Representing America is something that every employee at the State Department takes pride in. Our work takes us to all four corners of the globe, some that are historically or culturally significant, some awe-inspiring, some hard to get to, and even some that put us in harm’s way. Many of our colleagues overseas keep in touch with their families and friends at home by sharing images of their travels on social networking sites such as Facebook or Instagram. Below are a few photos submitted by our colleagues who work in our Foreign Service and Civil Service that together make up our State Department family. Each photo tells a personal story about our engagement in the world. For more information on joining us, visit careers.state.gov.
"Sakura aftermath": taken outside the Foreign Service Institute's Japanese language training center in Yokohama, where I spend most of my days, this photo depicts some brooms and a dustpan that our beleaguered security guard uses to sweep up the carpet of fallen cherry blossom petals from the tree that overhangs our parking lot. Part of the fascination that Japanese hold for cherry blossoms ("sakura") is not just the beautiful way that they explode into bloom in early spring, but also the poignant way they fall -- like snow, almost -- just a few days later.
Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
While I was posted to the Embassy in Dar es Salaam, a bunch of friends got together for a hike up to the Uhuru Peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The group included someone I hiked a thousand miles of the Appalachian Trail with, a buddy from college and his father, a colleague I served with in Taipei, a Belgian I met in Dar, and a Tanzanian friend. We were exhausted from waking up at midnight to complete the hike, but the sunrise was worth it.
This is taken from the Amman Citadel, looking over the valley to one of Amman's other "seven hills." Many of the villagers whose homes line the valley walls race pigeons from their roofs. This was just a lucky shot of a formation of these birds flying over the valley. There's a lot in this photo that's reflective of Jordan: the juxtaposition of the ancient citadel with modern Amman, the constrained freedom of the flying birds, the diversity of the birds flying in a single formation. Amman was my first post, and this is my favorite photo from my time there.
This Veteran's Day ceremony honoring those who served in the Philippines from WWII to present day was a very moving experience. The Ambassador was giving remarks at the ceremony and several officers from the Embassy went along to help the elderly participants. The American Cemetery in Manila contains 17,201 graves -- the largest number of our military dead from World War II, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been in the Philippines since 1922 -- the only VA office located overseas. Both these facts are a testament to our strong partnership with the Philippines, strengthened by the many Filipinos and Filipino-Americans who are proudly serving in the U.S. Navy today.
My wife and I took a few days of annual leave and traveled to Bruges, Belgium over a long weekend in April 2013. Bruges, located on far western side of Belgium is often called the Venice of the North due to the numerous canals throughout the tiny city. This ancient city escaped destruction during WWI and WWII and today is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000. I captured this shot at sunset, after the wind died down. I really love the sharp contrast between the dark sky and bridge with the sunlit side of the houses and their reflection. Add in some distant church bells and a faint scent of chocolate and waffles and you will know what it was like to be there.
I accompanied U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, his daughter Maddie, and the rest of his family to the Forbidden City in Beijing one hot summer day and I thought it would be cool to post this photo on Instagram and Chinese social media. This photo was an immediate hit because the Chinese were fascinated to see that Ambassador Locke never travels with a security detail, unlike high ranking Chinese officials.
During a trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota to meet with the Somali diaspora community, I stumbled upon a beautiful mural which displays flags of some of the countries represented in the diverse community. People from around the world have settled in Minneapolis over the years and call the city their home.
This photo was taken on the drive up the mountain on Route 52 to Salinas Grandes. Salinas Grandes, a massive salt desert covering around 3,200 square miles, is located in Salta and Jujuy provinces in northwest Argentina. The area was once a lake, but has dried up, leaving all the salt concentrated in this area. Today, it's an area for mining salt. The culinary specialty in this region is llama, and this is one of a local gaucho's herd that was let out for feeding.
I took this photo during what we called an "online-offline" discussion with Ambassador Sung Kim. We had asked via Embassy Seoul's social media properties what our online fans wanted to ask Ambassador Kim, and we invited those who asked the 10 most interesting questions to meet him in person at his residence. I attended the event with other members of our Information Office. During the in-person discussion, which took place on Ambassador Kim's lawn, my colleague and I spotted a stray cat creeping closer to the group. The cat actually ended up staying there for quite some time! We filmed the whole event, so make sure you catch our 20th Ask the Ambassador video to see the highlights.
I had no idea what Kabul would look like when I got on the plane bound for Afghanistan in February 2012. The first few days in country were very hazy and dusty due to the dry climate and pollution. By the end of my first week, however, the dust settled and I was stunned to see these mountains appear just outside of the city.