The summer of COVID consular ravages
Updated: Jul 21, 2021
Time to mark my first year as a consular officer and two years in the Foreign Service! While things are going well, it’s hard not to notice all the ways in which the pandemic has affected consular work.
I don’t want to sound dramatic, but at times it felt like serving in a hardship country instead of living in DC or being posted in Europe. The daily uncertainties of where the pandemic is headed (did someone just say fourth wave?!), the partial closures, the stay-at-home orders and limited social interaction made everything more challenging than expected.
Now that summer is here we want nothing more than to climb out of the hole we’re in. Issuing record numbers of passports, birth certificates and visas is part of that. It makes for some stressful but also proud moments (138 interviews before noon, anyone?).
There is more work, fewer funds, and fewer people in the office because we can’t hire anyone. It’s a feeling that makes some hyper efficient, inventing better procedures or writing new software, while causing others a Bunch of Stress. Personally I like a challenge so I’m staying upbeat and just do the work.
Most of the time my optimism about how we handled the COVID situation prevails (isn’t it great we suddenly know how to do telework?) while other times I’m sad that I’m eating another lunch “al desco” because I can’t relax and everything feels urgent all the time.
It’s going to be an interesting summer. Will we open up and lose the travel restrictions to the US, or are we staying in this unusual crisis mode for the time being?
And what is the bidding process going to look like this summer when Consular Affairs may not be able to fund many consular positions overseas? To have more opportunities I’m going to re-test in Spanish for which I just began studying, just to keep things simple :)