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.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays from UT!

Here is a shot of our UT office's Holiday tree!  We wish everyone a safe, healthy and happy Holiday! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays

Thank you to everyone who attended the December 14th event!  We were so happy to have the opportunity to meet everyone in person and we so appreciate your support.  Here are a few photos from the event.  :) Enjoy!

Happy Holidays from UT!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Another friendly reminder...

If you are planning on attending the December event Home For the Holidays and you have received an invitation already, please remember to RSVP (again) to ceremonialsRSVP@state.gov so you can be officially included on the guest list. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Congratulations to the 2010 SOSA winners!

The annual AAFSW/Secretary of State's Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad (SOSA) recognizes the outstanding volunteer activities of U.S. Government employees, spouses, family members over the age of 18, EFM domestic partners, and members of household who are living and working overseas. Click here for more photos and details about the winner's volunteer projects. 

Congratulations to the 2010 winners!
  • Shirley A. Winter – Yaounde (AF)
  • Shameera M. Wiest – Kuala Lumpur (EAP)
  • Mindy R. Michels and Melissa E. Schraibman – Tirana (EUR)
  • Beth A. Brownson – Mumbai (SCA)
  • Jose M. Torres – San Jose (WHA)
Above information from http://www.aafsw.org/ website.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Friendly reminder!

If you are planning on attending the December 14th event Home For the Holidays and you have received an invitation already, please remember to RSVP to ceremonialsRSVP@state.gov so you can be officially included on the guest list.     

Welcome December!

Preparing for the Holidays?  Did you not get a chance to finish all of your holiday shopping by black Friday?  This article includes a list of websites with the great deals and coupons to assist you with your last minute gift purchasing.  Enjoy! 

Are any UT bloggers going to attend the Home For the Holidays event on the 14th?  Only two weeks away!  We are excited to meet you all.  Can't believe it is already December!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanks Giving


To everyone experiencing an unaccompanied tour
 thank you
 for your dedication to service and commitment to our country   

We look forward to the time when everyone is able to spend the holidays at home.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

         We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. 
~Thornton Wilder

Monday, November 22, 2010

Season’s Greenings!

This year, the U.S. Botanic Garden’s annual holiday exhibit, Seasons Greenings, celebrates the plant world and how humans use plants in holiday traditions. Brighten the long dark nights of winter by commemorating the season from November 25, 2010 through January 2, 2011.
Don’t miss this popular exhibit which includes Washington landmark buildings all created with plant materials set amidst pathways and pools of blooming poinsettias and other holiday plants.  The famous garden railway will feature world landmarks from the continents of Africa, Asia Europe and South America.
Dates:  November 25, 2010 January 2, 2011
Location:  U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory, 100 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20001

*Information source: http://www.usbg.gov/education/events/Seasons-Greenings.cfm.  For more details regarding the holiday event please visit the aforementioned website. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Remember Veterans Day...

IN 1918, AT ELEVEN A.M., on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the world rejoiced and celebrated. After four years of bitter war, the Armistice between the
Allies and Germans was signed. World War I, called the “war to end all wars,” was
over. November 11 was set aside as Armistice Day in the United States, to
remember the sacrifices that men and women made during the war in order to ensure a lasting peace.

On Armistice Day, soldiers who survived the war marched in parades through
their hometowns. Politicians and veteran officers gave speeches and held
ceremonies of thanks for the peace they had won. President Woodrow Wilson, in his Armistice Day proclamation in November 1919, said: To us in America, the reflections of
Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nation.

Congress voted Armistice Day a legal holiday in 1938, twenty years after the war ended. But Americans realized that the previous war would not be the last one. World War II began the following year, and nations great and small again participated in a long and terrible struggle.

After the Second World War, Armistice Day continued to be observed. But many veterans of World War II, and later the Korean War, had little connection to the First World War, and often felt that Armistice Day was not significant for them. They wanted to make a change in the holiday to include veterans of other American wars, not only World War I.

In 1953, townspeople in Emporia, Kansas, celebrated the holiday as “Veterans Day” in gratitude to the veterans in their town. Soon after, Congress passed a bill to rename
the day, and in 1954 President Eisenhower officially changed the name of the national holiday to Veterans Day.  Traditional Veterans Day celebrations, in many towns and cities, may include ceremonies, parades, concerts and speeches. At 11:00 in the morning, in some communities, Americans observe a moment of silence, remembering
those who have fought in war.

