If you spent time abroad before you joined the Foreign Service and especially if that time abroad was doing something that put you in close contact with the “everyday” citizens of your host country, your first tour can make you feel a little out of place. If you always took public transport without a single worry beyond making sure you had your wallet in a front pocket or never packed make-up because who needs that while backpacking through the Mayan jungle or figured a shopping spree included sturdier tent stakes and an extra set of flashlight batteries to compliment your new mosquito net, then having security guards patrol your neighborhood and having a generator and a cistern to supply you with continual household comforts can seem weird…although at the same time it doesn’t, because electricity, water and a certain level of safety feel normal at home and an Embassy feels like a little corner of the US abroad.
I have been thinking about this a lot as we’re going through our bid list. B Files has told me a couple of times I should update the Santo Domingo RPR of Talesmag (I am writing an RPR for it poco a poco now). I had never read it, but she’s right. Wow! – what a difference of opinion people can have regarding the same post. And why? We’re all different people I guess. We seek different comforts, different moments, different ways to make our home away from home feel like the place where we belong. It’s no secret that we (my family and I) have come to love it here. We have a lot going for us when it comes to this post and I guess that makes it easier. For one, we always loved traveling to places like the DR (hectic, chaotic places with spotty electricity, tentative bus schedules and loud, joyful people). Being part of the Embassy makes experiencing this the way we used to a little more difficult, but we seek out moments (and, I say, thank god for my job because it takes me far from the Embassy life quite frequently). Of course, it helps too that I speak Spanish. I didn’t really have to go through the navigation process in the same way many accompanying spouses and partners do. Plus, our kids are young, they are adaptable and have taken to life here completely.
So, this all sounds completely random, I know. And, obviously doesn’t sound at all related to food. But, it’s food (and bidding, of course) that got me first thinking about how we make a home somewhere. There are these moments, frequently…or perhaps all the time, when I am visiting a community for work. It’s crazy hot and humid and dusty in the air and muddy on the ground and I cannot imagine wanting to be anywhere else. And then, that wonderful moment is made perfect by the offering of a chair from a community member. A plastic chair, always, slid over a concrete floor and wiped clean before I can even move to sit down. And then a small, plastic cup of refresco (Country Club Orange or Cola Real usually) with a tiny bit of hielo. The most incredibly perfect antidote to the heat. And a smile…or often many because in small communities it takes little to draw a crowd. And I think, in that moment, I get to spend forever finding these moments, over food, over refreshments, with new friends, everywhere. If that’s the case, if we can find that, how do we not love every post, in some way, some how? Oh, and that’s rhetorical by the way, don’t answer it. I’m not naïve…just at peace.