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 tips from the field, websites and information, home is where the hooch is suggestions, upcoming programs and events and follow our book club. Let us know what you think: contribute to the blog or email us at FLOaskUT@state.gov.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Websites and information


Recently FLO along with MHN presented a seminar on Parenting during an Unaccompanied Tour.     A record number of people were able to dial in and attend the seminar.  We hope to repeat the session soon (it was too early for some and too late for othersJ).   



Here are some of the tips from the seminar:
·         Use indirect questioning to allow kids the opportunity to talk
·         Use stuffed animals to act out scenes, so children can explain their feelings
·         Play manicurist-mother/father paints nails while asking questions
·         Teens – may take them an hour to ‘warm up’; ask them “what do your friends think?”
·         Use effective communication strategies and mechanisms- Skype, YouTube, phone, web, FaceBook,
·         Watch same TV shows or read same book/magazine     
·         Child writes to parent; parent keeps letters and puts in a letter box to give to the child at end of tour
·         Parent at post brings pre-stamped post cards to post (tip: You or your kids can also create personalized postcards USPS has site to make photo postcards: http://www.usps.com/createmail/welcome.htm
·         If you have employee’s cell phone or other number, make sure kids know that it’s for emergencies only; set time limits on using phone; if kids want to ‘vent’ or complain about parent at home, encourage them to email absent parent instead of picking up the phone.  (Good advice for adults too!)  That way you won’t say something you regret.
·         Let children’s teachers know what’s going on.
·         Homework help – find a local tutor or older student; work as a group before employee goes to post so child has continuity and does not feel that the tutor is a replacement for employee parent.  Use Skype so away parent can help with homework.
·         Validate other parent’s experience
·         Have something to look forward to, like your onward assignment, and learn the language, read about city…but remember, sometimes things don’t work out the way you hoped/planned.

Current events can be scary…. especially to children.  Here are some websites you may find useful:



Tuesday, September 18, 2012


                                                             PRESIDENT OBAMA

                                                       AT THE STATE DEPARTMENT

                                                    September 12,2012

Washington, D.C.

Obviously, the first thing that I want to say, and what we all feel, is deep sorrow over the loss of Chris and Sean.  Some of you knew them well.  Some of you worked with them closely and were inspired by them.  And there’s not much that I’m going to be able to say that quells the grief that all of you feel right now, thoughts and prayers are with their families. 

But what I can say is that had it not been for Chris’s courage and his vision, his recognition of the stakes that existed last year when Benghazi was on the brink of being overrun, it’s not clear that those of us who were a little higher up off the ground would have made the difficult political decisions that we made in order to save Benghazi and ultimately provide Libya with the opportunity to determine their own destiny.  And in some ways, that’s a microcosm of Chris’s courage, his vision, his willingness to engage on the ground in very difficult circumstances.  That’s a microcosm of what all of you guys do each and every day.

Some of you know that I spent a lot of years overseas when I was a kid.  And there’s no doubt that that’s shaped my perspective on the world and our place in it, and not always in the ways that some of my opponents describe, but it shaped it nevertheless.  And what I know has always been one of America’s greatest gifts to the world, one of our greatest traits as a people, is the fact that we’re not made up of a single tribe, a single religion or a single race, but we’re this collection of strivers and dreamers, people from all around the world who came here because we all agreed on a creed, on a set of principles – the idea that all men and women are created equal, that we’re all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights – that these aren’t just American rights, they’re not just Western rights; they are aspirations that people in the smallest village in Libya or in the most prosperous cities in Europe all believe in and care about, and that part of our task is to make sure that the way we project power as the greatest nation on Earth is consistent with those values. 

We do so with humility, and we do so understanding that we can’t control the shape of events everywhere and that it’s not our job to dictate other people’s forms of government.  But it is this belief that those values that make us who we are have to be part and parcel of how we operate in the world. 

And Chris and Sean, I think, represent the very best of that tradition – people who were realistic but also idealistic; people who understood how hard it is to bring about change, but who weren’t daunted by the task and were willing to put their shoulder behind the wheel to move history in a better direction. 

So I could not be prouder of them.  But I also understand that all of you, with your own capacities and in your own ways, are carrying out that same tradition each and every day.  And as a consequence of what you do, America is safer, America is more respected, America is more secure.

Are there risks in that approach?  There are risks when somebody like Chris ventures out from the compound and takes the risk to his own security so that he can engage with people in circumstances that are still pretty volatile.  There are risks when our diplomats are going to volunteer for posts that they know pose a risk to their person.

