I’ve been ravenously devouring a brilliant book on time management for writers by Hillary Rettig and since I’m only half way through the book, I can safely employ her tools against myself. She writes a lot about procrastination and perfectionism in the first half of the book. This really spoke to me, especially because of my tendency towards overworking as a mechanism to avoid possible failure in my writing and also as an escape mechanism for having to be socially committed to obligations and interactions I’m not really interested in any way. (I’m an introvert, damn it!)
But, now I’m on to the part about time management, which she tackles in a very pragmatic way. Oh, how she made my heart sing when she spoke about how writing terse, direct and/or logistically actionable emails is part & parcel of being a good time manager. You have to know that this runs counter to what my more “old school” colleagues would like, which is typically an email that reads like a friendly phone call. And often, getting an answer they don’t like wrapped in more than 50 extra words of fluff and flower petals goes down easier than the straightforward adult response of “No.”
Any who, one of the techniques Rettig advises is establishing FAQs and templates. And, get this, she advises using the “signatures” tool in your email to preset template responses. How effing brilliant is that?! Well, first things first. I know that I should create FAQs at work in a variety of areas (I will start promptly on Monday morning!) and FAQs for multiple facets of my personal life, so I hope you’ll bear with me as I try to tackle the latter here. This is totally self-indulgent free writing, like most of what’s found on this blog, so if this isn’t your shtick, now would be a good to click elsewhere.
- Where do you live? – Maputo, Mozambique
- How do you like it there? – I like it. It’s grown on me. Maputo is a small town that’s been growing very rapidly since the 1980s and there’s still a small town feel to much of what happens here. I can’t deny that I’m easily bored, so it’s been a struggle to find my balance here. But, being here has made me slow down and focus a lot more than ever before. Speaking Portuguese makes this a much easier place to live than it would be for foreigners who don’t speak it.
- How many languages do you speak? – I speak English natively, Portuguese fluently and Spanish relatively well. I also speak basic Hindi. The latter 2 are pretty rusty since I haven’t spoken them in a while.
- How many countries have you lived in? – I would say 4: the US, India, Mozambique and Spain.
- How old were you when you got a passport? – 15
- How many countries have you traveled to? – Angola, Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Cape Verde, France, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Greece, India, Jamaica, Morocco, Mozambique, Netherlands, Nepal, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, South Africa, Suriname, Swaziland, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
- Where was your favorite place to visit? – I don’t have a favorite.
- Are there any places you don’t want to travel? – I’m not particularly interested in Eastern Europe, Israel, or Western Sahara, so I wouldn’t go out of my way to get to these places, but if a free or convenient trip was on offer I’d likely be willing to go.
- Are there any places you regret going? – No.
- Where would you like to go that you haven’t yet gone? – Bhutan, Mexico, Sao Tome & Principe, Ethiopia and Italy.
- What’s there to do there? – Mainly beaches and seafood. For more details, please refer to google.com, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Club of Mozambique, and CNN Traveller.
- Where could I stay in Maputo? – Good places to stay in Maputo are the Southern Sun, Radisson, Cardoso and/or Polana hotels.
- What about the beaches? – Within about 3 hrs driving distance you can reach beaches in Bilene, Inhaca, Macaneta and throughout the coast. Some can be reached by boat from Maputo port. If you have more time, Vilanculos, Bazaruto, and Mozambique islands are must-sees, I’m told.
- What do most people do for fun there? – Moz is best for people who like the outdoors, so that’s something to be mindful of. Maputo is not a big city, but there do tend to be nice parties at places like 1908, Coconuts, News Cafe and Silk. There’s usually no guest list or pomp and circumstance about getting in, just show up and pay the cover.
- How could I get around without a car? – As for transportation, cabs are available and they are easy to navigate if you speak Portuguese. There is no public transportation system. Locals use ‘chapas’ which are similar to dollar vans in NYC or ‘choupelas’ which are Indian tuk tuks.You can also rent a car at the airport. It is common for cops to stop you randomly and ask for pocket change, “refresco” (literally: ” a drink”, implication: you give them pocket change to buy a drink) if you’re self driving, so just be prepared for that.
- Do I need a visa to visit? – Pretty much everyone does, except citizens of the following countries: Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Swaziland, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe as they do not require an entry visa, when traveling to Mozambique for Tourism. If applying from the U.S., expect 4 weeks.
- Is it safe? – Yes, if you’re smart. It’s best to avoid night driving outside of Maputo and common sense goes a long way.
- Do I have to get shots? – No, you don’t have to, but it is recommended that you get all of your immunization boosters if you haven’t had them in a while. Typhoid, diphtheria, etc. Mozambique isn’t a yellow fever country, but if you’ve traveled to a yellow fever country in the past, they may ask you for your yellow fever card at the Mozambique border. Yes, you should take anti malarial medication and sleep under bed nets. And, if you plan to camp or do a safari where you expect to interact with wild animals, the series of rabies vaccine couldn’t hurt.
- How long do I need to visit? – If you plan to stay in and around Maputo, rent a car and self-drive, I’d say 5-7 days. If you plan to see more of the country and expect to fly to get there, I’d say at least 2 weeks.
- Can I stay at your house? – Maybe. Booking at least 1 month in advance is appreciated 😉
- What do you do exactly? – My day job is in international affairs, primarily management & operations. And I’m studying to get my Phd in Migration studies.
- What did you study? – For undergrad, Spanish & Latin American lit and African diaspora studies. For grad school, International Affairs w/ a concentration in Latin America and Social Policy: Race & Ethnicity. After that, I’ve studied culture, diaspora and migration.
