I am a traveler. I am a single mom.  I am a Foreign Service Officer.

That’s the gist, but not the whole, of it.  I studied in China, taught English in South Korea, volunteered and studied in the Philippines, taught English three years in western Japan, and managed to receive two MA degrees, one from the US and one from Singapore.  I was a recovering solo backpacking traveler with over sixty countries visited when I starting working for the federal government in 2006.

In May 2011 I accepted a spot to join the Foreign Service, and a month later I learned I was pregnant. My first tour with the Foreign Service was in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico as a Consular Officer.  Unfortunately, my blog began only at the tail end of that tour.  I served my second tour, also as a Consular Officer,  Shanghai, China.  I spent my third and fourth! (yep, two consecutive tours) as a Political Officer in Lilongwe, Malawi.  My fifth tour will be in Conakry, Guinea.

I am still very much smitten with the travel bug and this will be the repository of my musings on life abroad and as a foreign service officer, traveling with my daughter, past journeys, and life in general.

Over 100 countries and counting.

No journey to, during, or after the Foreign Service is the same.  This is my journey.  Therefore, these are my musings alone and do not represent those of the Department of State or the U.S. government.


16 thoughts on “About

  1. I was recently offered a FSO position and I am supposed to start in January 2016. I am 1 month pregnant and my partner will not be able to join me for a few years – he is in medical school – so, I will basically be a single mother. I was wondering how this worked out for you – specifically, giving birth during the training and finding childcare in DC?

    • Hi. First congrats on your being offered an FSO position. In my situation, I was 11 weeks when I started A-100. We received our bid lists the second week and I had a few weeks to research those places I thought would be best for myself and my new addition. Spanish and French speaking posts seemed the best options as they are large language departments at FSI and could more easily accommodate me leaving in the middle of training and then returning some months later. Finding childcare was harder. I put my daughter on the wait list at the FSI childcare center when I was only 17 weeks pregnant. She never got off the wait list. I lucked out that my mom was considering retiring and I offered her a job as my nanny if she did. There are several groups (FSO Moms, Single Parents in the Foreign Service, and Trailing Houses) that can help with advice and locating resources for things like childcare in DC.

      • Thank you so much for your reply! This information is very helpful.  I emailed FSI today to find out if I could get my child on the wait list before he/she is born and I was encouraged that they said yes.  But, it’s nice to know that this does not mean much since you did the same thing and your daughter was on the list for over a year! I will check out these resources on being a single mother in the FS.  This is my first child and so I have no idea what to expect.  It’s reassuring to know that I am not alone, and other women have also done this on their own! Thanks again for your input!

      • You are absolutely not alone. There are those who will help you along the way – not just the other single parents in the FS. My daughter too was my first (and only) child. To clarify I put her on the FSI wait list as a 17 week old fetus and she was born at 37 weeks. Though I checked when I was 32 weeks and was cheered to know we had moved up to 4th on the waitlist until they told me space was not expected to open for 6 months. But it all depends on timing and yours might be just right to get a spot.

  2. Wow what an adventure! I’m happy to find your blog as I have also been teaching English in Asia and have started looking into a career in foreign service. I was discouraged at first because many of the stories I read was of people who were already working in government jobs so the path for them seemed more clear cut, making me discouraged about my chances. I wanted to ask about your journey transitioning from English teacher abroad to foreign service officer.

    • Hi Lauren, thank you for your comment. There are all sorts of paths to the Foreign Service. There are those who enter right from undergraduate or graduate school with degrees in international relations, but there are many who do all kinds of jobs or degrees and join. In my first tour, there was an officer with a Ph.D. in neuroscience and another with an MA in Equine Therapy. In my A-100 class (our beginning Foreign Service Officer class) there was an Emmy award-winning journalist and another with over 20 years of business management experience. Between my own English teaching abroad experiences and the Foreign Service, I did go to graduate school and then got a research job with the Department of Defense — so I did have some government experience before making the leap (though I first took the test before joining the government). If it’s your passion, then give it a go.

  3. Hi!!
    My husband just finished FS orientation and we got Malawi on Flag Day last week! I googled diet coke in Malawi and your blog is the FIRST result!! 😂 I am LOVINGGGG your blog and feel like I am learning about about malawi and what our life will be like there are a FS family.

  4. Hi there! I’m Lacey. I am a new single mom and looking very carefully for perhaps the 10th time at the FSO. I would love to email you a couple questions if you have time, I know–hilarious! Anyway, cheers, you’re amazing, and take care.

  5. Your account of life in Malawi is so illuminating and helpful (and colourful). Your renewing for a second term there makes the question I am about to ask somewhat rhetorical, but still: ‘was adjusting to the risk of malaria an important part of your calculation? How did you rationalise it?’ I ask because I am considering the possibility of taking up a consulting position in Lilongwe early next year, and I have a four-year-old son. Did either you or your daughter have any problems with being on malaria prophylaxis long-term (which I assume you were)?

    • Hi Peter, thank you for your comment. I will answer you honestly: the malaria medication was not really part of my calculations for doing a second two-year tour. Neither I nor my daughter has experienced difficulty with being on malaria prophylaxis (we take Malarone). Of course, there may be long term effects that we just do not know about, but we have experienced no side effects. Now, that does not mean I enjoy taking the medication daily and will admit to having fallen off the wagon a couple of times. Of course, it is entirely a personal decision and each person may react differently to medication, but I am unaware of any children in the Embassy community having difficulty with the malaria meds.

      Good luck in your decision.

  6. Thanks so much – that’s really helpful and reassuring. Malarone is what I had in mind. If it all works out, I hope you will allow me to buy you a coffee.

  7. Hi, and thank you for this informative blog. I have been searching for a useful perspective on expat life in Lilongwe as I am under consideration for a 3 year gig there–it is an IO-funded development project. I am a retired USG civil servant my kids and I will be unaccompanied. I served two years in W Africa on an excursion tour a few years back, have done short TDYs through AF/W, and lived in W Africa as a USAID brat back in the day. As a selfish request I would appreciate if in a future post you identified what seemed to you the most useful books/guides to living in Malawi. Also (and perhaps you will enjoy this) it would be helpful if before you PCS you published a top 10 to-do and not-to-do list for new arrivals. Thanks! And I wish you and your daughter the very best in Conakry.

    • Nick — congrats on being considered for a job here in Malawi. I am glad that you have found my blog to be helpful. I see that you ask for a future post on guides for living here and Top 10 to do and not to do for new arrivals. Well…. my blog is just about my daughter and my life overseas — our travels and living abroad. It’s not really a “how to” though I hope that it does help some people to learn more about Malawi and the Foreign Service and living overseas. There are just so many ways that people move abroad and a how-to of how I did it — with help from the USG and with access to the Embassy — is not how someone else who is in Peace Corps or with an international NGO or an international company or a volunteer would. I will note that there are very few books about Malawi — either fiction or nonfiction. I read just about all the books I could find on Amazon — from A History of Malawi by John McCraken to The Lower River by Paul Theroux. But while I could get some context on the country none were a guide on how to live here. However, it sounds like you have more than enough experience to make a go of it.

  8. I think your blog creates some great insights into the life of a Foreign Service Officer! I am conducting research on diplomats as cosmopolitans for my MA Thesis. I would love talk to you for a qualitative interview. I am mainly interested in the everyday life and the challenges of living a mobile and transnational lifestyle. If you are interested and have some time, please reach out to me via my email (lrkunjan@uchicago.edu) and I would love to provide some additional information about my project.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s