Felicitations From Fairhope #01
22 March 2020
Hello there… Rodger French here.
[Important Caveat Sidebar - This series of postings - six in total - was completed before we were all engulfed by the advent of The Virus. We now live in a time where almost everything not health-related seems somehow frivolous. That may well be, but the world spins on and sometimes all we can do is try to stand our ground and tell our stories. So, in that spirit, onward.]
Six posting on five continents…
2006-08: Accra, Ghana
2008-10: Pretoria, South Africa
2010-12: Washington, DC
2012-15: Buenos Aires, Argentina
2015-17: Yangon, Myanmar
2017-20: Rome, Italy
Not bad, not bad at all. And now, thanks to mandatory retirement, our State Department career had come to its conclusion. Not that we aren’t ready. Schlepping all your stuff around the world every two or three years never gets any easier, but we are moving one last time into a very nice house in a very nice place (Fairhope), on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay (a.k.a. the nice part of Alabama).
[Demographic Sidebar - I have no particular homesteading attachment to any specific place in the U.S., but Anne considers Fairhope her real home, and since my home is wherever she is, I have become a citizen of the state of Alabama.]
This being a development of some import, I submit that a reasonably concise evaluation of our DoS assignments is called for. Long-time readers will recognize that a great deal - well, practically all - of this has been covered in some detail over the years. But in the interest of perspective, posterity, and why-the-hell-not, here we go.
I’ve elected to break this down into categories and then summarize (and occasionally rank) each posting accordingly. These categories are:
Climate / People / Food / Language / Housing / Transportation / Tourism / Social Life / The Embassy / DoS Employment / Musical Opportunities
Alrighty, then. Let’s get to it.
Accra - Hot all the time, except during the Harmattan, when a northeasterly trade wind blows in from the Sahel, bringing dust from the Sahara, temporarily reducing sunshine, and creating what Ghanaians call “European weather.” That is, less hot.
Pretoria - Pretty much perfect year round, not unlike the central California coast, only without the wildfires.
Washington, DC - Heinous summers (although living in Arlington, VA lifted us above the swamp), intermittently hard winters. Otherwise, very nice.
Buenos Aires - Summer (like, around Christmas) brings brief periods of purely heinous heat, but the constant breezes (“buenos aires”) make this a fundamentally pleasant city in which to live.
Yangon - Basically, three seasons: hot and humid, hot and dry, and monsoon. To be fair, there is a short, but brief period of pleasantly cool weather as well, when the locals put on jackets and the expats don’t.
Rome - Quite decent, notwithstanding the somewhat miserable summers, when everyone unconnected to the ZOTA™ skips town. E ottobre a Roma è la perfezione.
Accra - Ghanaians are overwhelmingly very friendly, hospitable people and we felt most welcome there.
Pretoria - South Africa is strange. Our interactions with most folks were perfectly OK, but the residual vibe of the hideous system of apartheid permeates everything. Crime and outrageous economic inequality are immense problems, although there are glimmers of hope, especially when the Springboks win the Rugby World Cup.
Washington, DC - Exactly what we expected.
Buenos Aires - Porteños are like most people who live in large cities: busy and self-absorbed, but also basically decent and helpful. That said, ne’re-do-wells made several (unsuccessful) attempts to scam us ¡Cuidado con la Gente Mostaza!
Yangon - The (mostly) Burmese people could not have been nicer to us. But it hurts my heart to see such hatred directed at the Rohingya. I simply do not understand nor know how to come to terms with that.
Rome - Romans are alright, though I am of the opinion that they have basically adopted the mindset of the city itself: Rome is over 2700 years old and has earned to right to not give a shit. I respect that.
To be continued…