Wednesday, April 28, 2010

FSI: Foreign Service Infiltrated!

By me. I packed my lunch the night before, put on my State Department Mexican-American flag pin, and snuck into Free Studies Inside (FSI) like I was one of them. By "snuck in" I mean I went through the hoops of getting my name on a list, going through a metal detector and wearing my special badge stating I'm not to be trusted and must be accompanied at all times. I'm so dangerous. It was a real undercover operation.

Perhaps a more accurate depiction is that I was dragged there by my wife to attend a Mexican area studies course. Whenever Natalie comes home from work on Tuesdays complaining about how hard FSI training is, I now can remind her that I sat through three hours of area studies with her, so I know better.

The three-hour course began with student presentations on Mexican culture. By the way, is "students" the right term? It feels like a high school campus at FSI. The presenters were good. Very good. Of course, it helped that they were talking about politics and the American-Mexican War, two of my favorite topics, as opposed to say jewelry making or famous Mexican artists.

Looks like we'll be there for their next presidential election, which could see a new party (well, an old party with new leadership) rising to power. That should make for some excitement. They only have presidential elections every six years (and no such thing as a second term), so I feel fortunate to get to experience another country's political process.

The next two hours represented the reason Natalie thought it was important I attended. Three wives of Mexican diplomats working at the Mexican embassy in Washington came in to do a little Q&A about living in their homeland.

What they described is kind of how I picture America in the 1950s or the rural America of the 1980s...I'm not really sure what I mean by that either.

Close-knit families where it is totally fine to live with your parents until you get married. Families that live in the same towns/region for generations. A culture that is a big on chivalry and low on being PC. (In Mexico, everyone with light skin is a gringo, no offense. And anyone with squinted eyes, no matter how slight, are chinos, which I find hilarious because apparently some of the indigenous peoples are called chinos because of their eyes.)

Following up on the point of chivalry, in which men hold doors for women, etc., one of the female FSOs felt impelled to ask how the local populace would view her soon-to-be-unemployed Esposo Fearing Mockery (EFM). I thought this a valid question, though the three panelists laughed it off stating that all of the men in Mexico will be jealous of him. I think that might be half of what they are thinking, but given some of the other things they said, I would be surprised if there isn't some judging.

In general, this panel session was a bit reassuring because there wasn't much new information for me. Which means I've been good about digging up information on Mexico.


  1. There are a lot of men EFM's in Mexico! No worries!! Enjoy the area and time off. And if you are itching for a job, the consulate reserves spots for EFM's if they know the lanugage. Otherwise, you could always teach!

  2. Mexicans don't have the the Puritan/Protestant Work Ethic in nearly the same measure that Americans do. They don't define themselves by their work. You're not less of a person (or less of an adult, or less of a man) for not having job, or a full-time job, or a high-paying job, or whatever.