Page 30 - Foreign Service Journal - April 2012

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F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / A P R I L 2 0 1 2
and managers.
True, there were also some challenges along the way.
Working with the Mozambican Ministry of Health and its
branches was tricky, demanding around-the-clock diplo-
macy, particularly when it came to suggesting better ways
for the ministry to conduct certain operations.
During my final year there, the ministry appeared to be-
lieve that expatriates were “stealing” highly qualified jobs
from Mozambicans. As a result, I saw several colleagues
and partners lose both their jobs and their work visas, ef-
fectively forcing them to return home. But while I had to
request and renew special work authorizations from the
Ministry of Labor, I was able to remain working through-
out the period.
Despite the hurdles, I enjoyed the experience so much
that when my husband completed his tour and had to re-
turn toWashington for his next assignment, we agreed that
I would stay behind to finish my commitment to the con-
tractor. (I had started a national staff training program, and
needed to see it through.)
Was it difficult to be separated for almost an entire year,
with two little children? Absolutely. But it was also well
worth the sacrifices we all made. The experience gave me
a sense of confidence, responsibility and self-respect. And
I believe it can be an example for other eligible family
members seeking overseas job opportunities, whether
within or outside the U.S. mission. One can do anything
with the proper guidance and support.
Back in Brazil
My husband, Leonel, has been a political-economic of-
ficer at the U.S. consulate in Recife since 2010. Although
it’s a small (but fast-growing!) post, there have always been
opportunities for EFMs to work, whether in the consulate
or within the local economy.
Still, getting back into the work force wasn’t easy. Our
family arrived in Brazil two years ago, with two toddlers and
a baby on the way. Just a few months after our youngest
child was born, I began working full time as a math and sci-
ence teacher at the American School of Recife. In coordi-
nation with the school principal, I’ve also launched an
experimental program to expose elementary school chil-
dren to science.
Another successful program I have worked with, hosted
by the Northeastern Technology Center (CETENE), is
called “Future Scientists.” Intended to tailor female high
school students to pursue careers in science, the program
has the support of Brazil’s national government and U.S.
Consulate Recife.
The original idea for this project came from the Brazil-
ian government’s interest in finding innovative ways to en-
courage young women to pursue careers in science and
technology. I see my role as sharing experiences as a fe-
male scientist working, researching and teaching in Brazil,
and discussing the challenges I’ve encountered and ways
to overcome them.
As an Eligible Family Member, a mom and a scientist,
I am frequently invited to share my thoughts on work-life
balance with program participants. These young Brazilian
professionals want to know if it’s possible to live and work
overseas, pursuing and keeping a professional career, de-
spite frequent moves. My answer? “Absolutely! It may
not be easy, but it’s definitely possible.”
We Foreign Service family members all have a special
responsibility to share success stories about being locally
employed overseas. In that spirit, I hope my own experi-
ences will help inspire other EFMs out there. That would
be a great reward.