Welcome to our unaccompanied tours (UT) blog, Foggy Bottom Rambles! We can share information, programs, and resources quickly with you and since blogs are a two way street, we (and the other readers) can hear from you. What's in a name you say? This blog reflects how we (back here in DC, Foggy Bottom area) provide information (rambles) to you. Find websites and information, upcoming webinars, programs and events. FLO does not endorse organizations or companies linked-to in this blog, the views they express, or the products/services they offer. Let us know what you think: contribute to the blog or email us at FLOAskUT@state.gov.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Check Out the OBC's CultureGrams

Did you know that the Transition Center’s Overseas Briefing Center at the Foreign Service Institute provides online access to CultureGrams? This database of cultural information is available for use by all foreign affairs community members associated with a U.S. Mission overseas. CultureGrams houses cultural reports, information for kids, recipes, interviews with locals, and more. Email FSIOBCInfoCenter@state.gov for the username and password. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Be prepared to travel with your pet. The Transition Center has the resources and information to help plan your next transfer. Learn more at: https://goo.gl/ZuzY9O

Monday, June 12, 2017

Recertification for Members of the FSFRC in Reserve Status 

  • Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC) members in categories 1 and 2 who are not actively working in a local TEMP or FMA assignment are required to recertify their eligibility to remain in the FSFRC on an annual basis.
  • Approximately two months prior to the anniversary date of your appointment to the FSFRC, the Bureau of Human Resource’s Office of Shared Services (HR/SS) will contact you with instructions via the personal email address that you provided on your membership application form.
  • If your personal email address has changed, contact HR/SS with the correct address at FSFRC@state.gov.
  • Completion and submission of your recertification package in a timely manner is critical in allowing HR/SS adequate time to adjudicate your submission prior to your annual recertification date.
  • If you are not actively working in a local TEMP or FMA assignment and have not received a recertification request two months prior to the anniversary of your membership, contact HR/SS at FSFRC@state.gov.
  • Failure to respond to recertification requests in a timely manner will lead to termination of your membership in the FSFRC.  

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Facts and Updates: Making Sense of the Department of State Education Allowance:
An understanding of education allowances is crucial for Foreign Service families. Here is an introduction.  
To read the article in full, please click here:    Foreign Service Journal

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Prepare for an Emergency: Go-Bag and 72-Hour Kit

Every day there is a possibility of a sudden departure from an overseas post due to political unrest, natural disaster, a death in the family, divorce, a family member in crisis, or a medical emergency.

There are many ways to prepare for the unexpected and a good place to start is by reading FLO’s Personal Preparedness Plan for tips on creating your plan. FLO also provides a checklist for preparing a Go-Bag and a 72 Hour Emergency Kit.

Visit the Crisis Management Services webpage for more information. Email questions to FLOAskSupportServices@state.gov

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

FSI/TC Young Diplomats Overseas Preparation

If yo
u are in the DC area, the Transition Center at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI/TC) is offering a FREE 2-day Summer Youth Program for children of all foreign affairs agencies in grades 2-12. The program is an interactive exploration into the world of diplomacy, the realities of living overseas as an American, and safety and security threats overseas. Children are divided by age and all information is shared using age-appropriate activities. A parent or guardian is required to be on campus (consider registering for MQ911 Security Overseas Seminar which runs concurrently with the Youth Program).

For more information, visit the Young Diplomats Overseas Preparation webpage. Email FSITCTraining@state.gov with questions.

Remaining 2017 Dates (click on dates below to register)
August 7-8

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Unaccompanied Tours Decision Tree

As you are preparing for or thinking about bidding on an Unaccompanied Tour (UT) post, check out FLO’s Decision Tree. It is a guide to help you decide where your family will live while you are serving on an unaccompanied tour.

Email FLOAskUT@state.gov with questions and visit www.state.gov/flo/ut for information on all of FLO’s UT support services. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Leaving Post in 2017? You May Be Eligible to Apply for the FSFRC

During the hiring freeze, family members can apply to join the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC) if they meet all of the below criteria. Those eligible should apply now and not wait until closer to their departure date.

