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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Brandon Plays Diplomat

One day when Brandon came home from A-100, or Now You're Hired, What Next? he announced that he was officially a Diplomat.  I tried to look impressed, but instead I just laughed.  "You?? A diplomat?   But you're just going to go do visa interviews for two years.  Aren't diplomats supposed to do important things, like ride around in those cars with the little flags on them?"  No, he informed me, all Foreign Service Officers are diplomats.  That's why they get those special black passports.

Usually I don't call my husband a diplomat because it sounds pretentious.  Something you'd chat about over tea at the country club while your children took golf lessons from the resident pro.  Some diplomats probably have that lifestyle.  I don't.  I spend all day taking care of four small children and going grocery shopping.  Occasionally I'll dress up and meet with the other spouses for a coffee where I chat with the other moms about chasing children around all day long.  It's a pretty standard life, just lived overseas. 

And Brandon's job is pretty normal - pushing paperwork around.  He once described it to someone as a typical government bureaucrat job, just overseas with double the red tape - yours and the government you're working with.  He goes in, he does his work, he comes home (too late for the salary they're paying him) and helps me chase the aforementioned four children around.

It really is quite normal.  Sometimes I even forget I live in a foreign country.  Even when I'm driving.  

But a few weeks ago, Brandon had a week of being a Diplomat.  

Every now and then Congressmen (people? men and women?) travel overseas to visit countries that their work is involved with.  Their visit is known as a CODEL - congressional delegation - and they're, well, let's just say... a lot of work.  That's all I'm saying.

A few weeks ago, Brandon had his very first CODEL to play control officer for.  Congresspeople are very important visitors, and so they get to have very important meetings.  And since Brandon was the one and only control officer, he got to go along to all of the meetings.  It was all very busy.

So one day, Brandon started his morning off by picking up his Congressman at the hotel.  Then they picked up the ambassador at the embassy, and took a drive.  They drove out of Baku, past the airport, and to a very nice gate that led to - you've probably guessed it - the president's house.  Palace?  Compound?  Definitely a mansion.  There he got to take notes at the meeting and check out the three-story chandelier at the palace.  

When the girls asked what a three-story chandelier was (did it tell stories? three stories were told about it?), I explained that it was a chandelier as tall as our house.  "Wow!" they exclaimed with round, round eyes, "that is a big chandelier!"

Everyone chatted (about something Important of course), took pictures, shook hands, and did all of those things that Important people do.  Brandon tried to look inconspicuous.

Brandon on the left, President Aliyev in the middle, identities of
Congressman and staffer covered to protect me from backlash

After leaving the President's place, they went to Parliament.  Again, more Important conversations, more handshakes, maybe more pictures.  Following a very cordial meeting, the speaker Mr. Congressman had met with invited everyone to stay for lunch.  Brandon had planned on Schlotsky's (just opened this year!) for lunch, so the invitation was graciously accepted.

The next time Brandon is telling anecdotes, I want him to pull out, "so when I was enjoying my five-course lunch at Parliament with the speaker, the ambassador, and the chairman (evidently there are different degrees of congressmen)...."  I think just about anything after that would sound awesome.  It definitely sounds better than "so when I was cramming my PB&J sandwich down my throat while huddled in front of my computer...."

The lunch was followed by a media round table.  Definitely more pictures.  Maybe handshakes?  Probably TV cameras.  And of course Important Stuff.  It is, after all a CODEL.  Why else would they visit, if it weren't for important stuff?

And then he finished his day with dinner at the ambassador's house.  It's a pretty impressive day when you have not one, but two meals with an ambassador.

I don't know how the food was, but I bet the dinner conversation was more high-toned than the conversation he was missing at home.  "So mom, what if I chopped off my finger and put it in the soup?  What would happen if my eyeball was the size of a button? Did you know that Edwin just put his whole hand into the soup pot??"

When he crawled into bed late that night, exhausted from a day of Important Stuff, I asked how it felt to go and do all of that, you know, Important Stuff and get away from the sandwich-cramming and eyeball questions.

He groaned and turned to look at me.  "You know what?  I'd take PB&J and button-sized eyeball mysteries over five-course lunches any day of the week."


UnkaDave said...

Superb! I get tired of the eyeball questions from your mother, too. "I don't KNOW! Just eat your soup!"

PaulaJean said...

For the record, I've never asked an eyeball question. It all sounds Very Important, though.