Watching this journey through South America will fill you with wanderlust unparalleled. The composition of this video is amazing. It captures the beauty of the region, from the people to the cities to the landscapes, and the score is subtle and moving. Cheers to Vimeo user Vincent Urban for a job well done. We’re amazingly jealous.
The World Wide Web is saturated with amateurish blogs created by people who’d be lucky to command the devoted readership of their immediate family members, let alone the wider public. There are scores of blogs managed by Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and while many of them are worth reading, some are downright bizarre. This post will steer you toward some Foreign Service related blogs that are well worth your time.
I started this series nine months ago to help people get a better understanding of what life in the U.S. Foreign Service is like. Many of the posts have been about my experiences but I’ve also introduced readers to an intrepid, single female diplomat fresh off of tours in Syria and Pakistan, a diplomatic courier, a USAID Foreign Service Officer currently serving in Afghanistan and others. But spend some time at the sites listed below to get a flavor of what it’s like to represent the U.S. Government in The Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Pakistan and dozens of other exotic locales.One major caveat here is that FSOs have to be careful what they write because free speech only takes you so far in the precarious, uber-cautious world of government service. Most FSOs have disclaimers on their sites warning that the views expressed are their own, but many still tend to steer clear of tackling political issues or anything controversial.
Peter Van Buren, a now retired diplomat who wrote “We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People,” was effectively driven out of the Foreign Service partially because he posted a link to a cable on WikiLeaks and made some disparaging remarks, which he later apologized for, about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on his website.
There’s no doubt that his experience has had a chilling effect across the board, so visit the sites below to get the low-down on the Foreign Service lifestyle and the travel opportunities, not the dirty underbelly of how diplomacy plays out overseas.
Some of the blogs below contain little, if any biographical info, and I wasn’t able to read each one in its entirety, so my apologies in advance if my impressions of these blogs below miss the mark. That said, I would invite the authors of these fine sites to tell us more about themselves, if they dare, in the comments section.
Domani Spero has no U.S. government connection and thus has the freedom to write about the world of diplomacy without having to worry about his career. Diplopundit is as close as you’ll find to one-stop shopping for a candid look at what’s going on in the Foreign Service community.
I love this blog. The author, apparently a single female public diplomacy officer who, “doesn’t date outside the visa waiver program,” blogs with style and passion about life in Japan, Pakistan, Jordan and elsewhere, coping with Multiple Sclerosis and whatever else pops into her head. How can you not like a writer who offers advice to protesters on how to construct a good effigy? (“Don’t just throw something together with the rationale that you’re only going to burn it anyway – take some pride in your work.”)
You might not agree with Peter Van Buren but you will want to read his blog, which is sometimes offensive but never boring.
This blog, which details the lives of a family of five living in Recife, Brazil, La Paz, Bolivia and elsewhere, is one of the very best Foreign Service related sites out there. It’s a particularly good resource for parents who are wondering what the overseas experience will be like for their children.
Gottlieb is a doctor and a USAID FSO currently serving in South Africa. Her portraits from Jamaica, Nepal, Vietnam, South America, Africa and beyond are as good as any you’ll find anywhere.
The author of this refreshingly candid and well-written blog is currently in Kabul and has previously served in Iraq and Nepal. Here’s how she described the “honeymoon” period at a new post: “The honeymoon period is the time frame after moving to a foreign country where the excitement of being somewhere new overshadows certain harsh realities of living in a foreign country. People burning piles of trash in the street give the place ‘character’ and bargaining with a taxi driver is part of the ‘adventure.'”
This is a stunning photo blog from an American diplomat who was born on a farm in China and is currently serving in South Korea. Visiting this site is the next best thing to booking a ticket to Seoul. Also, for those who are curious to know how long it takes to join the Foreign Service, take a look at his instructive personal timeline for some clues.
Anyone who features a photo of themselves (I presume) with a Gambian poached rat on their homepage is all right by me. This is a blog from a FSO posted in Conakry, Guinea, a place where “you tend to find yourself without a really specific reason.”
Hannah Draper, a FSO currently serving in Libya, might be a “Type-A bureaucrat who professionally pushes papers in the Middle East,” but her writing is compulsively readable.
A FSO in Hyderabad who previously served in Burundi blogs about food and life overseas with gusto.
Ted Cross, a FSO currently living in Budapest who apparently just signed up for Facebook last week (Friend him!), tells us on his homepage that his “dream is to be a published author.” I like someone who isn’t afraid to tell the world what he wants. He’s into fantasy and science fiction, neither of which interests me, but his blog is unique and his writing is lucid.
Anyone who can pull off being a single mom in the Foreign Service is someone I want to meet. This blog, written by a former Foreign Service brat, isn’t nearly as incoherent as advertised.
