Tales From a Small Planet: A Cup of Culture and a Pinch of Crisis, The Food Edition

Posted: 5:56 pm ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’]

 

If you’ve ever searched for Real Post Reports or Real School Reports when planning your relocation overseas, you might be familiar with Tales From a Small Planet.   Tales from a Small Planet (www.talesmag.com) was created a while back by a group of U.S. Foreign Service community members who had previously collaborated on the “Spouses’ Underground Newsletter” (SUN).  Its candid, and anonymous “real post and school reports” span over 325 cities around the world.

A few months ago, a group supporting Tales  put together a book of essays about expats and their food adventures, A Cup of Culture and a Pinch of Crisis: Tales from a Small Planet: The Food.  The book was edited by Patricia Linderman (former AAFSW President and current Literary Editor at Talesmag),  Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel (AAFSW volunteer and Talesmag volunteer), Katie Jagelski (EFM), and Leah Evans(EFM). Contributors include Foreign Service family members, an FSO and other expats not associated with the Foreign Service.

Below is an excerpt courtesy of Amazon Kindle/Preview:

 

#

Advertisements

AAFSW launches online resource, FSHub.org for the Foreign Service community

Posted: 4:21 pm ET
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW), the oldest non­governmental organization supporting the American diplomatic community and administrator of the popular Livelines hosted in Yahoo! Groups since 1998 has just launched its “crowd-sourced” online resource for the Foreign Service community. They rely on the FS community members to suggest relevant links and for volunteers to help keep the links current. Check it out at FSHub.org and help make it grow!

Screen Shot 2016-06-23

Below is the announcement shared by the FSHub team:

AAFSW is proud to announce the launch of the Foreign Service Hub, FSHub.org, a user-friendly online source for all Foreign Service community resources.

In the past, AAFSW’s Board and other volunteers have often been frustrated by the lack of awareness in the Foreign Service community about the support resources available to help them, ranging from AAFSW itself, to FLO’s website, to specialized social media groups.

To attack this problem, Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel, Patricia Linderman and Lara Center proposed and obtained a Una Chapman Cox Foundation grant, and organized a survey and focus groups, together with Barbara Reioux and many other volunteers. Based on this input, they hired webmaster Nicole Spiridakis, designer Lauren Ketchum and marketing expert Trena Bolden Fields and developed a beautiful, streamlined site that is now ready for use.

FSHub.org is a free, open Internet site aimed at presenting all relevant Foreign Service resources. Of course, it will continue to expand and improve based on user input.

All readers are encouraged to:

–- Visit FSHub.org and use it often!

-– Tell others in the Foreign Service community about it, especially newcomers.

-– Suggest any new links, improvements and events to fshub@aafsw.org. (We know there is still a lot missing, especially with regard to other foreign affairs agencies — your input is needed!)

-– Consider joining our volunteer team to identify and maintain links in an area of interest to you (for instance, for singles, retirees, male EFMs, USAID, parents in DC, etc.). Contact us at fshub@aafsw.org

#

AAFSW: A Guide to Connecting Communities at Overseas Posts via Facebook and WordPress

— Domani Spero

There was a time when embassy newsletters were distributed only in printed format. Do you remember that?  Later they were distributed as Word documents, then eventually as PDF files. We know that some posts put the newsletters up on the Intranet, not sure if all posts do this now. But even if they do put it up on the Intranet, only a third of all FS spouses are working (some outside the mission), which means more than two-thirds do not have regular access to the Intranet. We would not be surprise if at some posts, spouses still have to go into the Community Liaison Office (CLO) to use dedicated terminals to do stuff on the Intranet.

Hey! Look at the bright side, at least they’re not making spouses use the Wang for what they need to do online.

Typically the newsletters are produced by the CLO or by a contractor. We learned that at the Tri-Mission in Vienna, the official weekly PDF newsletter couldn’t serve as an easily accessible timely resource for answers to all the nitty-gritty questions that new arrivals to post always seem to have, such as finding a good dentist or figuring out the public transport system. Tri-Mission Vienna is not alone on this, of course. Most embassies have CLOs but they do not serve as call centers. At the time when smartphones  are ubiquitous, when there are 1,310,000,000 users on Facebook with 54,200,000 pages, access to timely information is still a challenge for some, particularly overseas.

Enter a couple of Foreign Service spouses who wanted a way to share information quickly and efficiently.  Kelly Bembry Midura and Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel put together a Facebook group, “Vienna Vagabonds” to provide support and advice to the Tri-Mission community.  Later they developed “TriVienna” (using free WordPress) as an unofficial resource for the American community in Austria. The site includes information for newcomers as well resources for navigating the city, schools, services and travels to neighboring areas. There are a few other posts with similar unofficial sites but they are still in the minority.

The two spouses have now put together a guide, through the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) on how to set up similar online communities at posts overseas.  The guide which is pretty straight-forward includes setting up FB pages at post, setting up a community website using WordPress, and privacy and security.  CLOs everywhere should applaud this effort. Community members working together could only enhance the cohesion of the mission and this should make information and resources easily available and shareable.

Before anyone complains about this to Diplomatic Security, please read the material, okay?

Kelly Bembry Midura is a writer and the Content Manager for AAFSW (http://www.aafsw.org). She has for many years advocated for making information more accessible to Foreign Service family members.  She blogs at http://wellthatwasdifferent.wordpress.com. Nicole Schaefer-McDaniel worked as a research social scientist before her husband convinced her to try life in the Foreign Service. She blogs at http://kidswithdiplomaticimmunity.wordpress.com.

As an aside on Intranet access for spouses — the Defense Department has long provided online access and information to spouses of service members. For instance, Military OneSource offers 24/7/365 access to information on housing, schools, confidential counseling and referral services at no cost to Service members or their families.  Its Military Spouse Education and Career Opportunities (SECO) program also offers spouses assistance with career exploration, education and training, career readiness, and career connections.

At the State Department on the other hand, spouses and family members do not even have access to feedback about life at post from other employees, unless they have logins to the Intranet.  Out of  11,528 spouses and adult family members, over 8,700 are not working or are not working at the mission and do not have regular Intranet access.  We suspect that funding the Intranet access for FS spouses and family members would cost less than a wink of what we’re spending at the Sinkhole of Afghanistan.

But — here we are in 2014 and the 21st century statecraft is still missing at home.

* * *

Enhanced by Zemanta