Last EFM Still Employed In Embassy Wonders What Section She Will Be Working In Today



BISSAU, GUINEA-BISSAU —  After arriving at the embassy this morning in order to begin her work day, Jennifer Smith-Collier sat timidly on a chair positioned outside of a nearby conference room door.

“This is my new routine,” Ms. Smith-Collier told reporters. “After this daily morning meeting, I will find out what section – or sections – I’ll be working in today. It changes so often there’s no way to even print up a schedule for me in advance.”

Noting that she was the last EFM still employed at the embassy since all other EFMs had rotated out and were not being replaced due to the hiring freeze, Ms. Smith-Collier shared that this new morning routine of hers was out of necessity. “There’s actually a meeting every morning now where the different sections try to iron out who needs me the most and what my schedule will be for that day. For example, yesterday I escorted a crew doing work in the Ambassador’s bathroom, filled in as a temporary secretary at the political section for two hours, and then assisted the consular section with pulling fingerprints from visa applicants for the rest of the day.”

Ms. Smith-Collier, a graduate of Wellesley with an MBA from Wharton, noted that she and her husband are due to depart post for their onward assignment in three weeks. “I feel terrible that we’re going to be leaving soon, since I know that when I leave the embassy will have no other employed EFMs, but I suppose that’s something that cannot be helped,” she said sadly. “I have no idea who will do all of this work once I leave, since the embassy is already seriously short staffed and some direct-hire employees are already facing double, triple, and even quadruple their normal workloads.”

As raised voices filtered out of the nearby conference room within which the meeting regarding her daily schedule was being held, Ms. Smith-Collier bit her lip. “Things can sometimes get a bit heated in there,” she confessed.

Several minutes later, a red-faced Management Officer emerged from the conference room and handed Ms. Smith-Collier a handwritten daily schedule that contained several edits and scratched out blocks. “Stick with what’s written in black pen, please,” he told her. “Blue pen was used for the working copy, and black was used for your final schedule.” Ms. Smith-Collier nodded, smiled, and set out to begin her work day.

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