The President of the United States lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at
the National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, honoring all of America’s soldiers who have
fallen in war.  After the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War, the emphasis on Veterans Day activities shifted. Now there are fewer military parades and ceremonies, and people honor the day in a more introspective and personal way. Veterans and their families gather at war memorials such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., where they place gifts and stand in quiet vigil at the names, etched in granite, of their comrades, friends, and relatives who died in the war.

People often gather at other national monuments such as those dedicated to World War II and
the Korean War, as well as at Arlington National Cemetery where U.S. veterans from any war may be buried. Throughout the United States, families who have lost sons, daughters, and other family members to war, lay flowers and wreaths at local monuments and gravesites, as they turn their thoughts toward peace and the avoidance of future wars. 

The trials and hardships of veterans are honored and remembered through the National World War II (WWII) Registry and the Veterans History Project.  The WWII Memorial Registry is an individual listing of Americans who contributed to the war effort, comprised of those who signed up for the Registry of Remembrances as well as from other official U.S. government lists.

The Veterans History Project was created by the United States Congress and signed into law on October 2, 2000, by President Clinton.  It is a project of the Library of Congress and it relies on volunteers to collect and preserve stories and accounts of U.S. veterans. The focus is primarily on 20th century military conflicts in which U.S. soldiers played a role: World War I (1914–1920), World War II (1939 –1946), Korean War (1950–1955), Vietnam War (1961–1975), Persian Gulf War (1990– 1995), though it also includes more recent conflicts. The Project collects oral history interviews, memoirs, letters, diaries, photographs, and other original materials from veterans of these wars.

Surviving veterans of military service— today numbering more than 25 million—find support in organized groups such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. On Veterans Day and Memorial Day, these groups raise funds for their charitable activities that support disabled veterans and their families. There are also organizations for veterans who oppose war, such as Veterans for Peace, a national organization begun in 1985 that works to raise public awareness of the consequences of war and seeks peaceful alternatives to war.  By remembering veterans and all that they went through, perhaps the leaders of nations will strive to find peaceful solutions to world problems, using war only as a very last resort.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Don't Forget...Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays, a reception for family members of unaccompanied tour employees on Tuesday, December 14th at the Department of State, hosted by Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State. In order to receive an official invitation, please email CeremonialsRSVP@state.gov

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Shopping for a cause...

MMMF International Arts and Crafts Fair!

As you may know, the Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund (MMMF) is an outreach program of the World Bank Family Network (WBFN). Since 1983, the MMMF has been awarding educational grants to women from developing countries. The Fair is MMMF's primary fund-raiser and has traditionally relied on its main customers, World Bank Group staff and their families.

Friends and family are welcome: the Fair is open to the public (use 1818 H street entrance). All that is required is a photo ID. The Fair will last for three days, November 2nd, 3rd and 4th from 9:45am to 3:00pm.  The fair is located at the World Bank Main Complex, 1818 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20433 in the Preston Auditorium and Front Lobby.

60 vendors from around the world are waiting to tempt you, this a great way to start your holiday shopping.
Come and enjoy shopping for a cause.

See you at the fair!

For information: 

World Bank Family Network (WBFN)
(202) 473-8751

Friday, October 29, 2010


                  Have a fun, safe, and happy
                        Halloween weekend!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, will host Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays, a reception for family members of unaccompanied tour employees on Tuesday, December 14th at the Department of State. This is a wonderful opportunity for family members in the Washington, DC area to get into the holiday spirit and to honor the work, service and sacrifice of State Department men and women that are currently on unaccompanied tours.

In order to receive an official invitation, please email CeremonialsRSVP@state.gov. Official invitations with more details on the reception will be sent out in the following weeks - at that time you will be able to provide your RSVP.

Please note that ‘Family’ is defined broadly to include spouse, partner, fiancĂ©, parent, sibling, and children of anyone under Chief of Mission at an unaccompanied tour posting.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Don't forget!

In the D.C. area?  Don't forget our first coffee club gathering today!  Please join us!  Email FLOaskUT@state.gov or give us a call at 202-627-1076 for more details.

Monday, October 25, 2010

This week!!!

           UT Coffee Club Inauguration Event

Are you separated from your loved one by an unaccompanied tour (UT)?

Do you live in the D.C. area? 
Want to meet some new people?

