For several months, Ho Chi Minh City has seen a series of government-mandated lockdowns which have been communicated through seemingly-endless directives, official communications, regulations, and determinations. One result was an incredibly strict, yet effective COVID-19 response. Another result was a virtually empty city. Streets previously swarmed with motorbikes were empty. A normally smoggy sky was bright blue. The constant buzz of construction and karaoke fell silent.
However, a few days ago, the Government of Vietnam issued new guidance that released the city from its 6PM curfew. Residents can once again go to work and to the grocery store, as long as they have the correct QR code showing their vaccination status.
Ho Chi Minh City’s government and citizens have sacrificed a great deal to keep their neighbors safe. For example, just this week, a reported 100,000 rural workers who were stuck in Ho Chi Minh City during the latest lockdown were finally able to return home to their families. And the pandemic is far from over: risks of rural outbreaks remain high, vaccination drives continue throughout the country, and strict quarantine and mask rules are still enforced.
However, the general sigh of relief is almost as loud as the backyard karaoke that has once again resumed across the street from our apartment. Welcome back, Ho Chi Minh City!
To celebrate the New Year, Paul and I took a weekend trip to Da Lat, the largest city in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Da Lat is just a 40 minute flight from Ho Chi Minh City, but because it’s 5,000 feet above sea level, the air is cool and unpolluted. Da Lat is famous for its mountains, waterfalls, and strawberries; it was the perfect place to celebrate the start of 2021.
After a year spent in various stretches of isolation and quarantine, Paul and I were also excited to simply go outside and walk. The streets of Ho Chi Minh City don’t lend themselves to casual strolling due to the heat, traffic, and pollution. So when we heard that Da Lat was host to tree-lined mountains, we were determined to make good use of them. We had heard good reviews of the hike to Lang Biang Peak and were assured that the hike couldn’t possibly take us longer than three hours. Somebody lied.
Because the trailhead is simply a board lying across a dusty ditch, it took us a few tries to find the actual path. So first, we took the scenic detour through the industrial greenhouse-filled countryside.
We eventually found the trailhead and started off on what promised to be a rustic adventure.
The hike was quite steep so we were feeling rather sporty, albeit a bit winded. But there were trees! And breeze! And pine needles!
The first part of the hike was quite popular. There were fit Europeans jogging up the trails with water-filled backpacks, groups of Vietnamese girl scouts carrying sleeping bags and lip gloss, athleisure-laden trendsetters with Bluetooth speakers, and these two, who were enjoying the people watching:
After about two hours, we reached a map that said the peak was just around the corner. So we continued on, leaving most of our fellow hikers behind. As we got higher, we met the clouds and the hike became quiet and misty.
The mist, while pretty, also turned the dirt path to mud. We slipped and slid from tree to tree, sure that the peak must be just a few hundred meters away. We laughed at the signs that seemed to indicate danger.
We once again started gaining elevation, and huffed and puffed our way up slippery, muddy slopes. We started to realize that we hadn’t seen another hiker in well over an hour.
The muddy slopes turned into muddy stairs. As we got higher, the stairs became steeper. We eventually reached a stair that was shoulder-high. Giving up all hope of keeping my white sweatshirt white, I flung myself against the muddy wall, fueled only by the hope that there was an alternate route down the mountain. IF ONLY WE COULD REACH THE TOP.
Several stairs had washed out; a muddy rope tied to a tree was the only means by which we could drag ourselves up the mountain. I began to fear that without an alternate route down from the peak, we would have to somehow slide down this same mudslide. Luckily, my new hiking shoes were indeed waterproof, as advertised.
Another sign gave a clear warning, but offered no helpful suggestions or advice.
The trees eventually give way to tall grass and a windy peak. We collapsed into the grass and huddled together to keep warm while we enjoyed our panoramic cloud views. Someone had said something about sweeping views of the mountain countryside? We broke into our lunch with frosted fingers and shared our remaining half a water bottle. There was not an alternate route down the mountain. A young boy behind us sulked sullenly away from his parents, clearly voicing his refusal to climb back down the mountain. I feel ya, kid. They can’t leave us up here forever, right?
Eventually, Paul convinced me to stand and hand-in-hand, we slid back down the mountain thinking only of full water bottles and warm showers. After an hour and a half spent slipping down muddy slopes, precariously clinging to the edge of cliffs, we intersected a road that led us back to safety.
