One year after The Call

It was one year ago today that I received an offer to join the Foreign Service. It has been an incredible experience so far, just as interesting, life-altering, challenging and rewarding as I had hoped it would be. Every day, from my first day in this job, has been a different experience. I can honestly say that this job hasn’t bored me once yet.

I really wanted this job. I can remember the feeling of anticipation as I was waiting to get the job offer.  I was in a job that was nice, but not challenging or rewarding. I couldn’t wait to get started on my new career. Some days, the wait was agonizing. Now that I’m here, I cherish this opportunity to use my skills and knowledge, to learn, to serve, to experience.

I’ve done so much, met so many new amazing and inspiring people, seen and heard so many things that I never would have in another career path. I’ve covered a lot of ground and traveled far (figuratively and literally), but the time seems to have passed so quickly.

The initial training in DC was an eye-opening experience. Living in our country’s capital city for several months was thrilling. And now I’m in China, my first choice for my first post. The past six months has been another educational journey.

Remember how you felt on Christmas morning, sitting on the floor by the tree, surrounded by all of the goodies that Santa brought you? I have had that feeling every day for a year now.

Life is good.


Lost in Translation

The electronic sign on the train.

Chinese version:
Translation: “Smoking is prohibited throughout the train. Thank you for your cooperation. Please call our customer service hotline, we will sincerely provide service to you.”

English version:
No smoking on the train.

Talk in Harbin

I traveled up to Harbin today to give a talk at a symposium promoting travel to the U.S. The symposium was organized by the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service in Shenyang. The target audience was travel industry companies. About 300 people were there.


The theme was a pun. The literal meaning was “Discover America from the heart,” but if you say it with a southern accent, it can sound like “Rediscover America.”


There were a lot of speakers, and so not surprisingly, the schedule got backed up. I had to run out of the room as soon as I was done talking so that I could make the train back to Shenyang.

Train station slogans

Communist China is a country of slogans. I guess that chanting slogans is a way of educating a country whose population is dominated by illiterate people, so the slogan strategy was a creative idea. There’s a lot to say about Mao Zedong, but the guy understood his base.

Slogans haven’t gone away. The government uses them everywhere to promote civil virtues. The train station in Shenyang displays these slogans:

IMG_2463.JPG“Service is the Goal”

IMG_2464.JPG“Treat Passengers Like Family ”

IMG_2462.JPG“Safety High Quality New Tracks Strong Country” (this one reads like a bad fortune cookie)

Marine Ball


Last night was the Marine Ball. It’s an annual celebration that marks the founding of the Marine Corps. Marines are stationed at many embassies and consulates, so the ball is a big social event for the Foreign Service. The Marine detachment in Shenyang is new, they’ve been here for less than one year, so this was the first ball in Shenyang.


It’s a formal event, and I regretted not having a tuxedo. I will definitely need to invest in one for next year’s ball. The LE Staff really went all out!


The evening consisted of a ceremony marking the history of the Marines, then dinner and dancing. It was a fancy evening and I’m looking forward to next year already.








The wine was flowing a little too freely.

The wine was flowing a little too freely.