Saturday, August 5, 2023

Man, What a Trip

The month started off big for Mission Abidjan with a visit from P--that is, Undersecretary for Political Affairs and Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. She came to Abidjan as part of a whirlwind three country tour of Africa, which wasn't cancelled but just shifted in mission and topic after the unfortunate events in Niger. However, I didn't get roped into this hardly at all (although I did get to attend her town hall with mission staff) because I and another staff member had work-related travel scheduled to begin the day after her departure.

The consular section doesn't necessarily travel as much as some other sections, but it's still generally good for us to get outside of the capital and meet with local authorities. We met with the hospital and the police station to encourage them to contact the Embassy if they ever encounter any U.S. citizens in crisis, and we also gave a presentation (which was even covered by the press!) to about 80 students about the diversity visa lottery program.

There are only flights to Man every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, though, and since we arrived on a Thursday, we had to stay until Sunday so we could get a flight back. (It's driveable, but part of why we went when we did was because the Ambassador was traveling to Man with a much bigger entourage and they'd already sent a bunch of the vehicles ahead, so they were available to take us to and from meetings--sending a car away for two days to take us to Abidjan and then go back to Man wouldn't have been very efficient.)

So we got to enjoy Man during our remaining time in the city. It's a medium-sized city of about 160 thousand people or so, and it's a tourist destination, mostly within Cote d'Ivoire, thanks to the mild climate and beautiful rolling hills. By coincidence, some of my embassy colleagues were on vacation in Man while I was there, and they invited me to join them on a couple of hikes to waterfalls. Since it was the rainy season, the waterfalls were particularly impressive. The weather alternated between sunny and overcast with light rain, so it didn't get too hot. The group had compatible interests and fitness levels, and the hikes were beautiful.

Later in the month I hosted people for trivia for the first time. I wanted to get comfortable hosting people now that I have my UAB and my HHE. In Monterrey I hosted people, but I never really got fully into the swing of it, and here I want to be better about not thinking I have to make a big production and put out some fancy spread when I have people over. Trivia was great in that respect.

A colleague also invited me and a bunch of our neighbors over for Ethiopian food. It was an absolute feast, with tons of different dishes, most of them vegetarian--completely delicious! I'm planning to go to South Korea next year, and to stop in Ethiopia for a few days in one direction (because the most direct routing from Abidjan includes a layover in Addis Ababa anyway) and that meal definitely made an Ethiopia trip seem even more appealing.

Towards the end of the month I was acting consular chief again as my boss was on leave. It's a lot of work--really makes me respect all the additional work she takes on and keeps from falling on me and the other officers--but it's also good to get exposed to more variety of tasks and higher level discussions at the embassy.

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