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.

Monday, December 29, 2014


Q: My husband and I are a tandem couple and will both be assigned to Islamabad (an unaccompanied post) in the fall. Is our 19-year-old daughter eligible for ISMA (involuntary separate maintenance allowance) while she attends the University of Illinois?

A:  Yes, until she turns 21.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Memories from Home for the Holidays 2014

A fabulous time was had by all who attended the annual “Diplomacy at Home for the Holidays” reception. This year’s holiday reception included remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry. Children were entertained by Rudolph as they awaited to share the stage with the Secretary for a group photo.  This festive event concluded with all the assembled children of U.S. diplomats serving on unaccompanied tours receiving a tote bag filled with arts and crafts. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Urgent - new arrival time for Home for the Holidays - 4:00p.m.

See you at Home for the Holidays reception, Wednesday, December 17th at the new time of 4:00p.m. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Six Tips for Managing Holiday Stress - from MHN 

Why, when the holiday season is supposed to be such a special time of year, do the words "holiday" and "stress" seem to go hand in hand? Some holiday stresses are unavoidable -- shopping malls are crowded, traffic is slow, schedules are packed. We may bring on some holiday stress ourselves, though. We so want the holidays to be perfect that we can be too hard on ourselves, and lose sight of what's most important. Try the following suggestions to fill your holidays -- and the rest of the year -- with less stress and more joy.
  1. Let it go.
    It's great to be in control. We all need to take responsibility for our actions and do our best to make the right choices. Sometimes, though, life happens. Your sister's plans change at the last minute, your 6-year-old gets the flu, or the roast you marinated for two days ends up burned on the outside and raw in the center. Remember that sometimes all you can control is your own reaction. Take a breath and do your best to handle the unexpected with grace.
  2. Keep your sense of humor.
    Think back to that road trip gone wrong -- the one where traffic was insane and the gas station restrooms were, to put it politely, not well maintained. With luck, your strongest memories of that trip are of the ridiculous joke that surfaced in hour three and seemed to keep getting funnier with each hour of traffic. Humor helps us look at stressful situations in a more positive way. Besides, it's just more fun to laugh than to complain.
  3. Take care of yourself.
    In the midst of a busy schedule, healthy habits often seem like too much trouble. You know, though, that you'll enjoy your holidays more if you eat right and keep up your exercise routine. Balance holiday treats with plenty of fresh fruit and veggies, and make time for walks with friends or workouts at the gym. You need downtime more than ever, so let yourself hide away with a great book or just take a nap.
  4. Look for ways to help others.
    You need all the help you can get, right? Helping others, though, will make you feel better than focusing on your own worries. Volunteering for a community project or helping a friend in need will put your problems in perspective. Besides, the friendships you nurture will support you through your own good and bad times.
  5. Remember the importance of family.
    The most important people in your life deserve your attention more than anything else. Share your family traditions with your kids, and start some new ones with parents and grandparents. This is a great time to move past old hurts and conflicts. Pick up the phone and just let family members know you care.
  6. Practice gratitude.
    Gratitude makes us feel better about our lives, our relationships and ourselves. Although some people seem to come by a grateful spirit naturally, we can all get better at it. Try spending a few minutes before bed, or with your family at dinner, taking stock of the day's kindnesses and unexpected pleasures. Or, just make it a habit to say thank you for those good deeds that make you smile.
A special note for parents: Children hold a special place in our holiday planning. We imagine the look of pure joy when our child opens the perfect gift, and worry about the disappointment of a lean holiday celebration. It may be hard to remember when you're faced with a multi-page wish list, but you can give your children a valuable gift by helping them to focus on what's truly important about the season, too. Model the values of humor, generosity and gratitude and you'll help your kids truly enjoy the holidays.
We can't promise you shorter lines, a cleaner house or a lower credit card bill this holiday season. We hope, though, that these simple suggestions will make it a little easier to savor special moments with the people you love.
MHN Resources  www.members.mhn.com

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Kids, Trying to Track Down Santa?
NORAD  Can Help!!

Every year NORAD  (North American Aerospace Defense Command) does a special mission of tracking Santa on December 24th.

Live updates are provided through the NORAD Tracks Santa Web site (in eight languages), over telephone lines, by e-mail, and through social media to keep curious children and their families informed about Santa’s whereabouts and if it’s time to get to bed.  

Use the links below to track Santa:
Website: www.NORADSANTA.org 
YouTube: www.youtube.com/noradsanta
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/noradsanta
Twitter: www.twitter.com/noradsanta #NORADSANTA; @NORADSANTA
NTS Apps – available for Android, iPhone & Windows phones and tablets 
OnStar – available Dec. 24 to OnStar subscribers to ask Santa’s location

Monday, December 1, 2014

Home for the Holiday

If you are currently experiencing an Unaccompanied Tour

Keep an eye on your inbox for an
early December email invitation to
Home for the Holidays
Wednesday, December 17th
3:00 PM
Hosted by Protocol and FLO

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Remember to Vote!

