Settling In (and Reluctantly Letting Go of Control in the Process)

Foreign Service Life
January 30, 2017

I’ve completed 3 weeks of work now and am slowly but surely starting to find my groove. I can’t emphasize enough how much I’m enjoying the daily interactions and connections with colleagues. The solitude was definitely my biggest complaint about working at home. It was just too isolating, no matter how amazing the work was.

The biggest adjustment by far has been the work/home balance. Prior to this, the staff had access to me for the majority of the day but now that I’m working 30 hours a week our communication time is greatly reduced. We’ve been struggling to craft our new routine at home – to determine when we should review the week’s menu, hand out cash for salaries and consumables that need purchasing, answer questions, etc. What has been most unexpected is that I feel carefree at work but way stressed at home. Who’d have thought?!

I’m really struggling with letting go of control at home, but in reality don’t have the time or ability to manage everything anymore. The hard part is that the staff prefer having me tell them exactly what to do vs problem-solving themselves (this is a cultural thing, from what I’ve seen). A recent example: they’re out grocery shopping and can’t find a certain ingredient, so they just don’t buy it. But they can’t find 1 ingredient for each of the week’s meals, so now I get home to find that we have nothing we can make for dinner that night. In a dream world, they’d deduce that you could swap mozzarella for provolone, but it just doesn’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, they do their best and I adore them, I’m mostly struggling with the fact that I can’t coach them on this stuff throughout the day.

Oh, and let’s not forget Ms. Nia, who is totally taking advantage of the situation. They have a very hard time saying no to her sweet requests which resulted in me coming home last Tuesday to find out that they had let her go up on THE ROOF to clean the gutters with Davie! Let’s just say I was more than a little mad and sat them all down the next morning to discuss the importance of keeping Nia safe and why they MUST be willing to say no to her. I could go on, but I won’t. Letting go of control has always been very challenging for me and this is no exception!

In other news, I got approved to attend a week long training for Community Liaison Officers (CLOs) that will take place in South Africa. It’s going to be so fabulous meeting other African CLOs (there is one at each post) and brainstorming ideas together. I also have a billion and a half questions stored up, so I’m hoping to leave with not only inspiration, but a better idea of how to do my job. You can bet I’ll be indulging in some amazing South African food and shopping during my off hours! We’ll see how well Nick and Nia fare for a week without me. At least Nick has the staff here to help him!  :)

Wednesday marks our 6 month anniversary in Lilongwe (whoa, huh?). Time is going by ridiculously fast, much more so than other posts. We spend our weekends lazing around on the deck looking at an amazingly diverse array of birds in our yard (we each have our own binoculars now from Xmas). We are totally in awe of all the cool nature around us!

Except for the damn termites. I hate them. Our beautiful deck has already begun being decimated. We knew termites would be an issue, but I had no idea that there’d be visible damage this quickly. We only need the deck to make it another year and a half, so fingers crossed that we can find an effective way to slow them down. Guess that’s why everything is built with bricks here. Duh. Lesson learned.

And despite it being the heart of rainy season, I’ve found the rain rather comforting. The earth is so green and lush and the cool it brings is a nice respite from the daily heat. It also tends to rain heavily for an hour or so and then be done for the day. It’s way more manageable than I thought it would be.

As we look to the year ahead, I just know that 2017 is going to evaporate even faster than 2016. We have a relatively quiet spring, but come June we’ll be taking our 1 month R&R trip that we’re required to take. We’re still undecided where we’re going (not the U.S.) and I’ve had to let go of trip planning due to time restraints (thanks Nick!) but it’s sure to be an adventure-filled month.

Nia starts Kindergarten in August, I’ll be visiting Minnesota for Jenna’s wedding in September (yay!), and my parents will be coming in late October. We plan to show them all our favorite spots including a safari in Zambia, time at the Lake and a week in Cape Town. And who knows if we’ll get other visitors! It’s a very exciting, fun-filled year ahead. Oh, and did I mention bidding season starts for us again in August!?

So that update ended up being way longer than intended. Sorry about that! Hopefully it makes up for the fact that I haven’t written in awhile. :)


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