Join our UT Coffee Club!  We will meet monthly with fellow
UT family membersJoin us to chat and enjoy a cup of coffee.

     When: October 27th, 2:30pm

     Why:  To have fun!  Meet new people and
     relate to fellow UTers

     Who is invited:  UT families and friends

 Please email us at FLOaskUT@state.gov for the location of the event! 

  See you there!

  “Because a cup of coffee shared with a friend
    is happiness tasted and time well spent.”

   Please RSVP to FLOaskUT@state.gov

Some fun ocean quotes...

Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.”


“I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.”

-- T. S. Eliot

“I dropped a tear in the ocean, and whenever they find it I'll stop loving you, only then.”


love builds up the broken wall
and straightens the crooked path.
love keeps the stars in the firmament
and imposes rhythm on the ocean tides
each of us is created of it
and i suspect
each of us was created for it”

--Maya Angelou

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

How to score an upgrade while traveling...

...because traveling is definately not what it used to be. This article discusses how to score an upgrade, whether checking in at the airport or into a hotel.

One of the tips listed on the article: "Ask at the right time. The best day for upgrades is Saturdays; fewer elite travelers fly then, says Matt Daimler of SeatGuru.com. Go to the agent and say something like: 'If you need to bump people from coach to first, please consider me. I'm low maintenance -- and my back is killing me.'"  :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Skype connects the world...............

My grandfather is rolling over in his grave! An orthodox Jew, he wouldn’t even pick up a coin on the Sabbath much less use electricity. On Yom Kippur he prayed and prayed and made sure all 9 children did as well in the synagogue and at home. But our situation is different. Our situation requires creativity, forgiveness and acceptance. You are in Iraq and I am not. You are in a trailer and I’m in our home in Great Falls, Virginia and from those two distant points we try to come together to share and to find meaning that bridges the miles.
Welcome to Skype! With Skype I can see your face, hear your voice, feel connected to you. We discuss the minutiae of our lives on Skype. I take off my eyeglasses, fix my hair (as if it COULD be fixed) for Skype. I kiss the air near the computer screen, right on the projected image of your lips, my husband’s lips, my best friend’s lips when we are Skyping.
On Yom Kippur you and I have had our tradition of lighting the yahrzeit candles to honor our dead parents. My father and mother did it this exact same way, lighting candles not on the anniversary of their parents’ death, but on Yom Kippur. We’ve carried this forward into our generation and wherever we have been in the world, we’ve lit the candles and said what we needed to say about the year that passed and the year ahead.
Up until this year, for me the most memorable lighting took place in 1992, the year we went to Tibet with Ben, Gabe and a whole group from the U.S. Embassy. While in Llasa, the capital, we visited the holiest of holies for Tibetan Buddhists, the Jokund temple. In that sacred place within the temple, we were given permission to light our candles and place them on the altar there with hundreds of prayer scarves left by visitors and the statues and candles representing Tibetan Buddhism. At the time, we only needed two candles, one for my father and one for yours, both gone the same year, 1989. Lighting the candles at that time I remember our commenting how much our fathers would have “gotten a kick” out of this as they were both very adventurous and accepting. Indeed, leaving the lights for our fathers in the Jokund meant that in the farthest reaches of the world, we remembered them, and honored them, and showed our sons the importance of the tradition. I remember feeling that my heart was so full it might burst as the tears rolled down my face.
Fast forward. 2010. No! 5777 on the Jewish calendar! You are gone, but we haven’t lost communication. I got the yahrzeit candles ready – now numbering 4, including one for my mother and one for Noelle. And then you were on Skype and I saw you, felt your presence even though you were really countless of thousands of miles away. We talked for awhile, me sitting at my desk in the office, and we waited until the sun went down and the earth turned. I don’t remember who came up with the idea to bring the computer to the great room where the candles waited. I don’t remember who said to aim the camera so that you could see and share the moment of lighting. I put the computer on the coffee table and moved the lamps into your view. And then I lit them and you saw each flame come to life, saw them on the little screen! Then it was time for sharing thoughts. You asked for my forgiveness for going to Iraq; said that if it hurt me, you were sorry, and you loved me very much. Then it was my turn. I told you that I knew your leaving was not a reflection of how you felt about me, but rather your sense of duty that drove you to accept the assignment. See, sweetie, I DO understand. It isn’t a question of forgiveness; it is a question of acceptance. In that moment, we were together, watching the lights, feeling love and the sadness of being apart, but also the hopefulness that next year, not in Jerusalem, but in Great Falls, Virginia, we would be together again, lighting the yahrzeit lamps. God bless technology!