Even a quick breeze through this visually appealing blog will give you an idea of how varied and interesting life in the Foreign Service can be. If nothing else, do not miss the photos of the tribal warriors in Papua New Guinea.
If you want a slice of life from the Marshall Islands, this is the place to go. I love this blog but I couldn’t bring myself to click into the video entitled “Pig Shooting” in a post on “Pig Butchering.” Yikes.
This isn’t a FSO blog per se, but the site’s stories and “real post reports” on hundreds of cities around the globe are an invaluable resource for those seeking insights into the Foreign Service lifestyle.
Let me know in the comments section if you think I’ve missed any great FSO-related blogs and if you’re the author of ones of the sites mentioned above, tell us a bit about yourself.
Read more from “A Traveler in the Foreign Service” here.
(Photos courtesy of Amy Gottlieb)
The term “once in a lifetime adventure” is tossed around a bit too lightly in the travel industry these days and seldom is it used accurately. But when Intrepid Travel uses the term to describe their latest offering, it just might be an understatement. Their recently announced Shackleton Epic truly is a journey like no other, following in the footsteps of one of the greatest explorers of the 20th century to some of most remote places on the planet.
Back in 1914, as the world stood poised on the edge of war, Ernest Shackleton and his crew of 27 set out aboard the HMS Endurance for Antarctica. They planned to attempt the first traverse of the continent on foot but before they could even take their first step, the ship became trapped in the pack ice off the Antarctic coast. It remained there for eight long, cold months before the ship’s hull cracked under the pressure, sending the Endurance to the bottom of the ocean.
After another two months adrift on ice flows, Shackleton and his crew managed to use the remaining lifeboats to reach the desolate and inhospitable Elephant Island. It was their first steps on solid ground in 497 days, but they were far from safe. Desperate and running out of supplies, the explorer decided to attempt an open water crossing of more than 800 miles to reach South Georgia Island. It took him, and a few hand picked men, 15 days to complete the harrowing crossing, but upon arriving on South Georgia, Shackleton and his men had to spend the following 36 hours crossing 32 miles of mountainous territory just to reach help. After nearly 16 months, the crew of the Endurance was rescued in May of 1916 without the loss of a single life. Shackleton and the tale of his crew is considered by many to be the greatest story of survival in human history.Intrepid Travel’s Shackleton Epic will trace the route of the crew of the Endurance without all of the suffering. The 56-day expedition gets underway on January 3, 2013, from Punta Arenas, Chile. Aboard the TS Pelican, the crew will sail across the Southern Ocean making stops at Deception Island, King George Island and of course both Elephant and South Georgia Islands as well. Those taking part on the journey will recreate Shackleton’s desperate ocean crossing, aboard a replica boat no less, and they’ll have the opportunity to trek the explorer’s route across South Georgia as well. The entire journey will then wrap up with a return sail to South America that finishes in Rio de Janeiro sometime in late February.
This truly is adventure travel that squarely puts the emphasis on the adventure. It will be an experience unlike any other and certainly not for the faint of heart. It is also not for the empty of wallet. There are just ten berths available aboard the Pelican and they cost $30,000 each. That makes this an exclusive adventure to say the least. But for the deep-pocketed adventurer, this will be one of the greatest travel experiences he or she could ever hope to take part in – truly the very definition of a once in a lifetime adventure.
Did you know Brazil is home to 31 million dogs, making it the country with the second largest canine population after the United States? It’s no wonder then, that you’ll soon be able to find a hotel dedicated to the more hardcore puppy love in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Created by Fabiano Lourdes and his sister Daniela, “Animalle Mundo Pet” is set to open this week in Belo Horizonte. The eight-story building will have an entire floor for dogs to get it on, with dim lighting, red floor cushions and a heart-shaped mirror on the ceiling to set the mood. Not only that, the hotel will also feature a gym and venue for dog birthdays.
And unlike most love motels where you pay by the hour for a love-making space, dog owners can rent their pets a room for $50 per day.
“For many people, the dog is a child who must be well treated,” 26-year-old Fabiano Lourdes explained to the Telegraph. “Our market studies showed that people work all day long and they do not know where to drop their pets for mating.”
One million dollars was invested into the hotel, which has 60 employees, including veterinarians and biologists. Dog owners can also invest in luxury items like $1,000 Swarovski crystal dog collars.
Would you bring your dog to a love hotel?
[Image via wsilver]
I love going through Vimeo slowly, looking for diamonds in the rough of time-lapse videos. I found one today. Created by Joe Simon, this time-lapse explores Rio de Janeiro. Featuring the simplistic beauty found in the subtle swaying of anchored boats, the coming and going of beach-goers, the overwhelmingly perfect sunshine and the gorgeous curves of the landscape, this video is worth the few minutes it takes to view it. So sit back, relax and enjoy Rio de Janeiro from afar.