- Did you know you wanted to go into international affairs right after school? – I definitely didn’t plan my career in any way. I feel like it chose me very early on and I haven’t found anything more interesting or stable to entice me away. I like living abroad and I like the challenges and variety that it presents. But, there are many careers that could be defined as international affairs or even development. I didn’t choose my career knowing all of these differences, but I think it’s been a good fit for me. Much of an international career isn’t about what you do for work, but the kinds of creature comforts or social/emotional support you’ll need to be your best at work.
- Is there any other career you could see for yourself? – A writer.
- What has been your biggest career challenge? – Trying to be adaptable and still being true to me – and not letting people walk all over me. Oh, and dealing with passive aggressive people. Oh, and supervising people.
- Are you afraid that your career makes you miss out on other things in life? – Afraid, no. But, I’m very conscious of the day-to-day events and happenings I miss while being away from my family & friends. I’m also thankful for the day to day spats and confrontations I also avoid by being away. Much like a long distance relationship, a career abroad has a lot of draw backs, but a lot of benefits too. When I’m home, I’m really there – there’s very little worry about the job or having emails interrupt my family time. I try to make up for my absence by being thoughtful, sending gifts, staying connected via email, etc. And one perk is that I have the opportunity to expose my family and friends to a part of the world many would have never visited otherwise. I appreciate that role and take it very seriously. I also respect the fact that many of my friendships are situational. I don’t take it personally or feel pressured by this anymore, but it used to get to me when I first started working.
- Will you change careers when you have kids? – No, not unless a member of my household develops health, learning or emotional impediments that would force us to stop traveling as a family.
- Have you found a mentor? – Yes and no. I think mentors, like friendships, can be useful in phases. I have a mentor who has been a great sounding board for the last 6 years, but she’s now retired and isn’t as in touch with the daily realities of the office. I’d say we’re more friends that anything else now. At this time, I have secret professional crushes and most of the people I’m crushing on don’t know that I’m watching. I have found many people NOT to mimic though and that’s been a hugely important tool in my arsenal of professional development.
- What do you think is the key to success? – I think many people would disagree with me, but I’d say being ruthlessly honest when it matters. In my field, being diplomatic is important. But I find that people play it so safe sometimes that they have no identity, they appear to be unable to make decisions, and they allow conflict to fester when being open about their thoughts and decisive could go a long way for uniting their team. So, I think it’s important to be introspective, taking the time to formulate ideas that you can stand behind, and being unafraid to say those things to people around you. Even if you look silly or they correct your misunderstanding of events, I think you’ve gained from that exposure. And, especially when people are talking crazy, it’s important to be clear that you want off the crazy train.
- If you could emulate any professional who would it be? Who do you admire most? – I haven’t thought this one all the way through, but I’ve worked with and have a lot of respect for Vali Nasr and think I could really thrive in a career trajectory similar to his.
- What do you do for fun? – At this stage in my life, this is a trick question that often makes me feel guilty about my answers. Honestly, I work on my Phd, read, and look for real estate investments, mostly. I do a lot of other social and familial things, but I wouldn’t call them fun. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t, but if the question is about stuff I do just for me, just b/c I like it… yea… those three.
- Why don’t you hang out as much as you used to? (and its variations: Why aren’t you so fun anymore? Why don’t you act a fool like you used to? etc. etc.) – Uhhh, on top of the fact that I think growing up is a huge part of life, I don’t find all the same things I used to do much fun anymore. Some things are fun, not because of the activity but because of your mind frame at the time or the friend group you had then. I don’t try to recreate past events, just because they were fun at one time in my life. Also, I’ve become much more selfish about the ways I use my time. If something is going to be draining, then I weigh the fun against the recovery time. And if I know that I genuinely won’t have fun, but just act as an accessory in the fun of others, I’m highly likely to bow out.
- What’s it like being married? – It’s a fun struggle. We laugh every day and we fight just about every other day. Our laughs have gotten longer and our fights have gotten WAY shorter, and so I think we’re doing something right. I still struggle with sharing space & delegating, we struggle with communication and verbalizing the need for support. But, we succeed in lots of things like planning together, being emotionally available, traveling together, being reliable, forgiveness, non-judgment, acting super silly and being vulnerable. It’s been a lovely, love-filled journey.
- How many kids do you want? – 5, adoptions welcome.
- What do you watch on tv? – I don’t watch much TV, but I watch the most mind numbing crap I can find, which means lots of cop and criminal investigation shows and things otherwise defined as ratchet, any kind of housewives shows or reality tv is a plus. When I’m actually trying to be dignified, I’ll watch HGTV. I rarely watch the news, (b/c who watches that stuff anymore without wanting to give up on the world… and I read the news online) unless it’s local news or the BBC.
- If you won the lottery today what would you do? – Buy a lot of property and start developing & designing. Gut my mom’s house and redesign it. Travel more. Fly some friends and family here for a visit. Strong arm my husband into getting an MBA. Finish out my contract here with a little more pep. Finish my PhD so much faster than ever before (b/c I’d get the research assistants and the books and the equipment that would make it happen faster). Publish this bad boy. Then go to a place where there are sidewalks, potable tap water, and there are Michelin restaurants in abundance. I’d eat and write, with equal fervor. I wouldn’t quit my job, but I’d be much more demanding about where I would accept to go next. And I’d start adopting and giving more to charities while I still had money.
- Is there any place you could see yourself living forever? – No. But, the closest thing to it is NYC.
- If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? – Just one? Eek. Self-deprecating behaviors. I do a lot of feeling guilty about doing what I want, but then I still do it anyway. I wish I could stop feeling negative about these choices, feel less guilty and feel & act more empowered.
- Where do you see yourself in the next ten years? – I hate this question and I refuse to answer it.
- If you could meet anyone, dead or alive, who would it be? – Amilcar Cabral and/or my maternal great-grandfather, Polly.