Everyone in the Foreign Service knows the adventure we call a CODEL, short for COngressional DELegation. Some places get a lot of them. Places like Benin, not so many. We’ve had a few false warnings since I got here, and some visits from senior military and State Department folks, but this week we got our first genuine CODEL during my tenure.
In a small Embassy, a CODEL is “all hands on deck”. Everyone has to do something, sometimes more than one something, to prepare for and then execute a smooth visit. Oh, and you still need to do all your normal work while you prepare.
For this CODEL, my primary task was to site manage a visit to the Justice Ministry and meeting with the Justice Minister. Now, you probably saw this on the news because Benin politics gets so much coverage in the U.S., but in case you missed it, the President completely changed his cabinet 48 hours before our CODEL. So, all the ministers we thought the Senators were seeing…not so much. Those bios and pictures in the briefing book…uh, they’ll need a rewrite. Oh, and the day before the CODEL…holiday in Benin so nobody is in their office. Just part of the job.
Somewhere along the way we realized we’d need a cover for the briefing book provided to the Senators and their staff. I volunteered for that one. There are actually three versions. The one here, and ones with the Senator’s names printed on them. Oh, and something for the spine of the binder.
As I type this, the CODEL is still in town, but my part is done (unless “other duties as assigned” rears its ugly head). As always, there is good news and bad news:
The good news is that we successfully got the Senators and Ambassador out of the motorcade and up the elevator at the Justice Ministry to the conference room.
The bad news is when we tried to do the same with the staff (it was a small elevator) the elevator broke, trapping us inside in the dark without air conditioning. Okay it was only for 30 seconds or so before we were able to get the doors open, but that was it for the elevator for the day.
The good news is the conference room was set up properly, and was big enough for the expected group and all the extra people both sides swore wouldn’t be there.
But all in all, the logistics worked, and it was the logistics for which I was responsible. Okay, they had to walk down the stairs, but down is better than up.
And it didn’t rain.