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

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

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Growing Pains"

Ever since I thought of this blog's title, the theme song to that cheesy 80's sitcom has been stuck in my head. Maybe it's the fact that my twenty-year (20!) high school reunion was this weekend (big shout out to all da' Bears!). Or perhaps it's because my wife, and fellow '92 BCHS alumni, is now sitting just two doors down from my office. Actually, I'm just jealous of Kirk Cameron's man-perm.

In all seriousness, I think "growing pains" sums up pretty well my experience on the job over the past month. I was very fortunate to overlap with my predecessor for my first two weeks. But then he left on on August 1. After the umbilical cord was cut, I quickly discovered there was a lot to do and even more to learn. I studied about the disparate range of issues that I cover in my portfolio. I made cold calls to introduce myself to everyone from LGBT activists to ultra-Orthodox rabbis. I sat in "working group" meetings feeling like a total wallflower while trying to decipher a dizzying array of acronyms. I wrote cables that seem perpetually stuck in a state of arrested development. And, oh yes, I became re-acquainted with the norms of email communication in the government. Bureaucrats love them some carbon copy!  

Don't get me wrong. I'm not waking up in the middle of the night with aches of regret. I still love my job and feel incredibly lucky to have received this assignment. The work is very substantive and the environment is fascinating. There is never a dull moment in Israeli politics and things look to be getting a lot more interesting ('nuff said). Based on some updates from other A-100 classmates, I also understand that it's very normal to feel totally inept in the beginning. In fact, being thrown into some crazy FUBAR situation almost seems to be a rite of passage for many of us. The good news is that I'm gradually becoming more confident and I only feel inept 49% of the time. Now if I could just remember how to speak Hebrew.

It's also reassuring to know I'm not the only one going through a major transition. Both of my boys are now attending a new school and have adapted very well so far. They went from their carefree summer schedule to early morning wake-ups and six-plus hours of school each day. They've already made friends and are blissfully enjoying the perks of an international private school. As a product of public schools, I had the bigger shock. The pre-K through 12th grade facilities include iPad-equipped classrooms, a stadium-seating auditorium and a swimming pool. The campus looks straight off the set of Beverly Hills 90210. And then there's those luxury coaches that pick them up and drop them off every day. No rickety yellow buses spewing noxious plumes of diesel. "Back when I was your age," I tell them each day. Yes, my transformation into a grumpy old man is almost complete.   

My wife has also been be a super trooper. Over the past six weeks J has handled almost all of the challenges of getting us settled in. I say "almost" because I'm still responsible for the occasional pest control duty. But she's done a lot. She entertained the boys inside our suburban townhouse during many a long, hot summer afternoon. She tapped a network of expats to find us our after-school babysitter whom I'm pretty sure has super-human cleaning powers. She organized a ton (literally) of random stuff delivered to our basement. And my personal favorite, she's channeled her inner Jewish mother to spoil me with some wonderful home-cooked dinners.

The latter is probably going to change as she has now begun working full time at the embassy with me! I'm happy that she is hanging up the apron for this new gig though. She was never meant to be a June Cleaver and her brief audition to be on "Desperate Housewives of Tel Aviv" didn't pan out. We're both being cast for new roles that will take some time getting used to. I'm confident the growing pains won't last long and we'll soon move to the "head of the class." (Wow, my recollection of 80s television is really telling--I didn't get out nearly enough!) In the meantime, stay tuned for our new reality show. Any ideas for a name?   


  1. Just wanted to stop by and let you know I enjoy reading your blog! Sounds like you are doing well with your new post.

  2. Happy to see you and the family are doing well. We missed you guys at the reunion. Clay couldn't make it either. Thanks for the blog. We have a lot of great leaders in our class to help make this world a better place. Wait a minute, isn't that a song or something from the '80s? :) Keep in touch!!! -Duc

  3. I'd want Kirk Cameron out of my head for a lot of reasons! Great blog as always, Andy. Looking forward to reading more.

  4. I've enjoyed reading your blog. I appreciate your honesty about the ups and downs of FS life. So many FS blogs sugarcoat the whole lifestyle. Thanks for keeping it real!