Tuesday, November 17, 2015

So Vacant

I knew this wouldn't be an easy first tour when I volunteered for it, but I've been told by several Foreign Service veterans that I've been experiencing things they haven't seen in their 20-30 year careers.  While there's a lot going on, the biggest concerns revolve around Boko Haram activity in the region.  I kept hearing stories about various attacks but I felt like I wasn't getting the big picture or all the facts, so I found a fascinating database here: the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project from the University of Sussex.  This led me to generate the following graphs to get a feel for the trending - sorry, I'm an engineer so I do love me some good graphs or even nomographs if at all possible.

In August, my wife and I went on a two week vacation for a real, full-on African safari in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.  On our last day, we checked our email 30 minutes before leaving to go back to N'Djamena and found messages the embassy had sent that day saying it had just gone to Authorized Departure and we couldn't go back.  We had been "caught out" in Department of State lingo.  I worked at the Cape Town consulate for a week while we figured out the paperwork, then we flew back to Washington where I worked for a few more weeks before I got clearance to return.  The construction project kept on trucking - we're building safer facilities after all and it doesn't make sense to slow that down - so I was glad I had put a lot of work into creating and maintaining electronic files for remote access.

This is a ridiculously oversimplified summary of what's been happening over the last two months, it's been crazy in many, many ways all while supporting the ongoing project.  The AD was implemented due to security concerns that have subsequently decreased, so just last week it was lifted after two months.  This meant my wife was able to come back to N'Djamena as well, which is great and has allowed things to mostly return to our new normal.

Construction is moving quickly: the five-story chancery structure is probably about a month from being complete and utilities are being installed in the bottom floors now.  We just installed the first drywall last week in another building, we're still trying to hire more staff, and a lot of big permanent equipment has started getting installed in the last month, so there's a lot to manage.

One of the main reasons for this post is that the FSCE vacancy announcement opened again today - check it out if you're interested!  It closes Dec 9.

In other news: Chad beat Egypt 1-0 in a major upset in their World Cup qualifying event on Saturday when they hosted Egypt here in N'Djamena.  There was a LOT of celebration in the streets afterwards.  Unfortunately Chad lost today's second matchup 0-4 when they visited Egypt.  Evidently there were several delays with their flight so they barely arrived on time.  Bummer.

In other other news: this is just. so. awesome.  For more, visit Suidobashi Heavy Industries and MegaBots.  Wow.

(This post written while listening to Trashcan by Delta Spirit.)


  1. Hi Mark - I'm looking into applying to the FSCE vacancy, and your blog was one of the first hits when I googled for info on the position. You've shared a few nice tidbits about being an FS Construction Engineer from browsing your posts. I've had 10 years experience working as a Mechanical Engineer for an Aerospace firm, but I've ventured into construction management and foreign service this past year as an Infrastructure Engineer with USAID Afghanistan. I have a spouse that is a tenured FSO, and I'd also like to transition into a career FS position like the FSCE since its a close match for my background. I was wondering if I could email you to ask a few questions about the position in general? (I think google will leave my personal email; if not I'll wait for your reply and leave it in comments after). Thanks! ~Jason

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  3. Hello, Reader. Mark might not be posting much more on this site, but if you want to continue reading about being a Foreign Service Construction Engineer with the U.S. Foreign Service, come check out my blog at "The Passport Stamp Collector" blog. Mark and I were in the same Specialist Orientation class, so you might think of my blog as an alternate timeline from what you've read here.