Foreign Service

Over dinner tonight (my wife’s wonderful Osso Bucco with rice and green beans and a superb salad), I mentioned to my wife that I had read some interesting comments on an online forum. I subscribe to a Quora feed on typical breakfasts around the world.  This afternoon, I read a new post about Chinese breakfasts.  As is typical of me, I didn’t stop there.  I read on and on, stopping at one point to read a post by someone about Turkish breakfasts.

This post about Turkish breakfasts wasn’t made by the typical poster…someone who once visited a foreign country on a stopover, had breakfast, and deemed himself an expert on all things related to the stopover country.  No, this post was made by someone who served for many years in the foreign service and who lived the culture of the country to which he was assigned.  I was fascinated from the moment I started reading about the Turkish breakfast.  The menu isn’t important.  What’s important is the thought process that followed, and the ideas that emerged over tonight’s dinner.

As I told my wife the story, I mentioned how much I wished I would have pursued the opportunity…or tried to make the opportunity…to serve in the foreign service.  My interest in foreign cultures could have been addressed by a career in foreign lands.  My thirst for knowledge about other cultures could have been quenched in such a role. But then, my wife and I began to talk: what, exactly, do foreign service officers do?  What roles do they play? Are ALL of them spies?  Are SOME of them spies?  Do they perform functions that truly serve the American people?  Do they help the people of the countries to which they are assigned?

The questions mushroomed.  And so I ask: if anyone who stumbles across this post can answer my questions, will you?  I am serious.  I know this post will be read by a small number of people, but maybe ONE of you will accidentally find yourself here and will have answers.  Will you share them?

Please.  I want to know more than I know.   That’s not hard, of course, but YOUR knowledge could be just what I’m after.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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