Ottawa’s a beautiful place, but…

…there’s more to this life than the places we live.

First the happy stuff.

A spring walk in Canada often requires an extra spring in your step as temperatures can vary from Miami mild to Colorado cold. The sun shone starkly one Saturday morning as Ambassador David Jacobson and better than a dozen more members of the Embassy Ottawa community set out to the music of bagpipes for the five (or two, or seven … your choice) kilometer MS Walk along the Ottawa River. But although to the eye the weather was spectacular, there was a nip in the wind that blew off the water that led most to don hats, gloves and other winter gear before setting out.

MS Walk Team "The FAM"

MS Walk Team “The FAM”

Okay, we look a little warmer than we were in the picture, but this was after the walk, when it was warmer, and we had 5 km under our belts.

Spring has definitely come to Ottawa.  Mornings can be cold, but the afternoons have been very pleasant, mostly sunny, and Ottawa is a good city for walking and biking.

I was walking one day, when I saw something which caused me to double take.

Okay, it’s not the first time I’ve seen a Star Trek themed license plate (I used to own NCC-17Q1), but it’s the first time I’ve seen a state (or province) issue them.  The one I actually saw was Enterpris.  Unfortunately, these were issued about a decade back and are no longer available so when I go out in the next week or two to get my Ontario plates, they won’t be available.

Speaking of which, I’m having a bit of a challenge with that.  By (Canadian) law I need to put Ontario plates on my car, and get an Ontario license, which I don’t mind, so long as I can also keep it registered in Virginia.  You see, Virginia law has grandfathered my old hybrid plates into the law allowing me to drive the HOV lanes.  New hybrid plates don’t get the benefit, and I don’t want to give it up.  Virginia will let me keep my Virginia Driver’s license, but even if I keep the registration, taxes and insurance current, I’m not sure my plates will be good when I get home.  I’m still working on that one.  You’d think with all the Foreign Service folks who make their homes in Virginia, they’d have this figured out.

I’m a New Yorker by birth, but I’ll have to admit I have the usual downstate attitude that everything north of the Westchester county line is some big amorphus mass, so I am constantly pleasantly surprise with what I find just on the other side of the border.  I made a run down to Watertown last weekend, and took a drive along the 1000 islands area of the St. Lawrence.  Spectacular scenery that I’ll have to go back and spend serious time with one of these long weekends.  There are two in the next two weeks!

On to the serious stuff.  One of the questions that comes up multiple times as you apply for and enter the foreign service, is “what would you do if you had to support a policy you didn’t personally support?”  At the time, everyone was thinking “Iraq,” but the U.S has many, many policies, and they subtly and not so subtly come up in day to day work.  You start out at “bite your tongue and move on”, but stress has limits, and it’s unfair to your coworkers when you vent and they are standing in the way.  But if you don’t vent, stress has other results.

I’ve often told friends and collegues, “life is too short not to enjoy what you’re doing.”  And that’s as far as I’ll go with that right now, except to say, ignoring it is something which is neither good for the officer, nor the Department of State.



Filed under Foreign Service Stuff

8 responses to “Ottawa’s a beautiful place, but…

  1. Another middle aged man looking into the FS

    “life is too short not to enjoy what you’re doing.”

    Can I ask if you enjoyed it more in Benin? Or are these issues new, and perhaps specific to Ottawa?

  2. rkolker

    Fair question. Some of it is endemic to the Foreign Service. Some of it is not unique to Ottawa, but more present here than Cotonou.

    • Another middle aged man looking into the FS

      Well, does it have to do with partisan politics or just the way the government does things (that can drive a person nuts)?

      • rkolker

        It’s not partisan politics. Some of it is just the way the government does things, and some of it falls outside those two categories. I’m not going to get too specific.

      • Another middle aged man looking into the FS

        I understand. I’m sure there are restrictions on what you can/should say. But good luck with it all. As a spectator, I hope it works out and that you feel like it’s worth staying. But I completely understand the need to have a favorable work dynamic. I’ll stay tuned.

  3. rkolker

    I can talk a little bit more about the work dynamic part of it. The State Department welcomes (in once sense) people of all ages and experience levels into the Foreign Service, but they don’t know how to deal with experienced, capable people once they get them, so you are treated like you just graduated from College. I’ve done that.

    That’s not the big problem I’m dealing with right now, but it’s something to know if you’re considering this for a late career career change.

  4. Hope you figure out the best path!

  5. rkolker

    I got the confirmation late this week that they’re letting me keep my Virginia license. Now – back to the plates!

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