Family Members Working Overseas
  • Currently employed at post under a Family Member Appointment (FMA) or Temporary (TEMP) appointment and will be departing from the current position between now and December 31, 2017.
  • Employed on an FMA or TEMP appointment with a sponsoring employee who has an upcoming Transfer Eligibility Date (TED) between now and December 31, 2017.
  • Currently in Intermittent No Work Scheduled (INWS) status at the time of application, with a Not to Exceed (NTE) date between now and December 31, 2017.
Family Members Working in the Civil Service

  • Due to the hiring freeze currently in effect at the Department of State, family members who are working in Civil Service positions who will be accompanying their sponsoring employees abroad may not join the FSFRC at this time. Going from the Civil Service to the FSFRC would require a hiring action which is not possible at this time. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Summer 2017 Distance Language Courses

Summer 2017 Distance Language Courses

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI)'s Summer 2017 semester of online distance language learning courses are starting on or around May 15, 2017. FSI’s School of Language Studies offers 65 courses in 17 different languages. Enroll now as courses fill up quickly and the late enrollment deadline is approaching (May 26).

Enrollment is free to direct-hire Department of State employees and their family members on a space available basis. Other agency personnel and their family members may enroll through their DC office on a reimbursable basis with a fully funded SF-182 to be sent to FSIRegistrar@state.gov. Employees can enroll via their Career Development Officer (CDO) or on the FSI Registrar’s Course Catalog on OpenNet. Family members can enroll via their sponsor’s CDO.

Email OnlineLanguage@state.gov for more information. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Great Resource for separated families

Never Miss A Moment With Caribu

Caribu lets you video call and read no matter where you are, so you never miss another story time.   This beautiful app is designed for children.

Get it free on your iPad or iPhone.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Time is Choice

Posted by Beth Payne, Center of Excellence in Foreign Affairs Resilience in her Resilience blog and re-posted here.

Almost every time I give a presentation on resilience, someone mentions that a major barrier to   engaging in activities that foster resilience is that they do not have the time. For example, people know that enjoying a hobby or socializing with colleagues will benefit them, but they struggle to find the time. We know we should exercise regularly but the day goes by and there never seems to be enough time. We start the day planning to go to bed at 10PM to get 8 hours of sleep and before we know it, it is midnight. How many of us feel like we’ve lost control of our time and therefore aren’t engaging in activities that improve our resilience and therefore our effectiveness and productivity?
If you struggle to control your time, you might find Laura Vanderkam’s TED talk useful. Instead of giving tips on how to “find extra hours in the day” or searching for ways to “save bits of time,” she advocates first building the lives we want and then managing time around these lives. She explains that time is a choice. We can’t make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we chose to put into it. The key to time management is to focus on our priorities. Instead of saying I don’t have time to do X, Y, or Z it is better to say I won’t do X, Y, or Z because they are not a priority.

She recommends that on Friday afternoon, make a list with the following three categories: work, relationships and self. Identify two/three items for each category. Then look over the next few weeks and plan these items in your calendar. She recommends looking at the whole of your time and looking for where the good stuff can go. She concludes that when we focus on what matters, we can build the lives we want with the time we’ve got.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

New FSI Webinar: Financial Planning/TSP and FSPS Annuity Benefits

This condensed retirement planning seminar is designed as an alternative for overseas employees who are unable to attend the two-day Early/Mid-Career Retirement Planning seminar (RV105) or the four-day Retirement Planning seminar (RV101) at FSI.

Financial Planning/TSP and FSPS Annuity Benefits (RV106) provides critical information on financial planning, TSP options, investing, estate planning, and the Foreign Service Pension System (FSPS) annuity program, including health benefits, which any Foreign Service employee at any stage in their career will find beneficial to their retirement planning. The Financial Planning/TSP segment is a three-hour seminar delivered live via Adobe Connect during Washington, DC business hours. The FSPS Annuity Benefits segment is a two-hour recorded presentation designed to be viewed before the Financial Planning/TSP segment via the Learn Center.

Upcoming 2017 Course Dates: June 28 and September 21

Visit the course website for details on how to register and for information on eligibility. Email questions to FSICTC@state.gov.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Consular Opportunities for EFMs Webinar Now Online

The Family Liaison Office (FLO) recently hosted a webinar with representatives from Consular Affairs, the Foreign Service Institute, and Human Resources. The webinar covers the Consular Affairs Appointment Eligible Family Member (CA-AEFM) and Consular Fellows programs. Both programs recruit and train candidates to work as Vice Consuls overseas. Applications are currently being accepted for both programs. You will also learn about Consular Assistant and Consular Associate positions at posts and FSI consular training opportunities. Watch it online today

Monday, May 1, 2017

WorkLife4You resource

5 Tips to Feel Good as a Parent - Log into WorkLife4You for more resources on parenting

Feel Good Parent
With all of the debate about work/family balance lately, it's hard not to wonder whether your personal solution is the "best" one. But there is no one-size-fits-all solution to parenting, and there are many paths to feeling successful as moms and dads.

That being said, there's one clear route to feeling lousy about your parenting: adopting someone else's definition of success. Parenting is personal, and a plan that works beautifully for your neighbor or colleague might leave you feeling sad, depressed or inadequate.

