Monday, December 17, 2018

10 Things I Learned from a Week in the Mountain Kingdom

I just got back to Nairobi from a jam-packed week of training and learning and working in Maseru, Lesotho (also known poetically as the Mountain Kingdom) under the tutelage of my stellar mentor M. From an official U.S. military visit to a celebration of over 50 years of Peace Corps in Lesotho to a World AIDS Day event, there were plenty of activities to keep us busy. Here are a few things I learned (or had reinforced to me) this week:

  1. No two embassies are alike. They adapt to everything from local circumstances to the leadership style of the Ambassador.
  2. Diplomacy is different when you're a bigger fish in a smaller pond. For example, the King or Prime Minister attends Embassy events in Lesotho much more frequently than the President does in Kenya.
  3. People can make or break a post, but this is especially true at a small post. Thankfully, the current cast of Embassy Maseru seems wonderful.
  4. It's possible to know everyone who works at an Embassy. The biggest perk of this is avoiding the coordination issues you find at a very large, interagency Mission - most people know what everyone else is doing at work!
  5. At a smaller post, every person wears more metaphorical hats. My mentor, a Public Diplomacy Officer, had to take detours throughout the day to do Consular work and other things she would likely not do at a larger post.
  6. I will never take Nairobi restaurants or entertainment for granted again. There's no movie theatre in the whole country of Lesotho, and the food scene in Maseru was... very limited. Americans and local staff drive to South Africa for a weekend for entertainment, salons, or even some groceries!
  7. Every country has hidden gems. Even without going to Semonkong Lodge or a major tourist attraction, I was blown away by the beauty of the mountains in Lesotho. (Fun fact: one of Lesotho's claims to fame is having the highest point of lowest elevation of any country in the world!)
  8. Life is different without a DPO (diplomatic post office). My mentor and her colleagues receive mail once a week instead of daily as we do in Kenya.
  9. Any name will be difficult somewhere. I have a pretty common Western first name, but in Lesotho people really struggled with it! It honestly made me feel so much better butchering all of the local names.
  10. Mentorship is crucial in work and life. I'm so lucky to have awesome mentors like M who empower me, support me, and tell it like it is! Everyone benefits from great mentoring.

Thanks to all who made this trip possible, and thanks for reading!

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