That’s what I keep saying to myself here, at least once or twice a day. For example, check this out:
This is the view from the balcony of my temporary apartment. Which is virtually identical to the view from the rooftop terrace of our permanent apartment. Except that may be even better, because it’s higher up.
What’s important about this? Well, what don’t you see? You don’t see any walls topped with barbed wire or broken glass. No snipers on rooftops. No armed guards at all, as a matter of fact.
If you look up, you see blue sky, not a gray or yellow haze. No one is burning garbage or sugar cane fields.
If you turn around, you see a perfectly normal patio door. No bars–not even a real lock! And you can leave it open if you want to!
If you look down, you see a tree-shaded street with actual sidewalks and no litter of any kind. No beggars, either. And you can walk out the door, by yourself, and go anywhere you like–unarmed! On real public transportation. That works!
What don’t you hear? No car horns or alarms, or at least very rare ones. No gunfire in the middle of the night. No crazed, mistreated guard dogs barking at anything that moves, or at people that are the wrong color.
No post is perfect, and everywhere presents some difficulties. But today, sitting my balcony, listening to church bells and enjoying the breeze, I have been thinking about the difference between difficulties and hardships.
The fact that I can’t figure out how to use my EZ-Bake European oven with its mysterious hieroglyphics is a difficulty. But, not having any electricity for several hours every day would be a hardship. (Ask me how I know this!)
Not being entirely sure what I am buying at the grocery store or how to cook it is a difficulty. Having to wash every blinkin’ thing in bleach, and still getting sick a couple of times a month is a hardship.
Not understanding what people say to me out on the street is a difficulty. Always having to worry about being robbed, raped or killed on the street is a hardship.
And so, while the current system of requiring service in hardship posts has its flaws (and is a pain in the patootie if you just happened to do multiple hardship posts early on and for bidding purposes are considered to be in the same league with people who have never served in one) the principle is fair. This is simply not the same Foreign Service as a hardship post at all. Heck, it’s almost like it’s not the same planet.
Difficulties versus hardships: it’s important to make that distinction. That’s my thought for the day. Now off to hike through some vineyards–with no armed guards tagging along!