We fell into massage chairs set up at the bottom of the mountain (which now seemed much less random), more than happy to spend the $0.50 for six minutes. Despite having encountered a few tough hikes in my day, this one was by far the hardest. Paul and I were immensely proud of ourselves for surviving and rewarded ourselves by ordering German food for dinner and cancelling all our plans for the next morning.
By the next afternoon we were able to stand again and decided to take a much more leisurely means of transportation to our next stop: Datanla Falls. Here, you can take a self-controlled roller coaster down to the falls and more importantly, back up to the parking lot.
We also spent a morning at Pongour Falls, which was well-worth the hour’s drive from Da Lat. According to legend, Pongour Falls is the resting spot of the woman, Kanai, who tamed dangerous animals. When she died, her four rhinoceroses laid down with her. After her death, her hair became the waterfall and the rhinoceroses became the ridges upon which the waterfall flowed, symbolizing the connection between humans and nature.
Even during the dry season, the waterfalls are stunning. And while we did have to tackle some stairs to get to the base of the waterfall, we were entertained by the extravagant photoshoots of the Vietnamese Instagrammers, who found that the base of a busy waterfall was the perfect spot for a well-documented yoga session.
Da Lat was a lovely break from the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City. The air was crisp and green and the city was surrounded by mountains, rivers, and pine trees. Rather wistful, we were reminded of home and of friends and family half a world away. In the reminiscent spirit that accompanies a new year, Paul and I found ourselves sitting together in a hidden garden on New Year’s Eve, watching the sun set over a twinkling city that was celebrating both the memories of 2020 and the potential of 2021. Cheers to a new year!
There are three things you’ll notice when you first step onto the streets of Ho Chi Minh City. First, it is hot. Very hot. Second, there is a constant buzz from the hundreds of motorbikes whizzing past in a flurry of horns and engines. Third, thanks to a strict country-wide response, you have entered a COVID-controlled world where restaurants and shops are open and where there have been less than 1,200 cases in a country of 95 million people. After 14 days of quarantine, I’ve been eager to get out and explore!
The city is a maze of back streets. A narrow alley that at first appears to hold nothing but several stories worth of air conditioning units will actually contain a twisted path of hidden shops and cafes. So far, I’ve found a chocolate factory complete with tasting classes, a delicate paper and ink shop designed for someone much shorter than I, and a contemporary art gallery founded by a Vietnamese refugee who relocated to the United States following the Vietnam War.
The food here is incredible. Every brunch, lunch, and dinner has included an interesting combination of flavors both new and old. So far, my favorite meal is from a little alley cafe a short walk from work. A small fleet of Vietnamese women cook the same, single dish every day: bún thịt nướng. Noodles, pickled cucumbers, and pork are topped with fish sauce that you ladle into your bowl from a plastic bucket on the table. After you’ve been brought your dish, you sit on a small metal stool, grab a pair of chopsticks out of another plastic bin, and contentedly slurp your noodles. The current exchange rate is 23,000 Vietnamese đồng to $1 USD, so even though paying for your lunch involves math with many zeroes, the meal usually ends up costing just a few dollars.
And of course I’ve already gone to tea. Two, in fact! The first was a decadent 1940s travel-themed tea at Hotel Des Artes where mini spring rolls are served in a leather-bound suitcase and passionfruit mousse is nestled in a three-tiered birdcage. The second tea was at the Villa Royale Team Room, an Australian-owned tearoom and antique shop, in which you sip your tea amongst elaborate clocks, overstuffed satin couches, and dramatic paintings of women in feathered hats.
Because of the required two-week quarantine upon entry into Vietnam, international travel is not currently an option. But that just means that now is the time to plan in-country adventures. My first trip was to Hồ Tràm, a beach town a few hours away from Ho Chi Minh City. Two friends and I decided to use a long weekend to check out one of the city’s lovely hotels and spend a few days lounging in pools and soaking up the sun. The beaches in Hồ Tràm border the South China Sea, or as it’s known in Vietnam, the Biển Đông or Eastern Sea. Dozens of ships dot the horizon; a stark comparison to the horizon in Cabo Verde, where only the ferry to Fogo would occasionally drift in and out of view.
So far, Vietnam has been wonderful. The people are friendly, the food is delicious, and the work is interesting. I’m excited for the next two years.
