I’m starting feel the kind of full-body exhaustion that a dog sleeping under a patch of shade in August seem to convey. One of the national identity lies Canadians like to repeat is that we “punch above our weight” in the diplomatic world – that despite our relatively small population we get things done and are of import on the world stage, that we’re cool-headed peace brokers in a world of superpowers and upstarts.*
And I don’t even have the energy to discuss how true this is, the punching and relative weight classes, on an international-policy level. But so far in my time here I’ve counted 11 Americans and 6 Brits in Jordan and Iraq who would be considered my counterpart. The resources that other countries assign to what has been handed to me as my job are simply mind-boggling. The same goes for my full-time colleague in Baghdad – she’s more or less a one-woman embassy. This would be difficult in, say, Paris or Berlin, but here in the land of corruption index champions this cheery “look what we’re doing with so few resources!” back-patting coming from headquarters is bruxism-inducing.
Really the worst part, though, is the fact that I set what I now realize were unreasonably high expectations for how much I would accomplish while in-country and now need to devise more reasonable “how can we slog through until we sort this out?” plans for our operations, and that’s discouraging. Nobody likes to concede defeat, but try to get a Type A foreign service officer (redundant) to do it. Go on, I’ll wait.
Anyways, though, in the other Great Canadian Stoic Tradition: things could be worse. I’m learning a lot, and am fairly certain that unless I’ve screwed up something major and not noticed as of yet, this will probably translate into good news for my career. I’m running every morning and the cafeteria’s Sri Lankan night is amazing. I’m here for three more weeks, and should be able to check a few more boxes before returning to Amman and my old two-embassy juggling act… and then will be counting down to mid-May, when we’ll ditch the desert (and my Blackberry) for a well-deserved vacation.
* I say this out of the purest patriotism, the kind that involves looking unflinchingly at my country and saying, yes, this place is great, but let’s be honest guys we could make some improvements; and also acknowledging that surely every country does the same thing, repeating myths about national identity until they become more or less bedrock of the national psyche. The other big one being how nice we all are, as evidenced by our constant apologizing, which, personally, having experienced my fair share of apologies from Canadians (and having delivered a number of them myself), I can assure you these apologies are for the most part delivered in a saccharinely passive aggressive fuck-you-very-much kind of tone and are not nice at all.