerry would be visiting Dhaka for a day. This threw our Embassy into a bit of a frenzy as we prepared. I, being fairly low on the totem pole, was given minor tasks to do, but even these kept me busy. It was exciting and seeing John Kerry in the flesh was surreal. His last activity before swooping off to the airport was to come chat with the American employees – photo op and everything. His staff was amazing and made things flow fairly smoothly, and I was extremely proud of our Embassy staff for pulling off such a successful visit with such short notice.
A couple days after the SecState visit, I flew off on a longer leave vacation. I started in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to meet up with some A-100 colleagues. We travelled together to Siam Reap, where we explored Angkor Wat and more amazing ruins and temples. It took me about a week to feel normal again, with the headiness of freely going to Mexican food restaurants and walking to a Dairy Queen a little too much to handle for some time. I really enjoyed my friends company and the sites were just spectacular. Again, hot as hell, but so so worth it.
From Cambodia, I then travelled to Hanoi to begin a week long solo tour. My tour began with an overnight Halong Bay cruise, which was delightful and gorgeous. I then went to Hoi An, where I had a couple of suits tailor made (now I just need an occasion to wear them!), went on a bike ride through rice paddies, scootered in the pouring rain, and perused little streets. I also had the best curry in my life at a little restaurant.
From Hoi An, I flew to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). I had booked a Mekong Delta river cruise on a 12-cabin boat. As the bus drew nearer to the Delta, the tour guide turned to me and said “Did they inform you that you that you were upgraded to a private boat?” Apparently the larger boat was undergoing maintanence, so they had no choice but to put me on a one-cabin boat. It was a glorious overnight introvert heaven. I had my own chef and waiter. I lay on the top of the boat and watched the world go by. Because I was on a smaller boat, I was also able to go on smaller canals. We visited villages, a floating market, and saw rice noodles being made. The food was spectacular and plentiful.
Upon completion of the cruise, I joined up with other A-100 buddies in Saigon. I had a more Western experience here, with malls, Haagen Daz, and general touristing. It was great to catch up with folks I hadn’t seen in over 6 months and hear how their lives were going in their own Consulates or Embassies. It was also nice to see how life functioned in a semi-normal post, where people can go where they please and safety is not something they regularly worry about. My vacation in Cambodia and Vietnam was stellar overall and definitely one of the best I’ve ever taken!
Shortly upon returning to Dhaka, I was packing again, this time for a workshop for First and Second Tour Officers. I travelled to Hyderabad, India with a couple of Embassy colleagues. We spent 3 days learning more about opportunities to us and were counseled on how to excel in our careers. There were also a couple of cultural events scheduled, one to a fort and tomb and another to a local market. Hyderabad was lovely and I would not mind returning – the weather was dry and not horribly hot.
After all this travelling in the past couple of months, I’m ok with taking a break here in Dhaka. Sometimes routine is not a bad thing, and my cat has missed me terribly. I love my friends and colleagues here, and while our daily lives are challenging, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of folks to spend my time with. Until next time!