Vietnam takes this pandemic incredibly seriously and has had remarkable success dealing with COVID-19. One reason for this success is that quarantine in Vietnam is no joke. I stepped into this room in the dead of night 12 days ago and will not step out of it again until my two-week quarantine is complete. It’s rumored that there is a COVID-controlled oasis on the other side of these walls, so I am more than happy to sit contentedly in my room and aid the effort.
I cannot go outside, nor can I step into the hallway. I have a menu in my room and leave a daily order form on a table outside my door. A hotel employee rings my doorbell when my meals arrive and although I run to the door to catch a glimpse of another human, they’ve always disappeared into thin air. I have a balcony from which I can watch the quick construction of a house next door and somewhere, there lives a rooster intent on waking me at 6am.
My figurative window to the rest of the world.
Quite honestly, quarantine is great. I’ve made excellent progress on my stack of books and Netflix queue. My mother, a talented quilter (Pleasant Street Quilts), always encourages me and my sister to have some hand-piecing projects to keep our hands busy, and I’ll have quite a few quilt blocks to show for my two weeks in quarantine. I workout. I nap. I Skype. And while I will be happy to start my tour in Ho Chi Minh City, I will be sad to once again set an alarm in the morning and wear real shoes.
A few batiks from my current Moroccan-inspired hand-piecing project.
Living that strenuous quarantine lifestyle.
I’ve been in the Foreign Service for a few years now, and one defining characteristic of all diplomats is that we’re always on the move. Our belongings are often in transit or storage and we live out of suitcases for months at a time. I think it’s important to make every house – or quarantine room – a home, even if we’re only here for a few weeks. So despite having just two suitcases, both teetering dangerously on the brink of being overweight, I packed a few small things that remind me of home. They make all the difference!
Some of my favorite things! Pictures of friends and family, letters from Paul, my favorite tea, as well as lovely gifts from some of my favorite people.
Today is Day 12 of my 15-day quarantine. Later this week, I’ll fly to Ho Chi Minh City and see me and Paul’s new apartment for the first time. I will go to work and put my pens in a proper desk drawer. There will be people at restaurants and kids in school. I’m thrilled.
Although I can’t be sure I’m in Vietnam from my quarantine view, there’s a hat in my room as proof!
Hello, everyone! So much has happened since I last wrote: I finished my tour in Cabo Verde and received my second assignment – Ho Chi Minh City! I returned to the States, where I spent ten months learning Vietnamese. I had movie nights with my little sister and took drizzly walks along the Mall. Then during a fall weekend in Shenandoah National Park, my boyfriend, Paul, asked me to marry him. I now have a brilliant fiancé, who is in the process of taking a sabbatical from the U.S. Navy to follow me to Vietnam. Both our departure plans and wedding plans were delayed by several months because of COVID. At times, it seemed as though the entire world was descending into chaos. However, the delay in my departure allowed me and my sister to return to our hometown and spend time with our parents, a rare and much-appreciated silver lining. Now after more than a year of transitions and suitcases, I’m on the brink of my next adventure.
I’ve returned to this site because of you. Even while I wasn’t writing, I received dozens of emails and questions from fellow diplomats, prospective applicants, and friends I’ve known in past lives. A few days ago, I logged onto this site for the first time in months and was shocked to see hundreds of visits to the site that I had all but abandoned. Very happily, it seems that I’m the only one who disappeared. Why did I stop writing? It’s partly because these posts take quite a bit of time to pull together. But I think it’s also partly because my tour in Cabo Verde was hard. The country itself was wonderful, but the work was hard, as was the isolation. That said, I’ve always intended to come back and continue sharing my adventures. So here I am.
Welcome bag, complete with chocolates.
And where exactly am I, do you ask? I’m currently sitting in a small hotel room in Hanoi on Day 8 of my 15-day quarantine. Next week, I’ll fly to Ho Chi Minh City, where I’ll start my two-year tour in the Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate General.
Day trips in Cabo Verde always seem to turn into fairly epic adventures. There are a few reasons for this:
First of all, Google hasn’t yet infiltrated Cabo Verde. Most businesses advertise only on Facebook or not at all, so it’s hard to track down directions to restaurants, stores, or even other towns. And because any sort of street sign is rare, you generally wander into a few homes before you find the hidden shop you’re looking for.
Second, Cabo Verdean buildings don’t have physical addresses. For example, anything delivered to my house goes to “the yellow embassy house with the barbed wire near the paint store in Palmarejo.”
