Thursday, March 10, 2011

Goodbye NDI and private-sphere privilege

Tomorrow is my last day at NDI (National Democratic Institute for International Affairs), and I can't believe how sad I am to be leaving. Of course, my sadness is offset by the overwhelming joy and excitement of joining the Foreign Service, but over the six months at NDI I've really come not just to love my job and coworkers, but really believe in the Institute's mission and programs (how cheesy, I know). The timing makes it especially bittersweet, because with the current events in the region, we're getting funded to do some awesome and essential work on the ground.

We had a Middle East regional team meeting today to talk about the current situation and what we'll be doing. One statement in particular struck me - apparently, a U.S. congressman was shocked at how good our on-the-ground assets were, saying that they're better than the government's intelligence on the ground now. While that makes me really proud of NDI's work, hearing that comment made me think about what I'm getting into in the government world. I've been so excited about my job and what new opportunities I will have and what I will be able to do, it's easy to forget that this job also means there are things I won't be able to do. As and NDI representative in Yemen, for example, I could go out into the protests, talk with the people, and see how things are developing. As an FSO in Yemen, I'll be confined to a compound, evacuated at the first sign of turmoil, and getting my intel from who knows where (maybe from NDI).

Now I'm not at all criticizing the way the government handles itself abroad- safety and security of employees should be the number one priority, and if that means living on a compound, so be it. It's just that with the amazing privilege I have of working for the government, I am also inheriting the amazing burden of working for the government. Or, as Helen says, "You are now a U.S. Diplomat (baller), but you are always a U.S. Diplomat so behave yourself."

I'm not exactly sure what point I'm trying to make here, if any, so I should probably just stop. I guess I can just say that one chapter of my life is coming to a close and a totally new one is about to begin - one that's going to take a while to get used to.

So au revoir NDI.
Foreign Service: Bring it on.

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