***Thanks to Lee-Alison Blum Sibley author of "Jordan's Jewish Drama Queen" ********

Friday, October 1, 2010

Planning a vacation?

I thought only James Bond movies had under the ocean hotel rooms.  If you need a vacation and want to get away from it all, or if you just want to dream, check out this article which highlights five of the world's most private hotels.

Which one would you choose?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The most important meal of the day...

On a rainy day like today in DC (or wherever you may be), it is always comforting to have a delicious breakfast. Go for it, after all, it is the MOST important meal you are going to have today- so make it worth it. The fried eggs and bacon are calling you! :) Like the saying goes, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”

So, something to post about: In your international travels, what has been your favorite "international" breakfast?...Even if it was a classic American breakfast you've enjoyed at a hotel overseas.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Invitation to The Expat Forum 2010 by Clements International

You're Invited to The Expat Forum 2010

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010
8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

U.S. Navy Heritage Center
701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC

Clements International presents a panel discussion about contemporary expat life, and the unique challenges and advantages of being an expat in 2010 and beyond.

Registration is free and anyone interested is welcome to attend.

Breakfast will be served.

Click here to register now!

Deadline to RSVP: Monday, Oct. 4, 2010

DC's traveling food trucks- Worth the line?

Ever see these food trucks and wonder why the lines are SO long---but wished you had the time to see what all the fuss was about? Well, the Washington Post did all the work for you and reviewed the most popular traveling food trucks in the area, in "Finding the Wheel Deal: We rate the trucks".
U.S. medics in Afghanistan treat an Afghan six-month baby boy with a rare heart condition. Check out this article--- what a great story.

To make you smile

“A man is but the product of his thoughts what he thinks, he becomes.”

“I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.”
----William Allen

“The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.”
---Benjamin Franklin

I feel better already! Share a favorite quote with us. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy Friday UT bloggers! This article discusses the various issues families struggle with during the separation and reintegration of loved one before and after an unaccompanied tour. Take a moment to read it even if you are no longer experiencing an unaccompanied tour- we could all learn something from it!

Let us know what you think of the article:

Home Again: Military Spouses and Reintegration

Have a nice weekend!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Don't forget!

Welcome-Back Picnic

Every September, FSYF organizes a welcome-back picnic for Foreign Service families that recently returned to the DC area from overseas. Whether or not your family falls into that category, we hope you’ll attend—to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and welcome home your colleagues. The picnic offers food and fun for the entire family.  See pictures of the 2009 Welcome-Back Picnic on YouTube at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypGCElyzMvA 

    2010 Welcome-Back Picnic
      Sunday, September 19, 2010
      4:00pm - 6:30pm

      Please bring a side dish, salad or dessert to share.
      RSVP to
fsyf@fsyf.org by Friday, September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fear is not the Enemy it is a Reason for us to be Hopeful in Afghanistan

Posted by Tom Niblock September 9,

From Afghan Strategic Communication

Afghanistan is a mess, everyone will tell you that, and that is what we receive each day from the media, but if we leave it at that, we are missing some extremely important points. As a close observer of the Afghan scene for the past three years here in Kabul I see so much that is not a part of the common narrative delivered by the media. There are two Afghanistans. In one, the Taliban throw acid into the faces of school girls, mullahs are murdered for suggesting moderation, and villagers receive death threats at night for growing wheat instead of poppy. The prevailing elements in this narrative are public fear, intimidation and resignation. The Taliban are masters of the message. They want Afghans to fear them. They threaten, and follow up on their threats, and then multiply small examples into generalized impressions. It's an effective approach if your numbers are small and when the public is vulnerable and unsure which way to turn for support.