While there are many ways to be a good parent, it all starts with creating an atmosphere that feels right to you. Here are five things to try to make you feel good about the job you're doing as a parent:

1) Focus on Your Role of the Moment -- Parenting takes plenty of multitasking as it is, so it helps to just focus on one task at a time. When you need to be focused on work, do so, but when you don't need to check email or browse your phone, stop and focus on the kids. Undivided attention, even in smaller quantities, feels so much better than giving them short shrift.

2) Create Memories Through Rituals -- A tradition of eating dinner together at night, even if you don't accomplish this goal every single night, can give you an opportunity to talk, create bonds, and cherish the time you spend together.

3) Laugh -- Break into song or dance, tell jokes, make light of serious situations, and soon everyone feels a little bit better. Even if it doesn't come naturally to you, it always makes for a mood lightener.

4) Give Your Kids a Little Space -- You want to keep your kids close and safe, but there is something so refreshing about watching them spread their wings. Case in point: When we moved to San Diego, I decided it was time to let my 10- and 8-year-old kids walk up to the bagel shop on their own. I was holding my breath the entire eight minutes they were gone, but loved seeing their sense of accomplishment when they returned.

5) Show Unconditional Love -- Make sure your kids know that you always have their backs. When they're discussing what's important to them and they feel supported, they'll beam from feeling love and there's no better feeling than that.

Source: Learning Care Group, www.learningcaregroup.com

WorkLife4You (formerly known as Information Quest) is a resource and referral service contracted by the Department of State for employees and their family members.  You can go through WorkLife4You and get a free initial legal consultation to have a simple will prepared.  You may also use the “legal documents’ section on the website, to download legal forms such as Wills, POA, Living Wills, etc.  Help is available in many areas including settling into your home, medical referrals, counseling, school information, legal consultations and more.  E-mail Specialist@LifeCare.com  or if you want to schedule a free legal consultation please call 1-866-552-IQ4U (4748) or TTY/TDD 800-873-1322. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Foggy What?!

The name “Foggy Bottom” arose from the fact that the area where the Department of the State is located is at the bottom of the Potomac waterfront (i.e, marshy banks + river water = prone to fog). Back in the day, this environment, combined with the poor air circulation made the area prone to fog. The Potomac’s shoreline was defined by the escarpment, or steep hills, which trapped air in this low-lying area – Washingtonians still experience this on hot, summer nights. Just ask us about the humidity!

Foggy Bottom got its name before the Department of State headquarters called it home in 1941, after initial construction on the building began in 1939. 

Some facts:
· Other aliases: HST or Harry S. Truman Building, Main State, Foggy Bottom.
· There is over 1.5 million square feet of usable space.
· Over 4,000 windows surround the building.

Craving more historical info? Check out the Department of State’s Office of the Historian’s website to learn about the historical documentary record of U.S. foreign policy.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Humor for the Health of It Webinar Link
The Family Liaison Office’s (FLO) Unaccompanied Tours (UT) team and MHN (a Health Net company)    hosted the webinar, Humor for the Health of It.                      

The webinar addressed how humor is an essential part of life, keeps us healthy and positive, and helps us handle life’s setbacks. It also described the emotional and physical benefits of humor and explored ways to cultivate humor in everyday life and in the workplace. If you missed the webinar, you can watch the recorded version. Request the participant workbook by emailing FLOAskUT@state.gov

Webinar Link: https://goo.gl/rI0CnR

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Reminder! FLO Global Webinar: Overseas Consular Opportunities for EFMs on April 19

Join FLO, HR, CA, and FSI Consular Training Division for a webinar on the Consular Affairs - Appointment Eligible Family Member (CA-AEFM) and Consular Fellows programs. Presenters will provide an overview of both programs and will also include information about Consular Assistant and Consular Associates positions at post and FSI training opportunities such as ConGen. The webinar will be recorded.

Both programs recruit and train candidates to work as Vice Consuls overseas. The next LNA (Limited Non-Career Appointments/CA-AEFM and Consular Fellows programs) orientation classes are pending funding and authorization. Family members are welcome to apply to these programs now because the process can take several months.

Visit the Department of State’s career website for information and application procedures about the Consular Fellows program and FLO’s website for information on the CA-AEFM program.

When:             April 19, 2017 at 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. ET
RSVP:              FLOGlobalWebinars@state.gov

Participate by logging in as a "guest" at deptofstatehr.adobeconnect.com/flo/. Please use your first name (only) followed by your post. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Five C’s for Safer Travel

Research your destination by starting with the five C’s: country, city, culture, climate, and crime.

