My Adventures as a U.S. Diplomat and Family Man

First Stop: Tel Aviv, Israel (July 2012)!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Too Good to Be True?!

A little less than a year ago, I received the long-awaited "call" to join the Foreign Service. A whole new life and career instantly materialized before my eyes but that moment last May also marked the culmination of a pursuit that spanned many years and included several unsuccessful attempts. Some may think that becoming a diplomat was my destiny (cue Darth Vader voice) but I like to think that a mix of dogged determination and perseverance won out (proficiency in Arabic also helped a lot). Like Will Smith tells his son in this motivational scene, "You want something. Go get it. Period." Well, it took me about fifteen years to become a political officer assigned to the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. My wife's journey, on the other hand, was considerably shorter.

Did you get that? J got a a political officer...working with me! Holy dynamic duo, Batman!

Here's how it went down. Earlier this year, J submitted a nondescript application to the Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP). Recognizing the need to maintain morale within the home of Foreign Service Officers, the State Department created EPAP to give spouses the opportunity to obtain substantive positions at various posts. I use the word "substantive" because all too often the careers of "trailing" spouses take a backseat for irregular or less than satisfying work overseas. Truth be told, J's best options in Tel Aviv were shaping up to be either taking fingerprints of visa applicants or volunteering part time with some local school or organization. With this in mind, she was already preparing for the prospects of a two-year sabbatical in Tel Aviv.

It's a good thing she threw her hat into the ring for the EPAP position despite ambivalence about the impersonal application process. One of bureaucratic hurdles was a writing test to ensure that the applicant could put together coherent sentences in English. Mind you J attended the top journalism school in the country so she obviously cleared that one. Nevertheless, we weren't holding our breath. Who else was applying and how long it would it take for the wheels to turn?

Well, low and behold, two weeks ago I received an email from my future boss in Tel Aviv asking whether J would be interested in one of two available full-time EPAP positions! He also asked me frankly if it would be awkward to work together in the same section. I admit that pillow talk about Israeli politics might take some time getting used to but I don't foresee any cataclysmic event like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters. After all, we have been on friendly terms since the time when the Berlin Wall fell and we also spent 2004 together 24/7 traveling around the world. Tel Aviv tandem? Yes, we can!

We were dazed for a few minutes by the sudden news and then regained our senses. Was this an official offer? Were there any other steps? Would J have to learn Hebrew in a few short months? For these very reasons, we kept relatively quiet about the exciting development until J signed on the dotted line (figuratively speaking) over the weekend. She also learned that one of the reasons why she was selected for the position was because she is learning Arabic. It turns out the blood, sweat and tears (I can personally attest that she has expended the latter two) over the past 25 weeks has paid off splendidly!

We still need to receive some assurances about juggling the logistics of after-school care for our kids but the eternal optimist in me says everything is going to work out. Now all that stands between us and our first assignment TOGETHER is passing our upcoming language exams. I test in Hebrew on the 18th and J in Arabic on the 30th.

On that note, it's best that we get back to practicing our verb conjugations. I'll be back in a few short weeks with the results from the test. Wish us luck!


  1. That is AWESOME news! Congrats to J, and you as well for that matter! I am doing an EPAP job right now myself and I'm glad they have the program.

    I look forward to hearing all about it

  2. Congrats to J!! We have many tandem couples working in our Embassy (including us when T starts in a couple weeks), and it seems to work out rather nicely for everyone involved. Good luck on your upcoming test!

  3. This makes me SO happy. That's wonderful that it worked out for J. Congrats! There's no morale booster quite like feeling you're working on something interesting and challenging! Good luck on both of your exams.

  4. Congratulations! I'm also glad this type of program exists... not just for morale, but also for the 'family's own sake and sanity' [insert smiley face here]!

    Best of luck to both of you and family! Looking forward to more stories, and success on the upcoming test!

  5. Congrats to J! I'm also starting an EPAP (Econ) position, whenever I get through this clearance process. On a side note, we enjoy reading your blog and have nominated you for the Reader Appreciation Award -

  6. Hello! Just read your blog after two years it was published. I'm also interested in EPAP and would like to get in touch with your wife to have her insight. BTW my husband and I were in Tel Aviv until 2013, now we are in Athens Greece. Can we get in touch?