There is, however, a completely different Afghan narrative coexisting alongside the gloomy one outlined above. In the Afghanistan I see every day it is the Taliban who ought to be living in fear. The Taliban fear Afghan government legitimacy. This is why they attack it when they can (and, of course, why rampant government corruption and maladministration is music to Mullah Omar's ears). The Taliban fear every Afghan girl who attends classes, and millions now do. They fear an Afghan Army that is viewed with increasing pride by the vast majority of citizens. The Taliban fear farmers who decide to switch from poppy. They fear candidates campaigning, even within a democratic process that is young and quite imperfect. Hundreds of Afghans have stepped up to run for Parliament and thousands more are campaigning on their behalf. The Taliban fear honest administrators -- and we must not fall prey to the lie that all Afghan officials are corrupt. Many have made large sacrifices to serve under difficult conditions. The Taliban fear moderation of all types. It is not surprising that they kill and threaten mullahs who challenge their false monopoly of religion -- and yet many still do speak out. Teachers are threatened every day, but thousands continue to teach. No group has paid a higher price than the Afghan police, who lost about a thousand of their number to violence last year, yet tens of thousands of young Afghans still answer the call to service.

The Taliban recently renewed their objections to music, fearful of cultural pollution. Good luck. Gone are the days when it is possible to imagine an Afghanistan without music, dance, and, most importantly, TV, which is now the staple entertainment and news source for perhaps 45 percent of the total population. The Taliban fear "normalcy" and many parts of Afghanistan are increasingly normal by local definitions. When I arrived here Kabul was garrisoned by foreign forces who patrolled the streets day and night. Those duties are now performed by Afghans. Foreign forces have relocated elsewhere and the city is more peaceful now that it was even a year ago. The Taliban fear this and seek to undermine the legitimacy of the security forces, yet most of their increasingly infrequent attacks in the city have been failures and they are relegated to lobbing an occasional rocket or killing civilians in indiscriminate bombings.

By any measure Afghanistan remains a desperately poor and badly administered country. Security has deteriorated in many areas which were more secure two years ago. But the underlying narrative is not what the Taliban would have us believe. They are not in control, not by a long shot. There are powerful dynamics which ought to be keeping the Quetta Shura awake at night. As we help improve security and governance systems citizens will feel more secure to do the things they already want to do, and which the Taliban fear so much. Regular Afghans are turning in local Taliban commanders and foreign fighters in surprising numbers and the middle ranks of the in-country leadership are being systematically degraded. Our support for education and health bolsters the courage of teachers and medical workers who work each day despite the threats. The Taliban can and do kill dozens of teachers each year... they can't kill tens of thousands, and amazingly brave Afghans know this. Our continuous pressure on the leadership to confront corruption has the potential to drain energy from the insurgency. The Taliban threatened to disrupt and prevent the last three Afghan elections. They could not, and they will not do so when Afghans vote later this month. Yes, they can conduct a hundred attacks on a given day, and perhaps double or triple that on a single day... but to disrupt 5,000 polling stations is beyond their ability. To try, and to fail, only highlights their weakness, not their strength. Taliban leaders know this, so expect some increase in trouble, but much more rhetoric and smoke. Our support for the independent media ensures that all Afghans now have better access to multiple channels of accurate information with which to counter the Taliban's lies and misinformation. Precisely when we will arrive at the tipping point in the insurgency is not clear, but it will happen, probably within the next year. We have a better fix on how we will get there. It is the Afghan people who will defeat the Taliban, with our help, because, fundamentally, the Taliban's extreme messages aren't welcomed by the vast majority of citizens. Be fearful Taliban, your Afghan brothers and sisters have your number. And, despite what you would have all believe, won't you be surprised when you discover that we foreign friends and partners of Afghanistan are not going anyplace anytime soon.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Yes or no .... it is important to be heard!


                                          Unaccompanied Tour Survey
The Family Liaison Office (FLO) is conducting a survey of employees and family members who have served, are currently serving, or are about to serve an unaccompanied tour. FLO requests all American employees and their adult family members - including spouses, Members of Household, partners/fiancĂ©es, adult children, parents, and siblings - who have been, are now, or soon will be experiencing an Unaccompanied Tour (UT) to participate in this important survey. The survey can be accessed by going to  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/UTSURVEY2010/ . FLO estimates it will take 10-20 minutes to complete the survey. .

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mark your calendars!

You're Invited to The Expat Forum 2010

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010
8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

U.S. Navy Heritage Center
701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC
Metro: Archives-Navy Memorial

Clements International presents a panel discussion about contemporary expat life, and the unique challenges and advantages of being an expat in 2010 and beyond. Registration is free and anyone interested
is welcome to attend. Breakfast will be served.
                                                                   Visit expatforum.clements.com for more information.

Deadline to RSVP: Monday, Oct. 4, 2010

The first 20 people to register will receive a
$10 Starbucks Gift Card!

