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Life in the Foreign Service
In this issue:
Beginning a Diplomatic Career:
Embassy Panama, 1959-1961


“Our small class of new Foreign Service officers had taken a three-month orientation course at the Foreign Service Institute. We had toured the various State Department bureaus and several other federal agencies claiming an interest in foreign affairs. We had been told a little about protocol, and two entertaining gentlemen from the U.S. Information Agency had impressed on us how different foreign cultures and foreign usages might he from our own. A personnel lady had explained the pension system, which interested us little at this stage in our careers. We had also received instructions on bow to prepare travel vouchers. . . . But what no one had impressed on us was that the President and Secretary of State needed succinct reporting on the world and effective representation of American views and policies to other governments.” [FULL TEXT]


A Trip Back in Time

“As we climbed the steep slope – no easy task at 14,500 feet above sea level – [and] neared the top of the hill, things began to get distinctly weird. In a scene resembling a medieval religious fair, a dozen bowler-hatted Bolivian cholas manned tables piled high with religious tokens. The most popular are tiny replicas of material goods that the purchaser wishes to acquire. These can be deposited at one of the shrines on the hill or pinned to a small clay figure of a local demigod named Ekeko, and preferably blessed by the nearest Catholic priest!” [FULL TEXT]


Present at the FootnoteMany Faces of Christmas

My first Christmas abroad was in Bilbao, Spain, in 1948. In this very conservative Basque city, Christmas was a subdued, solemn religious celebration of the Mass of Christ. . . . A considerable effort was made to suppress the commercial hoopla in the weeks prior to Christmas. There were stern editorials in the Gazeta del Norte, the principal Bilbao newspaper, condemning the increasingly popular Christmas tree. It was, the paper said, a pagan, Germanic custom out of place in any decent Christian home.[FULL TEXT]


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