Some of you may be wondering why exactly I would want to come down to Ecuador and work with what many people describe as “a complicated relationship” with the Ecuadorian government. I have a lot of reasons, but the first and foremost one is that I am considering a career in the Foreign Service. Ever since I first found out about the work Foreign Service Officers do around the world as diplomats for the United States, I have been so intrigued by the lifestyle and work these diplomats do, I just had to see it for myself.
And that’s where this crazy process began. This week has been so surreal – this internship was a process seven months in the making and sometimes I can hardly believe that the waiting part is over. I applied at the start of July and received an informal offer from the Embassy in Quito, Ecuador (as well as the Consulate in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and the Embassies in Georgia, Bosnia, and Azerbaijan) just a few weeks later. With an internship in hand, the waiting process began and my stress levels until the end of December were sky high. I had to apply for a security clearance, without which I could not even receive a start date (or buy a plane ticket). I sent in all my information and fingerprints in October and finally received my clearance right before Christmas. I’d like to take this chance to apologize to anyone who asked me about my co-op plans all fall because I was a wreck, so anxious and nervous about whether or not everything would fall into place for this semester. Thanks to everyone who supported me and listened to my nerves, you’re all the best!
I can most definitely say, however, that it was all worth it. The Embassy here is an amazing place. It is a newer compound, so everything is in one place – the main Embassy building, a consular section, a gym, a Marine House, and beautiful landscaping. Even with all the security, walking around the compound has a very serene feeling with the trees full of leaves and all the flowers blooming.
I am working in the Political Section, which has been very interesting so far. It feels a lot like my first few months in Boston when I was still trying to get the hang out the Massachusetts political system and who were the major players in Boston politics. This is a bit harder though because not only is it a completely new set of players, but the way the government here works is also very different than the way it does in the U.S.
We focus on a lot of different issues in the Political Section and since the office is small, they’ve done a great job making me feel welcome and including me in everything that is going on. I’ve gotten to jump right into NGO work and hopefully soon I’ll be able to work on human rights offenses and issues around indigenous people. My boss has been very clear that he wants to make sure that I am able to writes some cables to Washington before I leave and right now I am thinking about issues I want to research. Right now, I am considering writing something about the state of Ecuadorian prisons. I spent much of freshman year studying the cost of mass incarceration in the US and I was able to visit a prison in Poland, so I would be very interested in learning more about how Ecuadorian prisons run and how they treat their prisoners.
Everyone in the Embassy has been extremely nice to me and has welcomed me into Ecuador with open arms. I was able to sit down and meet with the Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission earlier this week and we had a great time talking about my background and about the US-Ecuador relationship. It did not feel at all as though they were sitting down with me solely because they had to. Every time I’ve seen either one of them since, they have greeted me by name and asked me how I’m doing. We were even in a meeting the other day and the Ambassador corrected the speaker when describing how co-op works and about my background during introductions. I definitely feel like I am already part of the community here. I also found out that over Presidents’ Day (which is also Carnival here), I will get to travel with the Ambassador to the largest Carnival celebration in Ecuador! I can’t wait to see what that is like!
Even though the process getting here was very long and stressful, and the process of getting me set up to actually start working this week has been full of many steps, I truly feel like it has all been worth it. I am so happy to be here and really get to start working on the issues here.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Since I don’t have any pictures inside the Embassy, this picture of a shrunken head that I found in an indigenous art museum will have to do.