The Foreign Service Journal, April 2021

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2021 49 A fter spending nearly eight and a half years overseas as a management officer, I started my first domestic tour in Charleston, South Carolina, with the Bureau of the Comptroller and Global Financial Services in August 2019—just a few months before COVID-19, which had been silently gathering momentum, erupted into public view. The transition back to one’s “home- land,” by itself very difficult after so many years abroad, suddenly became even more challenging—and, as it happened, even more rewarding. First, the culture shock: There is no one waiting at the airport, no move-in ready, no government housing, no motor pool or social sponsor. But the real clincher is the pay cut. Not only do you lose your overseas allowances, but you have a mortgage, util- ity bills and car payments, and no embassy community bubble. It’s a bit like being in a foreign country with people that all look and sound like you, but do not want to talk to you. It is harder outside Washington, D.C., because there are only 10 FSOs in Charleston instead of the large Foreign Service support network in the greater D.C. area. Even though I’m a native of South Caro- lina, it was difficult to find my village. Returning “home” after years overseas is notoriously difficult. The COVID-19 pandemic gave the experience a whole new, and surprising, twist. BY K I MBERLY HARMON Kimberly Harmon joined the Foreign Service as a management officer in 2011 with her husband, their 4-month-old son, Tristan, and two cats. Her first assignment was to Hermosillo, Mexico, where daughter Marigny was born. She then went to Port Louis, Mauritius, as the general services officer, and there the family welcomed their third child, Hudson. Next came a posting to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She is currently on her first domestic tour, at the Bureau of the Comp- troller and Global Financial Services in Charleston, South Carolina. FOCUS DIPLOMACY IN AN AGE OF DISRUPTION MY REINTRODUCTIONTOAMERICA A COVID-19 JOURNEY