Shipping Holiday Packages?

 What You Need to Know...
October through January is the busiest time of the year for pouch and DPO mail. To ensure all your holiday packages arrive on time, Diplomatic Pouch and Mail (DPM) recommends that mail and parcels arrive at their facility by Friday, November 21. The U.S. Postal Service also wants DPO mail by the dates listed on their website.

Visit DPM’s intranet site for current address and parcel size limit information. The site also has links for prohibited items (14 FAM 723.2) and Bulk Shipments (14 FAM 723.3). Check out their online Shipping Wizard tool that lists post-specific restrictions, provides personal/official (unclassified) pouch addresses, and has a calculator that can determine if your item is within the required size limits.

Remember: Make sure all items have registry/tracking numbers. Also, lithium batteries can only be shipped installed within electronic items, not separately, and must be done in accordance with 14 FAM 723.2.

You’ll find answers to many common questions on DPM’s intranet site. You may also email pouch-related questions directly to DPM-Answerperson@state.gov or DPO-Answerperson@state.gov for Diplomatic Postal Mail related questions.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Breaking News

The Family Liaison Office in partnership
with MHN(formerly Mananged Health Network)
presents an interactive workshop

“Coping with the Stress of Change”

Wednesday, November 5, 2014
9:30-10:30 A.M. EST

Department of State, FLO room 1239

Everyone is invited to attend!

How to participate:
Contact FLOaskUT@state.gov to participate in person.    

In order to participate in the web cast and conference call, dial 1-888-330-1716 on a US based phone line and enter 9316176 for the Conference Code when prompted.  

If you have questions: Please contact FLO's Unaccompanied Tours Support Officer at 202-647-1076 or 1-800-440-0397 or email FLOAskUT@state.gov.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

FSI announces Fall Employment Courses for Family Members!

Adult eligible family members (EFMs) in the Washington, D.C. area this fall are invited to attend the upcoming employment courses at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Arlington, Virginia. The courses are designed for spouse/partners navigating both a career and a mobile lifestyle.

 September 11 - Basics for Overseas Employment (MQ703)
 October 21 - Employment Tools for Foreign Service Life (MQ704)
 November 4 - Portable Careers: Employment Options (MQ706)
 November 20 - International Development and NGOs: Employment Options (MQ705)

Courses are open to adult EFMs of all Foreign Affairs agencies (non-state tuition: $225.00). State Department EFMs can register through the employee’s CDO/Training Officer or by following the “Apply Now” link on each course page. All other agencies must submit a SF-182. 

For questions email FSITCTraining@state.gov.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Work in FLO!

                                      Crisis Management and Support Specialist Position Available in FLO

   Family members returning to the Washington area may be interested in applying for the available full-time Crisis Management and Support Specialist (Program Specialist, GS-09) position in the Family Liaison Office (FLO). The incumbent of this position reports to the Division Chief and receives day to day guidance from the Crisis Management Officer in providing programs and support services for employees and family members in the following areas: evacuations from overseas posts; security and crisis-related concerns; and separated family members (divorce, other separations). The position is located in Washington, DC, but may require some travel.

This is a full-time, two-year limited appointment, with potential to be extended up to a maximum of five years, Excepted Service, Schedule A - not in the Competitive Service. The selected candidate will receive a two-year Non-Career term appointment with benefits (FERS, TSP, FEGLI and FEHB).
The application deadline for this position is Friday, July 11, 2014. Please see the vacancy announcement for details and application instructions.

Monday, June 23, 2014


If you have children and are getting ready for an unaccompanied tour or any kind of separation; you might be interested in the workbooks available from FLO.  Below is an excerpt from one.  If you are interested in finding out more all the workbooks are available on our website or by writing FLOaskUT@state.gov. 

