Editfish (http://editfish.blogspot.com/) is July’s Featured Blog of the Month. A self-described "collection of thoughts, experiences, insights and epiphanies," Editfish’s blog, "Tumbleweeds," chronicles one man’s quest to join the State Department as a diplomat. His site is an unofficial but comprehensive source of information on getting into the Foreign Service. He also offers one of the longest list of Foreign Service bloggers available online. I’ve never met him, although he frequently posts comments on my blog and has been corresponding with me for awhile. Lately I’ve been remiss at responding to his e-mails and comments, so I thought I would offer a peace gesture by highlighting his excellent blog and repost an outstanding comment he made on World Adventurers about the cynical cycle expats go through when they live overseas. Read on:
This ‘cycle’ you mention is seldom discussed, unfortunately, but it is very real. Each individual is different, and each phase of the cycle can vary based on location, support network, culture, individual adaptability, the climate, etc., etc., etc.
I agree with your friend’s initial observation of a euphoric ‘honeymoon period’ followed by cynicism. The cynicism is also replaced by a ‘silent reconciliation’ interspersed with short bouts of irritation/cynicism. As much as I love this country, I have never felt euphoric upon returning Stateside–rather, a sense of depressive sadness that most of my friends and relatives here will never share or understand my experiences abroad. The cycle begins anew with the next country, although once or twice I’ve skipped the honeymoon period and gone straight to the cynical.
As far as getting past the cynical, I’ve one friend who was stuck in that loop for over seven years, and never reconciled. For myself, the last time took only a few months. If you are just moving into it, I would guess you’ll be coming back out of it about time for you to go wheels up. Hopefully, it won’t take quite that long.
The upside? Once you’re on to the next place, you definitely recall all the positive aspects of the culture, and you will miss it terribly.
One word of caution, however. If you enter the next ‘cycle’ (moving to another country) and try to base that experience on your current (previous) one, you may find yourself becoming cynical much more quickly–it’s an unpleasant experience. Try (as if it were possible) to enter with as few expectations as possible.
He’s absolutely right.
Editfish has been offline for awhile because he’s been traveling, but I hope he will start posting more frequently now that he’s home. Editfish’s latest post announced that he passed the Foreign Service Written Exam (congratulations!) and will move on to the Oral Assessment, the next step in the arduous trek to Foreign Servicedom. Surf on over and read more of his thoughts, experiences, insights and epiphanies. Ask him what Editfish and Tumbleweeds means. I really don’t know, but I’ve been meaning to ask him!
Blog Notes: m.c., thanks for stopping by to say hello. What am I doing here in Seoul? I arrived about 1.5 years ago and will be here until early next year, when I head to Paraguay for my next assignment. I was helping Americans living here, but now I meet hundreds of Koreans everyday doing a job related to what Editfish is pursuing. Thanks for reminding that life is exciting. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, but I still pinch myself when I think about how fortunate I am to be doing what I am doing. I was very happy to read that CNN Correspondent Anderson Cooper, writing in his 360 Blog from Israel during the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, praised the efforts of State Department officials who are working side by side with the Marines to evacuate Americans from Lebanon. That’s our job.