Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Manam(i)a, Here I Go Again

I just got back from a whirlwind few days in Manama, the capital of Bahrain. It was the first business trip (not counting PCS-ing) that I've done in years. I went there to support the travel of our Assistant Secretary, who met with Bahraini government officials and attended the Manama Dialogue, an annual forum for leaders across the region to convene and discuss diplomacy and security. It was the first full, in-person Manama Dialogue since the start of the pandemic.

Traveling with such a high-level principal teaches you a lot, and it was my honor to assist. I got to meet the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Bahrain and several ministers from across the Middle East. I got to practice my Political skills note taking, negotiating (especially when it came to the schedule), and managing relationships inside and outside the U.S. government. I was amazed to watch my principal work, from expertly handling meetings to doing interviews on TV on short notice to catching up on needed approvals and information in even the smallest snippets of time.

It was also a wonderful opportunity to get to know my colleagues at U.S. Embassy Manama. I loved working with them so much, I know I'll jump at the chance to work with them again someday. Bahrain itself was so inviting and the people gave me such a warm welcome that after just a few days I've decided I'll probably bid there in the future. In my opinion, you can get a sense after even just a few days what morale is like at an embassy - and it's high for our folks in Bahrain. We were also blown away with the awesome work of our military colleagues at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT). After all, Bahrain is famously host to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet and an official visit to Manama wouldn't be complete without them.

Every principal has their own preferences, and it's important as a staffer or control officer to make sure you accommodate them. Some you'll know in advance but others you'll find out along the way and adjust accordingly. Even though I work with her every day in DC, for example, I just learned on this trip that our Assistant Secretary despises puns (and would surely detest the title of this personal blog post).

This was my first time traveling away from S. I'm not going to lie: that part was tough and I missed him. I had a brutal and difficult pumping schedule, and although the Embassy was very accommodating other facilities we visited during the trip were less so. (I became a pro at pumping in cramped and uncomfortable bathrooms by the end of the trip.) On the bright side, I was able to save most of the milk from the second half of the trip and bring it home in a checked cooler bag. My hotel was also kind enough to provide a special fridge in my room for my milk, as I learned hotel mimifridges are not cold enough for proper milk storage. What I brought back didn't completely replenish the stash M had to use for S while I was gone, but it was better than nothing.

With the time zone difference, I squeezed in a few brief video chats back home but otherwise I was working around the clock. I skipped many meals and only slept about five hours a night the whole trip. (Thank goodness I packed granola bars and trail mix!) I wasn't the only one - a lot of other support staff seemed to be living off of protein bars and coffee througout my stay.

So as great of a professional development opportunity as it was (and it really was, unlike some "professional development opportunities" in the Foreign Service that are office housework in disguise and not particularly career enhancing), I was relieved to accomplish the mission and head home to see my two favorite men (and catch up on sleep). I didn't even take the time I normally would to crop the photos of this post, but I hear all-natural, unedited photos are all the rage these days anyway so I hope you enjoy them. And now, I'm off to enjoy my precious time with them - just in time for Thanksgiving.

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