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Life in a Flying House"

Attention all young writers and future college students
Be sure and enter Clements International  2010 Expat Youth Scholarship contest.  The theme this year is "Life in a Flying House" inspired by the idea that expat students spend their childhoods moving between different countries and cultures, consequently they develop rich life experiences.  This is a great opportunity for young people to write about these experiences and to win money to help finance their education.   To obtain additional information and applications visit their site at http://www.expatyouthscholarship.com/
Hope everyone gets busy and submits their experiences !

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ambassador Hill on NPR

Five months after Iraqis voted in a general election, Iraq is having trouble forming a new government even as U.S. troops draw down, but the outgoing U.S. ambassador says the country is making progress.

"I think any country where the election result is 4/100th of a percentage point difference between the winner and the second-place coalition is going to have some pushing and shoving, and that's what going on," Christopher Hill told NPR's Steve Inskeep. "So the question is: Are they getting anywhere? And, I must say, in the last couple of weeks, the pace has really quickened. And there's a feeling that things may be heading in the right direction."
Read the entire article:

Christopher R. Hill arrived in Baghdad on April 24, 2009, to begin serving as America’s Ambassador to Iraq. Immediately prior to this assignment, Ambassador Hill was Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, in which capacity he also was the lead U.S. negotiator at the Six-Party Talks on the North Korea nuclear issue.

Ambassador Hill’s lifelong career as a public servant began in 1974, when he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1977.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ambassador Holbrooke speaks on Afghanistan

Richard Holbrooke
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan
Treaty Room

Washington, DC

August 9, 2010

AMBASSADOR HOLBROOKE: Thank you, Madam Secretary. I’d be happy to take any specific questions you want.

QUESTION: How do you change the mindset of these people? I mean, there’s a lot of talk about trying to reintegrate and reconcile Taliban into society to have a one united Afghanistan with everybody working towards the future of the country. How do you change the mindset that this type of work is what the country needs and kind of build more bridges among these type of people that maybe don’t have opportunity, don’t see this way of life as the way that Afghanistan should be going?

To read the entire discussion please click below:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Good traveling "place" to eat

If you are working or visiting the State Department and find yourself hungry for some good Indian food you might want to look around for the Fojol Brothers.    These fun, hard working guys drive around the D.C. area serving food out of their family food truck.   To find our their exact location find them on twitter.com look for Fojol Bros.  The last few weeks they have been parking and serving from 21st and Virginia NW every Thursday about lunch time.  The word around here is the butter chicken is yummy but don't worry if you are vegetarian they have lots of selections for you too.

New OIG report on high stress posts....

A new article in The Cable by Josh Rogin on the Foreign Policy web site talks about a report by the State Department's Office of Inspector General.   The article talks about Deployment Stress Management Program (DSMP) and Offices of Medical Services (MED) plus the personnal posted at the embassies that provide support.  The article goes on to reference OIG's statement that returnees need recognition for their service.

Read the entire article

Sunday, July 25, 2010

You are invited....

Please mark your calendars for Wednesday July 28th, 2010  11:30 a.m.

FLO and MHN are hosting what should be a very interesting webinar for family and employees returning from or maybe just now experiencing an unaccompanied tour.  The focus of the hour long slide show/conference call is to discuss the challenges of returning to work , family and everyday life after an unaccompanied tour.   We have been working very closely with MHN to assure all aspects of this very challenging situation are covered.  We will talking about reactions from the employee as well as impact on family and friends.  We also discuss adjustment issues to work and to family.  It really is a huge topic to cover in one hour but I believe MHN has done a marvelous job.

If you are interested please write FLOaskUT@state.gov so I can e-mail you the call in number.  The slides are located on MHN's website under Work&Life, then look for Unaccompanied Tours.  Please write or call 202 647 1076 for information. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Secretary of State visit

After leaving Pakistan

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits Kabul.


Silly what?

If you remember playing with silly putty, owned a pet rock, searched for Ferbies, purchased a wall walker; are you too old to wear "silly bandz"?

Maybe...... but I say go ahead and have fun.  They are the latest craze, they were even written up in the Style section of the Times.  They come in all colors and shapes.  They have their own Facebook page (but then who doesn't?) .    On your wrist they look like a wrinkled rubber band, but lay them on a table and a shape appears like magic.   And to make it even more perfect they break, so you have to buy lots and even better some schools have banned them....And the rumor is some of them are hard to find like the penguin .....Some kids are even posting videos on YouTube of their collection.   Do you have any pictures of your silly bandz?  Send them in, we will post them on the blog.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/17/nyregion/17toy.html  . 

