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The Two Meetings

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By bsmonroe, on June 24, 2010

Last week I had the privilege of sitting in on two meetings.  The first meeting was with former Iowa Senator Roger Jepsen and his colleague. The objective of this meeting was to request assistance for a visa applicant who was previously denied.  This encounter provided me a glimpse at what assumptions people have about the visa process, Consular work, and, in the case of the Senator, ones self importance.  I don’t want to sound harsh.  The Senator was very pleasant, but the presumption that former political service to the country would curry favor with the Consulate was misplaced.  There is a visa process. It exists to eliminate (as much as possible) the threat of subjectivity/corruption from the Consular Officer. A threat that would certainly arise because of an applicant’s wealth, status, or relationship(s).

The second meeting was with four U.S. Army Foreign Area Officers (FAO). This meeting was just a briefing of the Political/Economic climate of Northeastern China.  It was very interesting to observe the differences in the Civilian Foreign Service Officers (FSO) and the Military FAOs. As with any and all nations, China is enormously complex. From topics as disparate as the China/North Korea relationship to the economic development of QiQihar City, Heilongjiang Province to “Wildcat” (unauthorized) coal mines accidents in Jilin Province a FSO is tasked with having a solid understanding of them all.  The FAOs are afforded the luxury of  being more singularly focused on China as a threat and thus have only  a cursory understanding of  the above topics. They seemed to lack the comprehensive view of Chinese culture and politics.   This is only my observation from that one meeting. (However, it also a criticism/argument that permeates this article on Military Intelligence gathering in Afghanistan)

Those two meetings were the highlight of my work week.  I  hope to have more interesting topics next week.

*The views expressed on this blog posting are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer.

Tags: FAO, Roger Jepsen, visa process | Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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2 Responses to “The Two Meetings”

  1. Emily Portner

    Barron, this is so cool. It seems as though you are having an incredibly unique experience and one that you will not soon forget. Something even more cool, are all of these meetings in Mandarin (except for the Senator, of course)? Just wondering how much you are getting to use your language skills.


    • Barron Monroe

      Emily, nearly all business conducted in the Consulate is done in English. My research project however, has helped my reading ability a great deal. Outside the Consulate there is no shortage of practice opportunities. That is where I do most of my speaking. Speaking has always been my weakest area. It has improved but I find myself still making the same mistakes. My listening ability has also improved because I watch Chinese news and Soap Operas. I don’t understand it all but I get the gist.

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