The Constant Transition

I’ve always liked transition.  When I was a programmer, it was starting a new project or learning a new language.  When I was a lawyer, it was starting a new case or, four different times, taking a new job with a different law firm.  When I was a photographer, it was the change in seasons with, for example, basketball transitioning to baseball.  The foreign service is transition to the Nth degree.

Everything we touch is in a constant state of change.  Our supervisors, our support staff, our duties, our substantive focus, our living arrangements, and, of course, the city and country in which we live.  I arrived in Ottawa just over a month ago.  The week before I left Washington, in between packing and trudging through snow to run last-minute errands, I submitted a narrative requesting assignment to a very short list of hardship posts.  It was an odd request because Ottawa, by and large, is deemed to be very desirable post.  I was certainly not looking to curtail my two-year assignment to Canada because I didn’t want to live in a safe, clean, extremely comfortable Western city.

I did not, however, want to leave the tough posts for others to do and, for personal reasons, the timing works much better for me and my family if I do an unaccompanied tour sooner rather than later.  That said, the off-season bidding presented very few options for which I qualified.  I don’t speak Arabic, Urdu, Pashtu, or Dari and I don’t have the experience of several tours under my belt.  There were only a handful of jobs that I could even suggest, but they were still a long-shot given the general directive that first tour officers should not be assigned to such places.  I wrote a one-page narrative on why I thought it was a good idea, organized a very short bid list, and forgot about it.

I was thus a little bit shocked (and thrilled) to get the email.  My time in Ottawa will be cut short by a year.  I’ll spend some time back in Washington for additional training, and then I’ll be off to Lahore, Pakistan.  Although I had applied for a couple of consular jobs as part of that bidding process, my one-year tour in Lahore will not involve visas.

So, as I settle in to this new routine in Ottawa, I am reading about Lahore.  The capital of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, Lahore is 17 miles from the Indian border.  There are a myriad of critical political issues at play in the region and, although it is not Ottawa, Lahore has a reputation as being one of Pakistan’s most beautiful and safe urban areas, as well as being the country’s cultural center.

Ah, but the transitions keep coming.  I woke up a few days ago to CBC Radio doing the morning news.  “45 dead after coordinated bombings in Lahore, Pakistan.”  I wasn’t sure if this was a dream or real until I was fully awake and heard the whole story.  No doubt things will continue to change over the next year.  In the meantime, I’ll continue reading (currently one fiction, The Pakistani Bride, by Bapsi Sidhwa and one non-fiction, Dissent into Chaos by Ahmed Rashid) and trying to focus first and foremost on my current transition here in Canada.


9 thoughts on “The Constant Transition

  1. Wow. Never a dull moment. From one of the safest countries to one of the least! Sheesh. My husband was just invited to the may10 class. We really enjoy your blog. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  2. Wow Daniel! You’re off and away… and away again! Congrats on the unexpected new posting, and so soon… and enjoy Canada for the time being. What an about-face, eh?

  3. Daniel–
    I wrote you a while ago because you and I both know Alexia–I went to law school with her. Anyhow, I have enjoyed your blog—I just wanted to wish you the best and you make the big transition!


  4. Wow, man. You’ve definitely hit the ground running. I am vicariously excited and a little freaked out. I hear they give you a hazard driving course and anti-intelligence training. Sounds like good times!

  5. Well, Daniel…You really know how to wake me up. I was relaxing in the knowledge that you were safely ensconced in Canada, and soon you’ll be in an area that keeps a mother awake at night.
    I’ll be sure to pick up the books you are reading.
    Maybe we can squeeze in a visit to Ottawa after your college tour with Grace and before you leave.


  6. It’s Friday, and that means that the Fifth Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up – and you’re on it!

    Here is the link:

    (If I quoted your text or used your photo(s) and you would rather I had not, please let me know. Please also be sure to check the link(s) that I put up to you, in order to verify that they work properly. If you would rather that I had not referenced you, and/or do not want me to reference you in the future, please also contact me.)


    (I hope it’s okay… I teased you a little bit this week… but only with lighthearted humor! I wish you the very best!)


  7. Make sure to read “In the Name of Honor” by Mukhtar Mai with Marie-Therese Cuny. The least we can do is read her story, the best we could do is put effective pressure on Pakistan to treat its women with respect, honoring their rights and prosecuting those who violate these rights….argh!
    Really, Lahore? I might step back from my pledge to be the first to visit you at every post! But then again, Ellen might want company on her visits!


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