22 November 2010

Home sweet shipping container

I have had a steady stream of visitors since I’ve been in Prague. To be fair, I haven’t worked many places people were eager to visit, and Prague is the crème de la crème of my locations, so it is understandable that this would be a popular place to visit me.

I anticipated visitors, a bit more spread out perhaps, but I messed that up when I announced that my tour in Prague would be two years rather than three. (I will depart Prague in June of 2011.) That added pressure to tell those who want to visit me and share this beautiful city to “come on.” Luckily, I have a second bedroom in my apartment, so there is a place to house visiting friends.

Housing is an interesting subject in the U.S. Foreign Service. In almost all posts, we are assigned housing based on family size, seniority and job requirements. Some of my colleagues must entertain contacts in their homes, so that may net them a larger place. There are firm rules concerning housing assignments at post and a housing committee ensures that the rules are followed. I have served on those committees several times.

Housing assignments can be disputed and there are often solid reasons why someone should be allowed a housing change. However, my favorite memories of housing disputes are from Afghanistan. At that time, all housing consisted of repurposed metal shipping containers—a single room 7 feet wide by 20 feet long. Each resident had a 3-foot wide bathroom, a metal bunk bed, a student desk with chair and a dorm-sized microwave and refrigerator. The walls were plastic and the floor vinyl. This is what everyone had regardless of rank or position.

Ah, but it was the location that became the disputed issue. People would jockey for housing (called hooches) depending on what location was most important to them. A person might prefer to be closer to the cafeteria or nearer the embassy, while others wanted to be on the back of the property and away from the noise. Personally, I considered myself fortunate to be close to the laundry trailer, especially during inclement weather.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.


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