Third, Cabo Verde has a no-stress island vibe, so you can call a restaurant to see if they’re open for lunch, only to find locked doors when you get there fifteen minutes later.
So one day, when two friends and I decided to find Aguas Bellas, a cove “somewhere on the western side of the island,” perhaps we should have known to bring more snacks.
We start off by driving to a town that was supposedly near the cove. Locals then point us down a precarious cliff-hanging road.
I took pictures to distract myself from thoughts of imminent doom.
We casually navigate around a few seemingly recent rockfalls.
After driving down a dry river bed and across a beach, the car gets stuck in mud that smells suspiciously of poo. It takes the three of us intrepid explorers plus a few neighbors to push the car out.
This process involved getting personally covered in poo. After a quick rinse in the ocean, we’re again on our way.
We are quite the curiosity.
We pass some wildlife on our continued trek up the riverbed. The car is rather smelly now.
We take a turn and start gaining altitude.
No sign of a cove yet.
We stop in a field for pictures.
Proof that I came too.
Post-rain Cabo Verde is so green!
The boys clear another impasse. I continue to document our adventure, for posterity’s sake.
The road ceases to exist, but determined, we lace up our hiking boots and continue on foot. Everyone is still rather poo-covered.
We pass a cactus farm.
Our new guide takes us as far as the nearest ledge.
We trek down hills. We trek up hills.
We trek through fields. We trek over rocks.
We find a cove! But alas, it is not the right cove.
Unfortunately, we also determine that this cove is a tad too dangerous for swimming.
So instead, we pause for a snack with a view.
We scramble up the hill over the cove to get a better vantage point. Don’t look down.
We’re several hours in and it’s getting quite hot now. We think we see a cove in the distance…
We find the cove! Unfortunately we are on top of the cove and not in the cove. We consider trying to climb down, but our water supply is dwindling. We think about how nice a swim would be as we turn back.
Things take a turn. We get lost. We find ourselves without water. It’s quickly approaching 100 degrees. The nearby cows refuse to offer any guidance. I stop taking pictures in order to conserve phone battery. We are cranky. We are thirsty. At one point, we pass a skeleton strongly resembling the below.
A few hours later, we stumble past the cactus farm and into the village where we left the car. We buy bottles of water from a small bar and hide in the shade, nursing our new sunburns. The locals marvel over how long it took us to unsuccessfully find the cove. We climb back into the car, a little worse for wear, and head back to Praia reflecting on the day’s adventure.
Not every country in the world is safe enough for such adventures. But not every country in the world is wild and untouched enough for such adventures either. Cabo Verde manages to maintain the perfect balance and for that, I am grateful. Cheers to the next adventure!
I have never been so excited to see rain as I am now in Cabo Verde.
September 2018, Santiago Island
When I arrived in Cabo Verde, the country had already suffered through a full year of drought. The rain hadn’t come, leaving the islands barren, dry, and dusty. Small family farms no longer had an income and rural properties were abandoned as families moved in search of work. Emaciated cows and goats were let loose to wander the islands in search of food and to defend themselves against the starving street dogs. The number of students in schools dwindled as families couldn’t afford transportation. Cabo Verdeans walked further and further each day to carry back jugs of water from government distribution points. The supposedly “Green Cape” was only shades of brown. Even the cacti started to wilt.
February 2018, Santiago Island
March 2018, Santiago Island
The rainy season in Cabo Verde usually starts in July and lasts through September. Back home, we know this as hurricane season. The rain that starts here in the East Atlantic picks up speed on its way west, turning into massive tropical storms that pummel the Caribbean and southern states. In fact, the only time Cabo Verde is mentioned on American news seems to be in reference to these storms. And while everyone back home stocks up on canned food, flashlights, and conveniently bottled water, Cabo Verdeans hope and pray that they don’t have to watch the rain fall into the ocean a few miles off the coast.
March 2018, Santiago Island
A few weeks ago, I was sitting on my living room couch pondering whether I had time for another Brooklyn 99 episode before bed, when I heard someone run across my roof. I immediately grabbed a flashlight in self-defense (naturally) and leapt from the couch. As I hid silently behind my bookcase (because I’m sneaky, you see) I also heard someone on the roof of my deck. A two-person heist! Stealthily craning my neck out of my hiding spot, I could just make out a darkened corner of my patio. I squinted. Was that rain?!