Do you collect silly bandz?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How much is that doggy in the window

Dogs, cats, guinea pigs we all seem to have some kind of pet or do you say companion animal?! 

And everyone knows our pets are important members of our families;  "whose picture do you have on your phone?"  Many of you (me included) have a picture of the cat or the dog, for me it's both my dogs.  *If they look like they are climbing in a tree in this photo-you're right they are......

So I know for many of you a big concern when you leave on your unaccompanied tour is what to do with your cat or dog.  I have tried to pull together a few sites to help you think about solutions. 

The website Foster Dogs is an excellent site to find links, articles plus it has good ideas on the concept of fostering.
They have links for long term boarding, military pets and I like the section on laws that affect fostering.

Operation Noble Foster is another place to look for possible foster homes or you may like to volunteer to be a foster home.  If your wife or husband is leaving for a year overseas maybe your children would enjoy helping someone else by babysitting their cat or dog.  To learn more visit:
I found this article interesting on dogs and memory.  I guess dogs really do "live in the moment"

Why can I not talk to my dog over Skype?
Jean Hamman, Brighouse
There are two possible explanations why dogs find it hard to hear or recognise your voice over Skype. Firstly, Skype (and voice telephone systems in general) are optimised to transmit frequencies between 500Hz and 4kHz. This provides an acceptable approximation of the frequency range of speech for human ears, but dogs have a much wider hearing range and so clipping the higher frequencies might be more significant to them than it is to us, to the point where Fido no longer recognises your voice.

The second and more fundamental problem is that dogs seem to have only a rudimentary ‘Theory of Mind’ (ToM). This is the cognitive ability to imagine the mental state of others. Without an adequate ToM, your dog might well be hearing your voice, but have no reason to suppose that the disembodied sound is related to you in any way.

Submitted by Luis Villazon
  Sounds reasonable but I still have my husband hold the phone to the dogs ear...:)

Also don't forget to post your favorite photos of your pet or maybe look for pet friends on
Foreign Service Tails http://fstails.blogspot.com/ 

What are your concerns with your dogs, cats, birds?  

Who is taking care of your pet? 

Would you like to see a foster care system for UT pets? 

Do you have a business that would care for pets? 

Write us at FLOaskUT@state.gov or leave a comment on this blog.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Baby it's hot, hot!

Need a break from the heat?  Have a house full of children with nothing to do?  Have you thought about......
 ice skating?
The Cabin John Ice Skating Rink has special prices all summer, they have early bird specials and they even have a special Summer Teen Skate-for $6.25 you get skate rental and skating under disco lights- sweet!
For more information go to:

If you live in Virginia visit the Kettler Capital Iceplex in Balston
They have some great specials on skating lesson-not a bad way to beat the heat.

Not in the skating mood? How about a family fun visit to the arcade?
Dave & Busters Arcades have some cool deals on family packages like eat &play or half off on Wednesdays.
For more info and locations visit

Or how about taking in a movie...........
Regal theaters have some great matinee prices and it sure beats the heat!

Do you have any ideas or deals to share?  We would love to hear about them.
Post them here or write FLOaskUT@state.gov

New Hot Book

West of Kabul, East of New York
by Tamim Ansary

I liked this book.  It is an interesting memoir of someone growing up in Afghanistan with an American mother and Afghan father.  Tamim Ansary does an excellent job explaining what life was like in Afghanistan in the 60's.  I think you will enjoy his descriptions of the close knit families and what it was like growing up half-American in a culture permeated with tribal connections and high walls.  This is a good book to learn something about the culture and the customs of Aghanistan.   I think he gets a little "long-winded" sometimes in his descriptions but I still enjoyed the book. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Don't leave home without......coverage!

It is always a good idea to review your insurance policies-car and health; to make sure everything is current and you have the appropriate coverage.  It is especially important to do so before you leave for an unaccompanied tour.  Have you signed all the papers needed?  Are the amounts correct?  Do you understand your deductible?  Does your spouse need a power of attorney?  If your spouse is in a foreign safe haven will your health insurance still be in effect? 