Talk as a family before separation: Before she/he leaves, the employee is usually
preoccupied with many preparatory activities for both the releasing and receiving jobs, often
requiring extended hours and increased workload. Consequently, employees may come
home tired and reluctant to address painful concerns related to the separation. Family
members often join in this resistance in order to keep things peaceful for their remaining
time. However, planning and coordination are essential for coping well with the separation.
The Family Meeting sheets provided in each of the UT Family manuals are designed to help
all members make plans as far ahead as possible.
Delegate rather than “dump” responsibilities on family members: Although everyone is
called to take up the slack after the employee leaves, children in particular balk at having to
do “everything.” Positive reframing of the re-distribution of household chores and duties
will help them see the mutual benefits of helping out. That is, while acknowledging their
complaints about increased work and doubts in their ability to carry it out, also point out how
valuable their contributions are to the family as well as your confidence in them. The more
they help the at-home parent, the more energy that parent has to spend on them.
Parents Manual 8
Commit to consistent and active contact: This involves both the at-home parent’s
committing to the mechanics of the distance bonding activities as well as the employee’s
committing to making the activities a priority in the midst of a stressful work situation at
post. Some parents (especially of young children) might complain that the tasks suggested in
the manuals are tedious, made more laborious by overseas technological pitfalls. However,
keep in mind that you would be having the same kinds of interactions with your children if
you were all at home, and if you want to stay connected, the extra time and work you put in
to making the interactions happen will definitely be rewarded.
Maintain family routine and discipline: A steady family structure with respect to routines
and discipline provides children with order and predictability in life. It is particularly
important to maintain structure (e.g., meal and bedtimes, etc.) so children have a sense of
normalcy rather than chaos in the midst of the changes brought on by the separation. Expect
children to test your limits as the family adjusts. Be firm about expectations related to
bedtime, morning routines, cleaning up, chores, homework, and accountability. Follow
through with clear and predictable consequences, both rewards and discipline to keep the
structure intact.
Listen to children’s worries; answer questions as truthfully as possible: Do not assume
you know what your child is asking or feeling. Explore their thoughts with open–ended
questions until you reach their real concern. Using age appropriate language, give as truthful
and encouraging an answer as possible without giving false assurances as to the employee’s
safety or return. When your child appears “done” or is satisfied, do not pursue the issue
Talk to your children: Because they are with you at home and they rely on you, children are
prone to show more immediate worry over you than the away parent. Not only will they pick
up on your signals if you are troubled, inaccessible, preoccupied, tired, irritable, or
depressed, they will likely interpret it to mean something negative about themselves. Often a child’s fantasies about what’s wrong are much worse than reality. Even though you
may not be able to lift yourself out of a mood, simply acknowledging the mood and “owning” (i.e., that it’s about you, not them) it will help your children a great deal. It tells
them that although you’re down, you’re still in control and you can function. Be relatively open in explaining things to your children.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Save the Date! Please share!

The Family Liaison Office
The Foreign Service Youth Foundation
cordially invite you to the

2014 Youth Awards Ceremony

as we honor our
FSYF Contest & Award Winners,
AAFSW Scholarship Merit Award Winners,
Children with Parents Serving at Unaccompanied Posts

Friday, June 27, 2014
12:30 to 2:00 pm

Please arrive early!  Doors open at 12:00 pm.  
The ceremony will begin promptly at 12:30 pm.

Light refreshments will be served following the ceremony.

Location of Event  
Department of State's George C. Marshall Auditorium
2201 C Street NW,  Washington, DC 20520
Use East Entrance on 21st Street  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Resources to Help You Prepare for Leaving Post

Transition season is upon us and now is a good time to tap into the many resources the Family Liaison Office’s (FLO) Crisis Management and Support Services team provides to all employees and families under Chief of Mission authority. The following links can help you prepare for your next move.

· The Personal Preparedness Plan – helps with organizing your personal documents; remember to hand-carry important documents that you will need when you land at your final destination.
· Eldercare Issues – resources to assist you with adding parents to orders, insurance, housing options in the U.S., and more.
· Living Apart - includes information on Separate Maintenance Allowances (SMA).
· Members of Household (MOH) - information for family members who are not on official travel orders.
· Guidance to Foreign-Born Spouses - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for spouses who are not U.S. citizens and information on expeditious naturalization and dual citizenship.
· The Foreign Affairs Assignment Notebook - published by the Overseas Briefing Center (OBC) at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), this is a great resource for tips on packing.

You can contact the Crisis Management team at FLOAskSupportServices@state.gov.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

About Town

AAFSW Happy Hour 
for Foreign Service spouses, partners and employees

Tuesday, April 22
7:00-9:00 pm
Capitol Room, Oakwood Apartments
501 N. Roosevelt Boulevard
Falls Church, VA 22044
Organized by AAFSW, the non-profit volunteer organization for the foreign affairs agency community. 
  • Enjoy wine, cheese and tapas
  • Network and make new friends
  • Talk to people who understand Foreign Service life
  • Learn about community initiatives such as Livelines, the Foreign-Born Spouse Group, and much more!
RSVP (not mandatory) to office@aafsw.org.

We hope to see you on April 22 -- because we truly believe we are all in this together! Come network and make some new friends!

Monday, March 31, 2014


Foreign Service Youth Foundation Contest Deadlines are April 15!

Foreign Service youth have a unique world perspective and the Foreign Service Youth Foundation (FSYF) contests offer them an opportunity to share their talents and express themselves as artists, writers, videographers, and global citizens.

Cash awards will be presented to contest winners.