The fact that Chris and Sean were willing to take those risks, the fact that many of you are willing to take those risks, is not only commendable, it’s absolutely vital to us continuing to be a leading light, and it’s vital for us to be safer.  Because the one thing that I’m absolutely confident about is that when we lead with our values, we lead with our ideas, and we don’t shy away from the world, and we’re not consumed by cynicism, but the belief that we can make things a little bit better.  But when we embrace that, then we’re securing a better future for our kids and our grandkids and all those Americans to come.

So I hope that alongside your sorrow today, all of you also take a moment to reflect on how important your work is and to remind yourselves that it’s not that often in life where you’re allowed to really make a difference, where you’re put in a position where what you do matters, that changes lives.  It may be the difference as to whether a child gets something to eat.  It may make the difference in terms of whether a political prisoner is freed.  It may make a difference in terms of whether or not a country shifts towards democracy.  It may make a difference in whether or not Americans are welcome as they travel to places around the world. 

What you guys do every day matters deeply.  And so on days like this, it’s a good moment for us to step back and say all the frustrations, the setbacks, the dealings with your own internal bureaucracies, the plans that go awry, that all that stuff somehow is worth it, and that the reason you got into this business in the first place is because although there are a lot of reasons to be cynical about the world, there are more reasons to be hopeful about it. 

I know everybody who knew Chris understood that that was who he was.  He loved what he did, and he was excited about it, and he knew that it was going to make a difference.  And he could see it.  And I know Sean felt the same way.  And I know most of you who got into this business did so because you feel that same way. 

So this is a setback today, and part of our family has been lost.  But don’t lose that sense of hopefulness.  Don’t lose that sense that somehow the world is not subject to our better selves.  If we work hard enough and smart enough, then over time we move the world in a better direction.  And it’s not going to happen unless you guys retain that sense – and it can’t come from anywhere else because there’s no other country on Earth that thinks quite in that same way.

We are still the one indispensable power, and the reason is because of the spirit of people like Chris and Sean and because of you.  Don’t lose that.  And I hope that if you can take away one single thing from this tragedy, that we’re going to redouble our efforts and strengthen our resolve.  I know that’s how your boss, the Secretary of State thinks about it because nobody’s been in the thick of things longer or seen greater reason to be cynical.  And nobody, behind the tough exterior, still possesses that sense of hopefulness and idealism as much as our Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

So take something from her example.  Take heart that no matter how difficult this particular day is, what you guys are doing every single day is making the world better.  I thank you for it and the American people thank you for it as well.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012


We are all heartbroken about the news from Libya.   Our thoughts and prayers are with the families that have suffered such a great loss. 


Remembering Ambassador Stevens http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGk4vUcGzY0


Copied below are the official statements from 
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
September 12, 2012
Statement by the President on the Attack in Benghazi
I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.
I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.
On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya's transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.
The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.

Statement on the Death of American Personnel in Benghazi, Libya

Press Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
September 12, 2012

It is with profound sadness that I share the news of the death of four American personnel in Benghazi, Libya yesterday. Among them were United States Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and Foreign Service Information Management Officer, Sean Smith. We are still making next of kin notifications for the other two individuals. Our hearts go out to all their families and colleagues.

A 21 year veteran of the Foreign Service, Ambassador Stevens died last night from injuries he sustained in the attack on our office in Benghazi.
I had the privilege of swearing in Chris for his post in Libya only a few months ago. He spoke eloquently about his passion for service, for diplomacy and for the Libyan people. This assignment was only the latest in his more than two decades of dedication to advancing closer ties with the people of the Middle East and North Africa which began as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. As the conflict in Libya unfolded, Chris was one of the first Americans on the ground in Benghazi. He risked his own life to lend the Libyan people a helping hand to build the foundation for a new, free nation. He spent every day since helping to finish the work that he started. Chris was committed to advancing America’s values and interests, even when that meant putting himself in danger.

Sean Smith was a husband and a father of two, who joined the Department ten years ago. Like Chris, Sean was one of our best. Prior to arriving in Benghazi, he served in Baghdad, Pretoria, Montreal, and most recently The Hague.
All the Americans we lost in yesterday’s attacks made the ultimate sacrifice. We condemn this vicious and violent attack that took their lives, which they had committed to helping the Libyan people reach for a better future.

America’s diplomats and development experts stand on the front lines every day for our country. We are honored by the service of each and every one of them.