Gwen's Adventures in the Foreign Service

A Weblog on my years in the Foreign Service

A Temp Assignment June 13, 2022

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As a State Department retiree I can sign up to do temp work as a retired annuitant. A few months ago I signed up with the African Bureau and this week I head to Gaborone, Botswana to work for seven weeks in the front office of the U.S. Embassy there.


Retirement! May 23, 2021

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So this spring I reached my 65th birthday and that means mandatory retirement in the Foreign Service. It was a quiet end to my career as gatherings were still quite restricted in Belgium. Fortunately restaurants and bars opened again for outdoor service the week before I left so my section held a small celebration at a pub in a nearby park. Now I will be enjoying retirement and a government pension in my new location in Carmichael, California!


End of the Year December 27, 2020

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Grand Place, Brussels

2020 has been a challenging year for many of us. With all of the lockdowns, restrictions on travel, and rules and regulations on what we can and cannot do it’s been difficult to navigate it all. Belgium is starting to emerge from a second wave this fall and shops and museums are open once again but restaurants are still closed and many of us are still teleworking. There is hope on the horizon though with vaccines starting to rollout in both the U.S, and Europe. Let’s hope for a better path in 2021!


A Quiet Spring in Brussels June 3, 2020

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After our busy first eighteen months here in Belgium where we took advantage of all the cultural activities and travel that we could fit in the last three months in isolation have been a quiet time of only spending time in our neighborhood and close surroundings here in Brussels. I have been teleworking from home since March 16, mostly only venturing out for groceries. We did take daily walks in our beautiful neighborhood and got to know this area and our neighbors as we watched spring develop. The last few weeks things are opening up with stores and museums open again and restaurants and bars to follow next week. The borders will soon be open again to nearby countries too. It has been a time to remember.


Exploring Europe August 18, 2019

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    In June 2018 Gene and I arrived in Brussels from Casablanca. There is a Tri-mission here with Missions to NATO, the European Union, and to Belgium. I work at the Mission to Belgium in the Pol-Econ section. It’s a very well-run place and we have been enjoying our time in the ‘heart’ of Europe with easy access to other countries. It’s also been nice to have family visit, as seen above with our grandson at the Grand Place in Brussels.

    This will be my last tour with the Foreign Service as I will be retiring in March 2021 so we have been taking advantage of seeing parts of Europe that we have always wanted to visit before we settle in California. So far we have made trips to Edinburgh, Luxembourg, Naples & Pompeii, Vienna at Christmas, Amsterdam, The Hague, and other parts of the Netherlands, and in July we fulfilled a longtime dream of taking a Baltic Sea cruise to St. Petersburg, Russia. We have also been all over Belgium. I will add a few photos below.



    Binche, Belgium

    Hallebos, Belgium.

    Trip through the Atlas Mountains January 4, 2018

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    In December Gene and I went on a guided tour in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco which was partly to look for birds that are only found here and partly for the cultural experience.  We had a guide and driver and we were happy not to be driving ourselves on some of these winding mountain roads.  We went as far as the sub-desert regions near the Anti-Atlas in Boumalne du Dades and saw many birds in a dump there along with a pack of dogs.  We also stopped by Ouarzazate, the Hollywood of Morocco where films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Game of Thrones were filmed.  We ended up in Marrakesh for our last night before heading back to Casablanca.


    High Atlas Mountains


    Kasbah Ait-Ben-Hadou


    May 2017 May 21, 2017

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    Tanger view


    We are now eight months into our assignment in Casablanca. Our apartment is well set up, although we had to get rid of some things as we didn’t have the space for them. We have some plants growing on our balcony, we also set up our fountain from Harare there and Gene has been waging a war on the pigeons who like to hang out nearby.