The deadlines for the FSYF Art Contest, Essay Contest, Kid Vid Contest, and the Community Service Award are Tuesday, April 15, 2014.
For more information, visit FSYF’s contests and awards page: http://www.fsyf.org/Default.aspx?pageId=1463742

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


DACOR Offers Dreyfus Scholarship 

& Fellowship Awards

DACOR, an organization of foreign affairs professionals, offers Dreyfus Scholarships and Fellowships to children and grandchildren of Foreign Service Officers. 

The purpose of this substantial bequest by Ambassador Louis G. Dreyfus Jr. is to support the education of children of Foreign Service Officers at Yale University or The Hotchkiss School (Lakeville, CT)

Application deadline for the 2014 - 2015 academic year is May 1, 2014

For more information, contact Ms. Brett Alison Gold, Associate Director of Education at DACOR. Call 202 682-0500 x17 or email bgold@dacorbacon.org.

A Great year to make Your Real Estate Move

A Great Year to Make Your Real Estate Move

Date:  Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Time12:00 – 1:00PM

Place: Department of State
            Harry S Truman Building (Main DOS Building)
            2201 C Street NW
            Room 1205
            Washington, DC 20520

SDFCU is happy to provide a Seminar presented by CU Realty Realtor, Arturo Cruz. This seminar will provide a market overview of the surrounding real estate market, ideas on choosing/using a realtor, as well as a basic overview of what you should expect with the home buying process.

Specific focus will be designed to answer the following:

  1. What is happening in the Real Estate Market?
  2. Why should I buy a home?
  3. General Home Buying Process Flow.
  4. What to expect throughout the process?
  5. Questions & Answer period for your personal questions.

A Mortgage Specialist will also be available after the presentation for questions in reference to your home financing!

Please join us for this valuable and informative seminar.

This seminar is open to members as well as non- members of SDFCU.
Non-Members of SDFCU who submit a Membership Application on the day of the seminar will be entered into a drawing to win a $25 gift card!

Admission is free but seating is limited.
Please send an email to mortgage@sdfcu.org to reserve your seat.
Presented by:
State Department Federal Credit Union
CU Realty

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Life in the Hooch

"Hey Roomie!"

Who knew that at this point in life, of living on your own or with your spouse and kids, you may be reverting back to having a roommate??

Welcome to life in a hooch!

Excerpted from DSMP Director, Dr. Chantay P. White's article "The Reality of Living with a Roommate" are some great 'Tips for living in the field' which will help smooth out any wrinkles that may arise from sharing tight quarters with a roomie:

Space:                  be considerate.  You each get 1/2, it's that easy unless otherwise mutually 

Permission:          the golden rule is to ask permission before using your roomie's personal
                               items; no exceptions.

Shhhhh:                it comes down to negotiation.  Schedule when "quiet times" and "activity 
                               hours" are, then respect them.

Cleanliness:          it's next to godliness, or so the saying goes.  But there's no need to be a 
                               'god/goddess' but you do need to keep your space clean.  Agree upon the
                               cleanliness expectation from the beginning.

Moola:                   talk money from the start;  decide how the common household items will 
                               be divied up

Listen:                  be a good listener; be patient; make comprimises; be understanding; be 
                              asssertive (not passive or aggressive)
Communicate:     Don't let things fester.  Repectful communication to solve conflicts 
                               that may arise, will go far to make a happy home.  Agreeing on mutually 
                               acceptable "rules" for living together will make having a roomie more fun!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Register Now!

Upcoming Job Fair for
Eligible Family Members

Registration for the May 2nd GO-TO Job Fair is now open. If you are interested in attending, please visit the registration page. This registration process is password protected and is open only to the eligible family members (EFMs) of the Foreign Affairs community. The event password is: overseas.

Although there is no cost to register or attend this event, you will need to obtain a ticket from the registration site.
The virtual ticket category is for our EFMs who are currently residing overseas and are unable to physically attend. The in-person ticket category is for EFMs in the Washington, DC area.

Once you have registered, please seriously consider creating or updating a LinkedIn profile. You will receive an invitation to join the GO-TO Job Fair group on LinkedIn as soon as your registration is received. This LinkedIn group will also be open to all participating employers. The sooner you join the group, the sooner prospective employers will be able to learn about you and consider you for their openings.

In next week's edition of the GO-TO Job Fair newsletter, we will include many tips on making your LinkedIn profile as effective as possible.

10:00am – 3:00pm

Who should attend?
Any eligible family member of the Foreign Affairs community interested in working on the local economy while residing overseas.

Where and when?
The GO-TO Job Fair is being held at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, VA, on Friday, May 2nd.

If you have any questions, contact Debbie Thompson, the GO-TO Job Fair coordinator, at gotojobfair@gmail.com.

Sponsored by the Family Liaison Office and the Transition Center.