Page 61 - Foreign Service Journal - May 2013

This is a SEO version of Foreign Service Journal - May 2013. Click here to view full version

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »
MAY 2013
Remembering Carolina
Sitting at her memorial
service, surrounded by her
friends and family rocked
with grief, I could not get
one thought out of my mind:
there’s more to the story of
the life of Carolina Handall
Sanchez-Bustamante, and
what we can learn from her
Carolina was impossible
to forget, and those who
memorialized her were too
polite to say what was obvi-
ous to anyone who met her—
she was stunning. Willow-
thin, 5’9’’, honey-blond long
hair, chocolate brown eyes
and an Anne Hathaway-sized
smile. Yet for someone so
physically striking, she was
totally unassuming.
She was also exceedingly
generous. A day after arriving
in Quito, she called me, while
I was surrounded by suit-
cases and toddlers bouncing
of the walls. “I’m Carolina
Sanchez-Bustamante, and I
just wanted to welcome you
to Quito!”
With her high-pitched,
melodic voice, she provided
helpful tips for fnding child-
care and housing and work-
ing outside of the embassy.
She made sure I had all of her
phone numbers and ofered
her assistance, day or night.
In my many overseas tours, I
had never received a similar
Carolina was always
thoughtful. Two years later,
before she left Quito for her
next adventure, she made
the time—in between doting
on her two girls, attending
going-away parties, pack-
ing her house, undergoing
hernia surgery and preparing
for a new life in Africa—to
call her friends to tell them
how much their friendship
meant to her. I was one of the
lucky few on the receiving
end of that phone call, and
I will always remember the
uniqueness of the experi-
She was always positive
about her role as a Foreign
Service spouse, and never
complained publicly about
the constant moves, the job
search in each country or the
new schools for her children.
She wasn’t naïve; she just
didn’t have the inclination to
complain about things she
couldn’t change. Her positive
attitude was contagious, and
I often resolved after our con-
versations to be a better wife,
mother and FS spouse. When
I once complained to her how
my father still corrected my
Spanish, she responded, “I
love it when people correct
my English! Will you promise
to correct me when you hear
me make a mistake?”
During their tours in
El Salvador, Ecuador and
Ghana, Carolina accompa-
nied her husband to hun-
dreds of ofcial events where
she worked the room, met
the important players and
connected with people. She
didn’t see participating as a
burden imposed on her by
virtue of her being a spouse
of an embassy ofcial, but
rather, as an opportunity. She
understood that she could
play an important role in rep-
resenting the United States
just by being herself, and
showing others that America
had many talents and many
In her fnal month to
live, although private with
her illness, she maintained
her graciousness. She sent
out dozens of supportive,
life-afrming messages to
her friends: “Have a great
birthday!” “Beautiful work,
congratulations my dear
It is so easy to get caught
up in life and lose focus of
the things that truly mat-
ter. Carolina taught me that
the Foreign Service is about
people. The ones who serve
in it, their family members
who share the experience,
the ones we try to help, the
ones who leave us far too
early. I suspect we would
have a happier and more
productive Sewrvice if we all
kept that approach in mind,
and took the time to prac-
tice it the next time a new
family arrives, a new policy is
developed or a leave request
crosses our desks. We lose
nothing by trying. And we
honor Carolina Handall
Sanchez-Bustamante each
time we do.
Amanda Fernandez is a
Foreign Service spouse and
economic development con-
sultant based in Washington,
D.C. She has served overseas
in Angola, Argentina, Bosnia-
Herzegovina, Colombia, the
Dominican Republic, Ecuador
and Ghana.
Support the New U.S. Diplomacy
Center and Museum
The new U.S. Diplomacy Center and Museum will
showcase the history and importance of diplomacy
and development. A groundbreaking at the 21st
Street NW side of the Department of State will take
place this summer. AFSA strongly supports this
project and is coordinating a donation campaign.
We invite every member of the Foreign Service to
show support by making a secure, modest contribu-
tion at
. To learn more about the
USDC, please visit