Andre Goodfriend writes from Washington

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.

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