Matamoros, Mexico: Washington, D.C.:

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Swing of Things

I've been at post for almost exactly a month, and so far I'm really enjoying it here. When I arrived to my awesome house, friendly coworkers, and easy access to the States and the beach, I was reassured that I will have a great two years here.

I ended up getting to work pretty quickly after arriving. They say you should take it slow and ease into it, which I did for the first few days. But then you start to get restless, and you're ready to jump on the visa line and do what you've been in training to do for the last six months. Though I'm honestly not concerned with "the numbers", mine are already on par with the rest of the officers who have been here for a while. That's definitely a reassuring thought, because back in ConGen I always wondered whether or not I was going to get this stuff right. Not that I don't make a mistake from time to time. It's just that I feel decently confident about the decisions I'm making.

Speaking of the officers who have been here a while - wow! They're all incredible folks, and they're so eager to help out when I have a question about something. (You know, they tell you in ConGen that there's so much more to visa work than they can teach you in six weeks, especially without being in "the real world environment." That is so. incredibly. true. Add to that the fact that you're on the border, and there's a whole world of issues and procedures here that differ slightly from the rest of the world.) My coworkers are very knowledgeable about what they're doing, and they're always willing to drop what they're doing to teach me something new. As one of them put it, they're so ready to have a full compliment back on the visa line that they don't mind taking a moment to teach me if it helps me get there! They're truly wonderful teachers, and I'm looking forward to my time here with them. Though, being the new kid on the block, they will all rotate out at some point, making me one of the old timers. Yikes. I'd like to apologize now to whoever will be rotating in at post in about a year and a half, when I'm the one responsible for teaching you the ins and outs! ;)

Along with doing the full amount of visa work, I've also gotten a few of my first major portfolio assignments. The most important one, other than visas, is drafting the Consul General's weekly column that is published in the local newspapers. Oh, did I mention that it's in Spanish? Crikey. I'm really glad I majored in Spanish in college and had to write a lot of papers, otherwise I think it would be much more difficult than it is. That being said, I went through about five drafts last week before we arrived at the one that ended up being published. Here's hoping I can cut that down a bit in the coming weeks.

After writing that, I'm also responsible for the Correspondence team, which answers questions that come to our public visa email address, as well as helping to handle congressional inquiries and other dealings with the public (in regards to visas.) Add to that the task of updating the Consulate's website and making a Facebook page and you arrive at the thought that.. wow.. I've got a lot to do! Luckily, I seem to have gotten into a good work flow that will allow me to get everything most of it done on time. Here's hoping that remains true.

Today was a Mexican holiday, but it was also Dia del Turista, or Tourist Day, in one of the border towns about an hour away. I volunteered to go and represent the Consulate at the event, which ended up being a great decision and one I really enjoyed. I got there about 9:30 for a program that was supposed to start at 10AM. It actually started around 1PM. I suppose I should have expected that, but I guess I was being a bit of an eager beaver this morning. Anyway, immediately after I introduced myself to the coordinator of the event as "a Vice Consul from the Consulate General in Matamoros," I was called up on stage by the clown that was entertaining the crowd. The coordinator watched in half shock, half amusement while the clown proceeded to put no less than 6 different balloons on me, including a belt with scabbard and sword, a hat, and - to top it off - butterfly wings. As I got off the stage and went back to the coordinator, I met the president of the organization sponsoring the event. And I was still wearing my butterfly wings, hat, and belt/sword. At this point, I can only hope the local news taped over that footage of me on the stage, because at that point of the day, they didn't yet know who I was.

Anyway, later that day, I did my representational duties and met the governor of the state, various other municipal officials, and businesspeople, which was finished by a nice lunch with them all. During all of that there was also an interview with a Mexican TV crew... in Spanish. I'm seriously hoping I didn't say anything stupid. I'm sure our public affairs person will let me know tomorrow if I screwed up.

I also got hit with a number of visa questions, ranging from personal inquiries about their own cases to generic stuff. I was advised ahead of time that this would be the case, so I came prepared with some good background information and some standard answers. Though the 5th or 6th one did get a little repetitive, I still enjoyed being a "real live person" these people could talk to.

Suffice it all to say that I had a great experience on my first solo representational event, and I hope that the rest of them are similar. Minus the balloon butterfly wings, of course. Though I suppose I wouldn't mind having the sword again.

Until next time...peace.


  1. Hi Andrew, if you ever need someone to proofread your Spanish translation, that's what I do for a living. Take care, Zel

  2. I demand photographic evidence of your balloon getup!

  3. Wait, when did the wings come off? Was that before or AFTER your meeting with the governor?! Good to hear more adventures, keep them coming.

  4. Luckily, yes, the wings were off by the time I met the governor. In fact, they were off as soon as I got off the stage.

  5. Hey,

    I start A-100 on Monday and I've been reading your blog for some time. Every once in a while I wonder if I am doing the right thing but your blog just makes me more excited than ever. Thanks for taking the time to write this!