In the first of our despatches from colleagues in new postings, former head of US Consular Services Andre Goodfriend describes life back in Obamaland
No doubt about it, relocating is stressful – and diplomats relocate every two to four years._Leaving friends and colleagues is always difficult; but then again, each move also brings us back to friends and colleagues we knew elsewhere._
For me, my most recent move was also a homecoming._I was returning to Washington DC._The experience of being abroad has changed dramatically during my career._Whereas 20 years ago, one learned to watch the same local television stations as everyone else and news from home came via letters, videotapes and day-old newspapers. Now, with the Internet and satellite television, it’s possible to read the hometown newspapers and watch television from anywhere – no matter where you are._
But one thing hasn’t changed:_you still can’t hear the discussions in your countries’ coffee shops or on the buses or in the movie ticket lines._I’m enjoying immersing myself in the crowds and hearing the chatter._ And there has been a lot to talk about
The economy is the topic of the day._In the six months that I’ve been in DC, the price of gasoline rose to over four dollars a gallon – the highest it has ever been — and then fell to under two dollars a gallon, roughly the same as in 2004, the year I arrived in London.
And there have been some immense crowds chattering. … Washington saw about a half million people gather near the Lincoln
Memorial for the “We Are One” concert prior to the presidential inauguration._About two million people gathered two days later for the inauguration itself._ I positioned myself squarely in the middle of the excited crowds and enjoyed just being there._ Being in the middle of this mass of people who had come to Washington from all over the country – and indeed all over the world – also brought home how important the sense of community is.
Now, back in Washington, the experience of being home has also changed dramatically._ In addition to being able to renew my friendships in the US I am able to maintain social relationships around the world using online social networks that hardly existed when I arrived in London in 2004.__ Via a video posted to the US Embassy’s Consular Section “blog” I am able to see colleagues who attended a conference there._ Even this emailed magazine is an example of a community staying together using modern networks._ Through tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Skype and other online social networks, I remain connected to my colleagues, even after lrelocating._ And who knows, perhaps with these new media it might even be possible to hear the chatter and “tweets” of the crowds.
Contact Andre on goodfriendMA@state.gov. Got a Post-script? Get in touch on email@example.com