THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Pollution can lead to serious health issues,
and dealing with that can be a bureaucratic nightmare.
BY DEBORAH LYNN
Deborah Lynn, a Foreign Service officer since 1998,
served as cultural affairs officer in Jakarta from 2014 to
2016. She previously served in Frankfurt, Kyiv, Tbilisi,
Moscow, Afghanistan and the Bureau of Population,
Refugees and Migration, and she was seconded to NATO’s Interna-
tional Staff. She currently serves as deputy director for the Africa Team
at State's Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization. The views expressed
are hers alone and not necessarily those of the U.S. government.
hen I received word that
my bid to be cultural
affairs officer in Jakarta
had been accepted,
I was thrilled!
I looked forward to
finding a great school
for my son and daugh-
ter, doing interesting
work in an important, Muslim-majority country, and exploring a
country and region where I’d never served. To be sure,
I understood the drawbacks to living in a megacity; the risk of
contracting dengue, typhoid and other tropical diseases; and the
horrendous traffic in Indonesia’s capital. But I was ready to take
those challenges in stride.
Indonesia, indeed, proved to be a fascinating place to live,
work and travel—until nine months into my tour, when I came
down with pneumonia.
Prior to arriving at post in 2014, I had prided myself on being
physically active. I frequently participated in races ranging from
10 milers to marathons, and hoped to do the same in Jakarta.
My work schedule made that more difficult, but I fit in runs
whenever I could—at the school track while my son was at
evening Boy Scout meetings or around my neighborhood on
In early June 2015, I felt myself fighting the hacking cough
and upper respiratory issues that seemed to be making the
BREATHLESS IN JAKARTA
A CAUTIONARY TALE