Whether relocating or jet-setting the globe, expats and tourists should focus on risk mitigation to avoid disasters and manage emergencies. Most crises can be avoided, but some incidents are simply a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the past year alone, we have seen many extreme examples of this which include floods, earthquakes and terrorist attacks. Also, there are the everyday issues to be aware of including, illnesses, accidents and stolen property, all of which can be more stressful in a foreign country. Therefore, it is important to be cognizant of the entire spectrum of risks. Travelers should learn risk mitigation techniques so they can avoid, manage, and respond accordingly. When researching your destination, it is helpful to identify obstacles before you go. With this in mind we look at the five C’s to make your experience both safe and extraordinary. Preparation can make all the difference, while unorganized and poorly planned travel can lead to disaster.

Country- Research local issues and laws, and check for instability that can lead to civil disorder and protest. These issues may arise from unemployment, poverty, politics or immigration. In addition, make sure you have emergency phone numbers for the country.

City- Research the accommodation’s safety features which, under ideal circumstances, may include 24/7 security officers and CCTV placement. Research the neighborhood crime trends. Also look at the location’s convenience and safety of transportation. For example, what are the roadway standards, and are taxis safe to hail from the street or is it better to reserve with a transportation company?

Cultural– One of the greatest safety tips when traveling in a foreign country is to blend in with the local population. This is usually accomplished by understanding some of the cultural nuances and customs. It is always recommended to learn and use some basic host country language.

Climate- There are many different weather patterns around the world with unique localized conditions that can quickly turn disastrous. For example, in the United States we have areas that are prone to tornadoes, floods, heat waves or hurricanes. Be ready for local weather trends and new weather patterns. Follow an emergency plan for each type of environmental hazard. This will not only keep you safe, it could save your life.

Crime- Understand local scams and crime trends. One of the most common techniques used in tourist spots around the world is “distraction crime.” Be alert to anyone trying to distract your attention. Blend in with the local population, avoid looking like a tourist and leave your USA t-shirts at home.
After assessing the risks, create a contingency plan for your travel. It is important to be flexible yet prepared which includes purchasing traveler’s insurance which can prevent an emergency from becoming a disaster.

By Carrie Pasquarello of Global Secure Resources Inc.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Remaining resilient in the face of uncertainty
Posted by Beth Payne , Center of Excellence in Foreign Affairs Resilience
in her Resilience blog and re-posted here

These are uncertain times for foreign affairs professionals. Much of our foreign policy is unclear or changing dramatically. There is a hiring freeze across the federal government impacting family member employment and making it harder to get the job done in understaffed offices and overseas posts. We face potentially severe budget cuts. The more resilient we are, the easier it is to be flexible and adaptable in times of uncertainty and stress. We are more likely to collaborate with others to find innovative solutions to the problems uncertainty brings to the workplace. This is why it is critically important to focus on building or maintaining high resilience during these uncertain times. Here are some tips on how you can enhance your resilience during this challenging period.

  Take care of yourself: Prioritize taking care of yourself and carve out time on your calendar for recovery, whether it’s taking a 10 minute walk every afternoon, joining friends for lunch, or cooking yourself a healthy meal after work. Resist the temptation to just work longer and harder since this will actually reduce productivity in the long run. Minimize alcohol and ensure you get 7-8 hours of sleep.
  Focus on what you can control: Identify what you can control, influence, and not control. Use active problem solving to take more control over important issues. For example, if you feel like you cannot control your work load, practice saying no and setting boundaries to give yourself more control. Develop strategies to influence issues that are important to you and try to stop thinking about concerns outside of your control.
 Maintain meaning and purpose: Remind yourself why you work in foreign affairs and explore what you need to stay passionate and committed to the work you do. Look for meaning and purpose outside of work through volunteerism, hobbies, family, and spirituality. Explore your alternatives if you no longer find meaning and purpose at work.
  Practice reframing: Look for the positive aspects of challenges you face. If your budget is cut, what are the potential positive outcomes? If you have fewer staff, how can you turn this challenge into an opportunity?
  Seek social support: One of the most important ways we enhance our resilience is to spend time with other people. Invite colleagues to lunch and commit to spending more time with family and friends.
  Laugh: Watch more funny movies and television shows, listen to funny podcasts, spend more time with friends and colleagues who make you laugh.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mark Your Calendar! Facebook Live Event April 5.
Tune in April 5 at 10:00 am ET to learn more about the 2017/2018 Professional Development Fellowship (PDF) prog...
See More

The Family Liaison Office (FLO) is pleased to announce the Professional Development Fellowship (PDF) program for 2017/2018.