A few weeks ago, I went on a work-related trip to Melbourne, Australia’s second most populous city. Nearly thirteen years had elapsed since my prior visit, but it was evident that Melbourne still has a spirit all its own – it is definitely not Sydney, or Brisbane, or Adelaide, or Perth. Melbourne is one of Australia’s most diverse cities; often called Australia’s “cultural capital,” one-third of Melbourne’s 4.9 million residents were born overseas. Visiting the melting pot that is Melbourne to attend the Strong Cities Network conference on preventing violent extremism, amidst this year’s confluence of global politics, the threat of terrorism, and the halfway point of my tour as a political officer in Canberra, made me reflect on the immigrant experience in Australia and Melbourne’s successes in social cohesion.
Earlier in April, I went on TDY (temporary duty) from U.S. Embassy Canberra to U.S. Consulate Sydney to cover a short staffing gap. Although I was only in Sydney for a week and a half, it was a fantastic opportunity to help out the mission while learning how to do a different job. And of course, I was able to spend time in one of my most beloved former home cities – and visit old haunts, old friends, and even my postgraduate alma mater, Macquarie University. It was rewarding, it was fun, and it was even a little bittersweet.
November has been a surreal and packed month, and as it winds down, I’m reflecting on some of its twists and turns.
During the first week of October, I was fortunate enough to travel to Hyderabad, India to attend a work-related conference. The conference was hosted by U.S. Consulate Hyderabad and our regional South and Central Asia bureau, and specifically targeted at first and second tour (FAST) officers, meaning new diplomats on their first or second overseas tour. I went with one of my Embassy Tashkent colleagues, K, and as we flew over Iranian air space between Tashkent and Dubai, I thought how nice it always is to change the scenery.