Saturday, March 9, 2013

Work (Life)

I've been meaning for a while to talk more about my job and how I like working for the State Department, but obviously it's a bit of a sensitive topic. Most of my best stories are off limits, and I certainly wouldn't want to air dirty laundry on a website.  On the other hand, I always found it strange when bloggers who were so active prior to joining suddenly fell off the face of the earth. I'm sure people are just working hard and busier than normal, but the end result is that there isn't as much advice and information about the first few weeks and months at post, so I thought it would be worthwhile to get my observations down on paper. (Well, virtual paper anyway.)

So what's it like working here?

First - it's busy.

Second - it's incredibly busy.
I naively expected that once I got a real job I would work a relaxed 9-5 and cook myself dinner and take up hobbies, etc. That hasn't so much been the case. A 10 hour days is much more standard here and if I didn't have transportation constraints I'd certainly be tempted to work more. Even with the extra time to get stuff done the pace of work is pretty fast. There's always more in the to-do pile than I can finish at the end of the day, which is hard for a list-checker like myself to handle.

Third - it's an exercise in multi-tasking.
In addition to my consular work (which I expected) I also have several portfolios - as do all the other officers - which was very unexpected. While the basic consular work is fairly straightforward the portfolio work always seems to be more complex and checking an item off that list involves an awful lot more legwork. In addition to the portfolios there are also committees (and lots of them). You don't have to join a committee, but you know - you kind of do. And not just one either.  The Fourth of July alone has four committees dedicated to it and they're already meeting. This is apparently the stuff that  entry-level officers need in order to stand-out for their EERs (employee evaluations) so there's a temptation to take on a lot outside of your normal portfolio. This helps explain how such a simple job could make me so busy.

Fourth - life is just more complicated.
There is the regular way of getting things done and then there is the special US government way. (And then there is the additional US government in Nigeria way.) This means that if I want to spend money on the weekend (generally I do) I need to get a check cashed at the cashier's office during the week. If I need to go to the grocery store (also usually part of the plan) or to a party or restaurant or, well anywhere, I need to put in a request in the system. (Thankfully this is just until my car arrives.) If I want to hang pictures in my apartment, that's another request. And so on. There are reasons for these things and I certainly appreciate all the services we receive here, but it has been an adjustment to figure out how to work the system.

I certainly don't want to make it sound like I'm having a bad time here. I still really love Lagos and I think it's the perfect first post. I just wanted to give a sense of what the day-to-day is like and offer a few excuses for why my posts of been a little spotty since I got here. I promise to post some pictures next time I get around to it!


  1. Hang in there, J.B.! (Ooh, I like it. Why haven't I been calling you JB all this time?) You're amazing!

  2. Good post! especially #4! Our HHE finally arrived last week but I couldn't put anything in the china cabinet because I was waiting on R to put in a work request to have 4 chinese men (employed by the consulate) come to our apartment and move it up against the wall (about a foot from where it was originally placed by purportedly these same 4 men). It was heavy and we couldn't do it ourselves but the idea that I had to wait several days to put in a request takes some adjusting to. jai you! as we say on the mainland!