The rain was coming down fast and heavy and made such a racket that I assumed my fortress was under attack. I jumped out from behind my bookcase and threw open the back doors to my patio. There were puddles! And wind! And water falling from the sky! I proceeded to record a series of poorly-lit and shaky videos because the moment felt so momentous.
September 2018, Santiago Island
September 2018, Santiago Island
It’s rained several times over the past few weeks and the islands have suddenly turned green. Dusty abandoned construction lots now look like the rolling hills of Ireland. Goats munch on grass instead of garbage. For the first time in a year, the seasons seem to have changed.
A few weeks of rain won’t fix the damage caused by the recent drought. And as these droughts become more common, there will likely be more serious problems on Cabo Verde’s hazy horizon. But for now the islands are happy. It’s raining.
After months of obsessive email checking, I knew the fateful day had arrived when I saw the subject line sitting in my inbox: “Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) Score Report Available Notification.” After crossing my fingers (because that’s what diplomats do), I opened the email, but through squinted eyes (which make bad news less painful) saw only a link to log into my online testing account. HURDLES. I incorrectly entered my password three times before finally seeing the spinning wheel of loading doom. I re-crossed my fingers, clicked into my score report, and felt a flood of adrenaline as I saw the word, “Congratulations!”
And congratulations, indeed! You’ve made it to the Personal Narrative hurdle of the Foreign Service application marathon. Well done.
The Personal Narratives are six short essay prompts in which you have 1,300 characters per essay to explain why you’re the bee’s knees. These essays are read by a group of diplomats known as the Qualifications Evaluations Panel, or the QEP. I can only assume that these poor people are sitting in a fluorescent lit, windowless cinder block basement, where they are required to finish reading hundreds of essays before they are allowed their government-sponsored bologna sandwich and milk carton lunch.
But in all seriousness, the QEP reads every applicant’s submissions and all applicants receive a decision within a matter of weeks. These people are reading a lot of essays very quickly. So much like in college applications, the name of the game in this round is to grab their attention. Below are my tips!
Answer the question they way they want you to. The Personal Narrative prompts are based off the Foreign Service’s Core Precepts (the rubric they use to determine promotions within the Foreign Service). And conveniently, this rubric is publicly accessible. Read this rubric, because the way the State Department defines “Innovation” and “Problem-Solving” may be different from the way you do.
Use State Department approved vocabulary. The QEP will compare your essays to the 13 Dimensions, (the list of character traits exemplified by a Foreign Service Officer) so work this vocabulary into your essays. This will make the QEP’s job easier, effectively getting them one step closer to their bologna sandwich, and you, one step closer to the Foreign Service.
Don’t be dull. The QEP panelists must be so. Incredibly. Bored. So do them a favor and make your essays interesting. I was very formal the first time I went through the Personal Narrative round and didn’t pass. So the second time, I dialed up the story-telling. Start each essay with a hook. Be clever. Be witty. Be yourself (but only if you are clever and witty).
Be multi-faceted. A Diplomat in Resident (side note: contact your Diplomat in Residence, they are very wise and useful people) told me that each of the responses should come from a different experience in your background. So don’t tell six stories that are all vaguely similar. If you can, tell only one story from each job, extracurricular, or study abroad experience.
Self-compliment like your career depends on it. Were these experiences a team effort? Probably. But the QEP doesn’t care what everyone else on your team did, they only care about what you did. Don’t waste valuable characters on other people. Use the STAR Method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to explain only the awe-inspiring things you accomplished.
I’ve been living in Cabo Verde for six months! I’ve visited four of ten Cabo Verdean islands, adjudicated more than 1,200 visas, and submitted my bid list for my next post. Yikes. And now that I have a better understanding of what I do (it was a long learning curve), I thought I’d fill you all in as well. So below, I present: A Day in the Life of the American Vice Consul in Cabo Verde. Also known as, me.
I nudge the curb and gear my car into park, proud of myself for once again surviving the seven hectic traffic circles between my house and the U.S. Embassy. I open the car door, letting myself adjust to the buzz of street noise before swinging out onto the cobblestones. I say hello to the group of women who sit on plastic buckets selling fresh tuna to pedestrians and walk through the sunny breeze while rummaging through my purse for my security badge. As I pass the line of visa applicants outside the embassy who certainly woke up much earlier than I, I wonder who decided that American embassies should open an hour earlier than any other American office on the planet.
