Yes, that Mediterranean city you may or may not have heard of that is located in the North African country of Algeria. That is where we will be living from 2019-2021.
I’m not super stoked, but I’m not dreading it or anything. Literally every one of our friends and colleagues here in Jerusalem thinks it’s a great post: On the water, perfect Mediterranean climate, a beautiful mix French and Arab architecture and food, they all say. A quick plane ride to both Spain and France. I’ll finally learn French. It’s not a small city, which is good as I’m a city girl: Algiers is home to three-and-a-half million people. It’s not overtly religious, which will be refreshing after living in the most overtly religious place on the planet. And Mom and Dad, it doesn’t seem to have a huge terrorism problem, so this isn’t like, say, going to Yemen.
It’s fine. I bet I’ll like it. Maybe I’ll even love it. I’m just in the coming to grips phase is all as I had my heart set on going to another Spanish speaking country, preferably in South America.
The “bidding cycle” in the Foreign Service is an emotional thing with many highs and lows. First, you see this list of dozens cities – all potential posts – and envision yourself living in one of them. My spirit animal Paris: Oh yes please, I’d live my best life there in a heartbeat, blogging about the flakiest croissants and basically living in Shakespeare and Company Book store. Santiago: I’d read all of Isabel Allende’s books to prepare and become fluent in Spanish while drinking wines from Chile and nearby Argentina. New Delhi: I’d perfect my saag paneer recipes and pop in an out of spice shops via a tuk-tuk and recover all my furniture in hot pink and saffron.
Then one by one all the places we were most excited about fell away, likely because someone else got the job. Which I should have expected. Throwback to the time I blogged about eight specific cities, one of which I was just sure would be our new home. The hour I spent researching Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea is time I will never get back. Spoiler: We didn’t get any and went to Jerusalem instead.
In this bidding cycle, competition for overseas jobs was fierce and there were dozens of Foreign Service Officers “applying” for each job. I’d wage a guess it’s because many of them aren’t eager to do a Washington DC post. (Foreign Service Officers do Washington-based jobs every few posts, in general. We haven’t yet and don’t plan to for a while).
But back to Algiers: The city used to be a popular tourist destination, with well-heeled Victorian Era Brits chasing its supposedly luminous light and great beaches. In fact, by the early 20th Century, the city of Algiers was home to more Europeans than Africans. But then there was a horribly violent war to regain control of the country from the French (which ended in 1962) and then a civil war in the 1990s, then Islamists terror attacks in the early 2000s. The U.S. Department of State advises against travel to remote areas of Algiers because of the threat of insurgents and kidnapping, but the city of Algiers, by the accounts I’ve heard, is safe, in part because it’s very heavily policed. With that also comes a “police state mentality.” The government controls all press; there isn’t freedom of religion for non-Muslims; there isn’t freedom to criticize the government or military; men can divorce their wife for any reason but women must have just cause or else forfeit any financial claims.
On the brighter side: Algeria has some literature and art caché: It was an inspiration for the French-Swiss designer Le Corbusier; home to French writer/philosopher Albert Camus; and when Algeria was run by pirates and more or less free from Ottoman rule, the Spanish writer Miguel Cervantes was held for ransom for five whole years there (this was before he wrote Don Quixote).
So, while we were eager to try a new region of the world, looks like we’re staying the Middle East/North Africa region for a while. But in a less tense city on a different continent, one on which I’ve never step foot. Jerusalem has been a frenetic post with lots of work and high-level government people in and out for Mr. Em in Jerusalem, so he’s especially looking forward to a year of language training before we get to Algiers. (We’re not sure yet if this will be learning French in Washington DC or learning Arabic in Morocco).
So there you go, sounds like an interesting place, right? Maybe a good place for a vacation? (Or, come visit Jerusalem – we’re still here until at least summer 2018).
To our next adventure,
Em in Jerusalem