    My boss, the Consul General just completed her three year tour here so changes are happening. The next CG arrives in August so this seemed like a good time for us to take our R&R.  I need to have cataract surgery on my right eye and Gene’s daughter Andrea is getting married in June so all of this came together for our trip.  We had to wait until early May to make arrangements for our tickets though because the Continuing Resolution under which the government was operating expired on April 28 so the State Dept. wasn’t authorizing any new expenses after that date until the budget was extended through the rest of the fiscal year.  This added to our stress since I had to schedule my surgery in advance.  Welcome to life in the State Dept.

    We have done a bit more exploring in the area visiting Fez in February on what I believe was their coldest weekend of the year.  Then in early April we took a driving trip to Tangier and then onto the ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain where we visited Cadiz, Seville, the Algarve Coast in Portugal, and parts in between.  It was nice to be able to drive there in our own vehicle and getting into Spain was a breeze.  On the way back though one of the ferries was canceled because of high winds so everyone had to go to the larger ferry which was overwhelmed.  Customs on the Morocco side for the return was very slow and a mess; long lines of cars, no movement, confusion as to what anyone was supposed to be doing. I hope this isn’t the typical experience.

    We are looking forward to being back in California soon and seeing family there.

    iPhone 5 photos 995


    Habbous market

    Habbous Market, Casablanca.



    A New Beginning January 3, 2017

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    Paris Ferris wheel

    Paris Ferris wheel

    After being in Casablanca for over three months we finally received our household shipment on December 21, two days before leaving for Christmas with friends in the Basque country in Spain.  Needless to say we left a mess behind which we just spent New Year’s weekend unpacking and setting up house again.  In this case the delay was due to my former post in Harare where the shipment sat from our pack out in late June, until late October when it finally headed our way via first a truck to Durban, South Africa and then by ship to Antwerp, Belgium and then onto another ship to bring it to Casablanca. Once it finally arrived here we had it within the week. Lesson learned is to start checking on shipments while still on home leave and not wait until getting to post.

    We went on a whirlwind of trips to Europe at the end of last year spending Thanksgiving in Lisbon, making a trip to Paris in mid-December, and then Spain at Christmas.  The Paris trip came up at the last minute when we received an unexpected two day local holiday making for a 4-day weekend. There was an art exhibition at the new Louis Vuitton Foundation that I wanted to see this winter, plus the holiday party at my former post at USOECD made it hard to resist going. The holiday lights and displays were also fun to see. Christmas was spent in Irun in northern Spain near St. Sebastian.


    Adjusting to Casablanca October 23, 2016

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    We arrived in Casablanca in mid-September and are trying to get settled in.  It is a big city and we are living in the heart of it in the Gauthier district within a 5-10 minute walk from the American Consulate.  It is nice to have just a short walk to work but it is taking some adjustment to get used to the many activities, noise, and messiness.  In Paris we lived in a quiet suburb.  In Algiers we were also in a residential area and the same in Harare.  It is nice to be close to many small shops and restaurants within walking distance, especially since our vehicle has not arrived yet, or rather it arrived last week but is waiting clearance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  It took about 4 weeks for our air shipment to be released even though it arrived at the airport a few days after us.  The MFA seems to operate a bit arbitrarily here.

    We were assigned a modern apartment on the sixth floor of a large apartment building. It has a large balcony so I have been acquiring plants to fill it up. They are supposed to install awnings soon so it won’t be quite so sunny.

    Over the Columbus Day weekend we took the train to Marrakesh and stayed near the old Medina.  It is an interesting place with many great restaurants but even though there are many wonderful shops there filled with handcrafted items I found it difficult to shop with mopeds zooming at will through the very narrow passageways.  I did fall in love with the Majorelle Garden though. This garden was first created by the expatriate French artist Jaques Majorelle and when he died in 1962 was taken over by Yves St. Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé. St. Laurent’s ashes were scattered here after he died. The blue here known as Majorelle blue was allegedly inspired by the uniforms of sanitation workers in France. (more…)


    Another Publication Available June 14, 2016

    Filed under: Uncategorized — gwenkay56 @ 7:50 pm

    My daughter Delphine has a mini book out with the theme of her mother (me) touching wild animals here in Zimbabwe.  You can find out more here: