Sixteen years ago I spent ten months at the Foreign Service Institute training for my first diplomatic assignment to Saudi Arabia.
This week I returned to campus with my sons, eight and ten, so they could begin their own indoctrination to the diplomatic life. They were enrolled in a course called Young Diplomats Overseas Preparation.
After breakfast yesterday, we visited the tight little cells where foreign language instruction is carried out. Next we passed through the Consular wing, hoping to see the jail where diplomats prepare for uncomfortable real-world prison visits. The room was locked.
We stopped by the library and the Overseas Briefing Center (I wanted to hand over a few copies of Two Pumps for the Body Man, essential reading for anyone headed to The Kingdom). We still had time before class, so we posed for photos in the courtyard with the statue of Ben Franklin, the father of American Diplomacy.
Later in the day Vikram passed by the Embassy Med Unit to get vaccinated against mushrooms. Mohan was vaccinated against celery. Had I been invited to participate—cauliflower vax, please!
Today the boys got read up on fire safety, evacuation planning, risk recognition, and radio checks (over!). Vikram’s handle, Neptune. Mohan chose ‘bobchick.’ Don’t ask me to explain. Must have something to do with the celery vax.
Four weeks from now we depart for Mumbai. Looks like the boys will have the necessary info to recognize U.S. and world symbols, basic manners, and the structure and role of a U.S. Embassy.
Years from now, maybe they’ll pursue careers in diplomacy and take FACT, Foreign Affairs Counterterrorism Training. For now, we have what we need: each other and a good set of call signs.