Thursday, April 7, 2011

Them's Fightin' Words!

I recently posted, quite jokingly, the following statement on my Facebook wall:

"Dear State Department: I LOVE my house. But could you please consider installing central heat & air throughout the house? I don't want to hide in my bedroom all summer. Sincerely, Aaron"

It was met with polite and sympathetic comments from a few of my friends, but one of my old friends from college, whom I have not seen since 2002 and have only exchanged the occasional polite Facebook or Myspace conversation with since, took it upon herself to express a rather strong, rather loud, rather uninformed opinion on the matter.

I will spare you the details, but let's just say it started with her sharing her unwillingness to have her taxes increased to further support my life of luxury, escalated into an accusation that I mooch off of my partner's success, and culminated with a chastising remark about my living the high life while surrounded by the poor citizens of a war-ravaged third world country.

Any attempt to explain the miniscule tax impact the Foreign Service has on American citizens, to remind her that I work full time and therefore do not "mooch," or to educate her on the fact that Mexico is neither war-ravaged nor third world, fell on deaf ears.

She found it easier to "defriend" me than to respect me. Oh well. I think I'll survive.

But this conversation did pose a few interesting questions.

1) Do my non-Foreign Service friends understand what it is that we're doing here? If not, is it because I didn't explain it very well? Did I not explain it at all? Did I explain it but you didn't listen? Did you ask so early in the process that *I* didn't even know what we'd be doing?

Well, if the answer is any of the above, I truly apologize. If you have any questions, ask me here, ask me in person, or shoot me an e-mail. I'll tell you whatever I can. Ill try to post more about the Foreign Service part of life from time to time. Just be patient and understanding. This life is full of interesting, frustrating, humorous things that, sometimes, are just not appropriate to share.

2) What happened to the introspection?

I used to blog about my thoughts and opinions, not just the activity-of-the-moment. Whatever happened to that? I guess I got wrapped up in playing tour guide. I wanted everyone to have the opportunity to see things that they might not otherwise. But maybe I forgot to share more of the day-to-day. This, too, can be worked on. Why, look! I'm doing it now!

3) Do I present an accurate picture of Mexico?

Well, yes and no. I certainly show you a lot of the fun stuff we do. But it's not like I've ever blogged about the street performers, window washers, or beggars that I see on every street corner. There haven't been any posts about the violence that occurs every so often, or the restrictions it places on our daily lives. I haven't shared any recipes (they're coming!), told you about my favorite restaurants, or expressed my awe that Wal-Mart could take over a country even more than it did the United States.

I suppose that's my fault. I wanted to only show the fun and exciting suff. But it's not an accurate representation, and I'll work on that.

I know for a fact that some of the officers that will be arriving at post soon have read this blog. I don't want anyone to think it's all fun and games. There's work. There's an element of danger. And, yes, there's a hell of a lot of adventure to be had. But mostly, life is the same as it was back home. It's all about finding a balance. I've found that balance in life...but maybe I haven't found that balance in print. But I think this is something I can work on, too.

Because I certainly do not want some uneducated fool to think I'm living the good life while everyone around me is dying on the streets.


  1. When you were describing your "friend", it sounded like it could have been me, but then I realized, "hey, I didn't say any of that." and obviously we're still friends on facebook. So....I am one who would like to know more about the Foreign Service. What does your partner do for them? I enjoy hearing the glamorized parts of the places ya'll lived. THe bad stuff is too depressing. I can hear that stuff on the news. Reading your blog makes want to visit every place you've been!
    Ashley Burns Seelig

  2. It's your life. Tell it like you want to tell it. No matter what you do, there will always be ignorant people who unfortunately are not shy in sharing their unsolicited opinion.

  3. It just kills me when the civil servants who work on the front lines with the public are always the ones who get told how they can and can't spend our tax we OWN you. That fancy-schmancy house you live in probably costs less than my cell phone bill each it comes with quite a bit of personal sacrifice. You should have A/C...prisoners get A/C on taxpayer money. What an idiot!

  4. It kills me that some people think that we don't pay taxes. Hello...we pay federal and even state taxes for a state we no longer live in.

  5. Thanks,'ve certainly made me feel better about the situation!

    Ashley - I had no idea that you even read this thing! Glad you're enjoying it. I'll do my best to provide more info about the Foreign Service (though it will admittedly be limited to information that is unclassified and Googleable)...and keep you wanting to see these places, too!

    Lisa - Word.

    MeAndYou - I doubt the house is less expensive than your phone bill, but the sentiment is not lost. I don't want to get into quoting dollar amounts and then get proven wrong (because I totally don't know), but incoming officers are told how many tax dollars go into funding our overseas interests, and it's negligible. And besides that..

    ForeignObsession is right. We DO pay taxes, too. Which reminds me...I haven't filed yet. Gah!

  6. I've just finished reading your blog more or less from the beginning and found it very helpful. I am about to join my FSO girlfriend overseas as a MOH and trying to get a handle on the challenges, especially the mental aspects and identity shift that will go along with the move. I especially enjoy your more 'introspective' posts about how you're doing and what you're learning rather than what you're seeing. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Haha, ugggggh. Well, it always pains me when FSO-types complain about their free housing, but I would never fight with someone about it. They're entitled to complain about the free housing just as much as I'm entitled to complain about them complaining, and then them complaining about me complaining about them complaining. It's a vicious cycle.

    I will say, though, that the whole "my maid and guard stole my ipad" incident should have been cross-posted to ;-)

    Note to self...get Mexican renter's insurance!

  8. Are you suggesting that I deserve to be robbed (or lose the right to complain about it) simply because I currently reside in a country which affords me a luxury that I would be unable to sustain in the United States?
    A luxury I can afford due to local labor costs and NOT my income level, by the way.

    And I won't even touch the free housing comment, as I have it on good authority (yours) that you would like to join the Foreign Service. And, were that to happen, you would surely find something to complain about in your free housing as well. ;-)

  9. Dang it, FS housing isn't free--it's included! Just like benefits are included as part of the salary package in many jobs. Many FS families continue to pay mortgages and local taxes on property in the US.