I settle into my chair and flip on the desk lamp I brought to improve the office’s fluorescent lighting. As I pull a Tupperwared muffin out of my purse, I ponder if any of my houseplants could survive a move to my window-less desk. I log onto my computer and start typing out responses to last night’s emails.
By 9am, the Consular section’s local staff have gotten a head start on applicant intake and my boss and I are called to the windows to begin our interviews for the day. All Cabo Verdeans need a visa to visit, study, or work in the United States and must come to the U.S. Embassy for a visa interview. My boss and I will spend the next few hours interviewing applicants in Portuguese through bullet-proof glass to determine if they are eligible for visas to the United States. There are thousands of U.S. immigration laws, exceptions, and ineligibilities to consider. I often stare blankly at applicants as my mind spins through the rolodex of immigration rules that may apply to any one particular case. In the end, there is only time to speak to each applicant for about three minutes. This is also the most heartbreaking part of the job, as it often involves denying the visas of perfectly nice people who don’t qualify for the visas for which they applied. Parents argue. Children cry. Grandmas glare.
I return all my checklists and guides to their blue folder, switch off my window’s microphone and return to my office, rethinking the morning’s cases. I check emails and hope I don’t see anyone that I denied at lunch.
Following a sunny lunch at one of the outdoor cafes near the Embassy, I head back to the office to fight back the growing stack of applicant folders that have begun to pile up on my desk. This involves running name checks, checking fingerprint and facial recognition databases, requesting and sorting additional documentation, and looking up the finer details of immigration law in the State Department’s 800+ page guidance. I feel very academic and lawyerly. But usually at about three cases in, I remember why I’m glad I’m not a lawyer.
Once I’ve sorted through all my applicant cases for the day, I have a few hours to work on some long-term projects. These projects include everything from revamping our applicant waiting room, to planning educational videos for the Facebook page, or organizing outreach trips to the other islands to answer Cabo Verdeans’ visa questions in person. The Consular section does data validation studies to determine if people are using their visas correctly. We write editorials to explain the finer points of immigration law to the Cabo Verdean public. We debate new U.S. immigration policy changes and research how these changes will affect our adjudications. At the end of the day, our goal is two-sided: to prevent illegal immigration and visa misuse, but to also encourage legitimate travel to the U.S.
The U.S. Embassy in Praia is small, and unlike most embassies, we don’t have U.S. Marine guards for security. This means that one of us diplomats is responsible for kicking everyone out of their offices each night and making sure the embassy is secured until the next morning. So at 5:30pm, I usually find myself scrambling to answer one last email, making sure all the Consular safes are locked, and hitting the lights.
You know how sometimes you feel like you’re in just the right place at just the right time? That’s how I’ve felt ever since stepping off the plane in Cabo Verde!
I am incredibly lucky to have been sent to Cabo Verde for my first post. The embassy is small, which means that my colleagues are incredibly close-knit. They’ve all gone out of their way to make sure I’m taken care of: I arrived to a fridge stocked with banana bread and a desk stocked with Post-Its. My boss graciously lets me pester him with 473 questions a day and the consular section’s local staff have invited me to perform with their singing group. Even the Ambassador himself took me on a day trip around the island to get my bearings. Getting hungry? Choose from three different dinner invites. Need an emergency pie plate? Take two and a kitchen scale. House run out of water? An emergency water truck shows up in 10 minutes. The community here is impressive, to say the least.
There are plenty of things here in Cabo Verde to be thankful for (and since I still have a leftover Thanksgiving pie in the freezer, I’m allowed to make a list). For example, the awesome water pressure in my new shower. Or the Orca store, which is a cross between a NYC bodega and an American Target, and which is currently a winter wonderland with impressively decked halls. I’m thankful that Amazon can deliver throw pillows to an island in the middle of the Atlantic within two weeks. I’m thankful that I have a car and friends who are willing to repeatedly put their lives at risk as I drive them through the lawless-ish streets of Cabo Verde. I’m thankful for people who understand technology and know how to sync my computer to my TV and can make phones work internationally. I’m thankful for my Portuguese training, because I️ would quite literally be lost and hungry and bad at my job without it. I’m thankful for the movie theater that plays new release American movies in English with Portuguese subtitles and will mix the sweet and salty popcorns for you. I’m thankful for the guards who watch my fortress of a house all night and I’m thankful for the local plant fair that helped me make my fortress of a house feel more like home.
So thank you to Cabo Verde, for welcoming me with open arms. And thank you to the United States, for hiring me to do this awesome job!