Speaking of Transitions

Letter from the Editor


Moons ago, in the late 1990s, I stayed at post through an ordered departure out of Indonesia when the Suharto regime was about to tumble. Most of us didn’t know who was “essential” until the day of the evacuation. My husband and 2-year-old were probably in more danger heading out to the military airport in the middle of the night (after embassy transport did not show up) than I was staying put.

While that evacuation was a “success,” it was also chaotic and messy. It seemed like The First Evacuation Ever. That’s one kind of transition.

But let’s face it, in the Foreign Service you are always “in transition”—moving to a new post, bidding on your next post, getting ready to leave your current post or even faced with a sudden departure. Or maybe you are transitioning out of the Foreign Service, choosing where to live and what to do next. This double issue of the Journal is about all of them.

Say you’re heading out to a new country, as you do every few years. Those permanent change of station moves, as FS spouse Deborah Derrick tells us in “Just Another Glamorous Move,” are both the good and the bad of FS life. New places, new adventures—hurrah. FS toddlers crying and vomiting their way across the world on packed airplanes—not as much fun.

Or maybe you’re on your own, flying solo. It may be grand, until you land at an embassy community all about families, and everyone assumes you’re the one who doesn’t need vacation at vacation time. In “FS Singles: How We See Things,” FSO Naureen Nalia introduces us to the new employee organization, Singles at State, established in 2021 to raise awareness and advocate for this growing demographic.

For those with kids, transitions can be tough in other ways. Wyokemia Joyner and Sarah Genton of FSI’s Transition Center discuss resources for “Supporting Families and Third-Culture Kids Through FS Transitions.”

What about the FS pets 40 percent of you have? Managing their mobile lifestyles is no picnic. In “The Complex Challenge of Transporting Pets,” FS spouse Melissa Mathews walks us through the current realities and hopeful news for new legislation.

And then there are the evacuations. Reporting to the Ops Center those many years ago for my next assignment, I was asked for my impressions of the Jakarta evacuation and told that somewhere in the State Department, someone (maybe in some tiny basement office?) was working on lessons learned. Yet people still say every evacuation feels like the first ever, maybe because each one is different.

For those of you who will face an evacuation of some kind—which is most of you—we have excellent tips. In “What to Expect When You’re … Evacuating,” Donna Scaramastra Gorman, a veteran of evacuations, tells us what we need to know about preparing for a possible sudden departure.

Turning to transitions into and out of the Foreign Service, we hear about FSO (ret.) Dan Crocker’s journey in “And Now for Something Completely Different …

Our cover story is a must-read on “U.S.-China Relations at 50: Learning Lessons and Moving Ahead” by FSO (ret.) Robert Wang.

In the Speaking Out, “Serbia and Russia and the Coming Balkan Storm,” FSO Denis Rajic and Professor Marko Attila Hoare urge the U.S. to reengage in the region to offset the instability Russia created.

In the Appreciation, “Remembering Madeleine Albright,” we hear from a few of those who worked with this trailblazing diplomat. In a Feature piece, “Diplomacy, the Third Strand of War and Peace,” FSO (ret.) Fletcher Burton offers a literary treat.

Eric Rubin’s President’s Views column builds on the demand from more than 200 FS members that “Women’s Reproductive Health Must Be a Priority.”

FSO (ret.) Bea Camp reflects on “Pearl Buck’s Rehabilitation in China,” and in the Local Lens, FS spouse and photographer James Talalay introduces us to non in Namangan, Uzbekistan.

We await your responses to this edition. Write to us at journal@afsa.org. And may all your transitions this summer be smooth.

Shawn Dorman is the editor of The Foreign Service Journal.