Know the amount that will be deducted from your paycheck -confirm that amount is being deducted and coverage is in effect.  Remember it is your responsibility to make sure everything is correct.  Ask questions!  Write down contact information!  Find out now everything is good order, don't wait until it too late! 


JUNE 24, 2010

AMBASSADOR EIKENBERRY: Friends, welcome to the United States Embassy. As always, it’s a pleasure to be with you this afternoon. I thought that given the news of the past several days that [it] would be very timely now to see you and answer any questions that you might have.

I know you’re aware that yesterday President Obama accepted General Stan McChrystal’s resignation as the Commander of the NATO-International Security Assistance Force here in your country. I think you’re aware also that President Obama called your President, President Karzai, last night before he addressed the American people to give him this news personally over the telephone.

This was a difficult decision that our President felt he had to make as our Commander-in-Chief, out of responsibility for the American troops, our American military, serving here and to ensure the effectiveness of this very critical mission. Now, he made his decision with considerable regret, but also with the certainty that it was the right thing to do for the mission and for America’s national security.

In his announcement that he made last night, President Obama expressed very great admiration for General McChrystal and his gratitude for General McChrystal’s extraordinary dedication and the role he’s played directly in helping lead our strategy inside of Afghanistan. I can only add my own admiration and gratitude to that of the President. Stan and I have known each other for a very long time, and worked shoulder-to-shoulder here together under very difficult circumstances over this past year. He was an excellent partner and we all owe him our deepest thanks.

But as our President said, the United States cannot allow diversions to prevent us from carrying out our mission with unity of purpose. Our President felt that a change was needed to maintain that unity of purpose and so he made that change. He told us, [his National Security Team], that it is time for us to come together and that’s what we are going to do.

The President has nominated General David Petraeus, who is currently the Commander of United States Central Command, to take command here in Afghanistan. He asked the Senate if it would be possible to act to confirm General Petraeus in this new job as rapidly as possible. This will allow the United States and Afghanistan to maintain the momentum and the leadership that we need.

Let me be very clear that this is a change in personnel but it is not a change in our policy. The United States will continue to carry out the strategy that President Obama outlined on December 1 of last year during his speech at our United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.
We continue to have a very clear goal. We are going to break the Taliban’s momentum. We are going to build Afghan capacity, especially in the area of your Army and your police. We are going to relentlessly apply pressure against al Qaeda and its leadership, which is going to strengthen the ability of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will push hard in both countries for those results.

I know there could be concern among Afghans about whether the policy, the strategy, continues. Well, let me remind you General Petraeus fully participated in the U.S. policy review last fall, and he both supported and he, in fact, helped design the strategy that we have in place today. In his current post at United States Central Command, General Petraeus has worked closely with our U.S. forces and our civilian team here in Afghanistan. He has worked closely with the Afghan government and military, and with all of our partners in the region. I think you’ve seen that President Karzai has already welcomed General Petraeus’ nomination.

General Petraeus has our President’s full confidence. We have worked together – General Petraeus and I have worked together for many years and I know that he is going to do a superb job if he is confirmed by the United States Senate. We at our United States Embassy, just down the street [from ISAF headquarters], look forward to working closely together with General Petraeus as one fully-integrated civilian-military team to implement the President’s strategy.

That was my opening statement. Can I answer…can I take a couple questions?

Please read the entire interview at http://kabul.usembassy.gov/official_transcripts.html

Friday, June 25, 2010

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !! GOAL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Big expectations as US meets Ghana in World Cup
By RONALD BLUM (AP) – 44 minutes ago
RUSTENBURG, South Africa — For other countries, a second-round World Cup match is a big step. For the United States, Saturday's game against Ghana is so much more.

The television audience back home could top the U.S. national team record of 13.7 million, set during the 1994 World Cup loss to Brazil.

With a victory, the Americans would advance to a quarterfinal matchup versus Uruguay or South Korea on July 2 and match the farthest the U.S. team has advanced since the first World Cup in 1930. Confidence is soaring.

"If we continue to build on the successes so far, we can go to the end," coach Bob Bradley said Friday.

The U.S. team made the 2-hour trip Friday northwest from Irene and checked into the Bakubung Bush Lodge, where the bus was blocked by an elephant ahead of the opener against England on June 12. Players have been stoked since Landon Donovan's injury-time goal beat Algeria on Wednesday and lifted them into the knockout phase.

I like this blog for information on the World Cup.