Friday, February 22, 2013


I went through a brief paleontology/archeology phase in middle school. I read Jurassic Park and was inspired by the the thought of bringing history to life, literally or otherwise. Then my parents, always eager to indulge my academic interests, took me to an archeological field school to help excavate the remains of a 19th-century plantation and sugar mill. There I learned that in practice archeology involves fewer amazing discoveries and a lot more squatting on the ground under the beating sun removing dirt layer by layer with a toothbrush and finding nothing much. That was the end of that career plan.

I was reminded of this today as I took advantage of a slow Friday to clean out my office. The shelves and drawers were full of junk when I moved in. Our embassy building is pretty new, built in 2006, but years of successive vice consuls in quick rotation have built up an impressive amount of stuff.  As I prefer to work digitally as much as possible I wasn't short on space, so I just left it there. Today, however, I dug in, and I dug deep.

My excavation turned up a lot of the expected detritus of bureaucratic life: ancient business cards, assorted receipts and boarding passes, user manuals for software no one uses anymore, notes from meetings long forgotten. However, I also made a number of more surprising discoveries. Here's a sample:
Lost Treasures of the Consular Section
  • 10" frying pan, dented
  • Instant Immersion Arabic 8 CD set
  • Doxycycline, 4 years expired
  • Box of Halloween Peeps - not expired!
  • Journey Without Maps by Graham Greene, Penguin paperback edition 
  • Fodor's Flashmaps New York
  • Marine Ball shot glass 
  • 1/8 ounce bottle Tabasco
  • 3'x5' U.S. flag
  • 3 pairs Christmas earrings
  • 2 photos of an unidentified Caucasian male eating lobster
  • Hermes orange scented deodorant, used
  • Assorted "fun size" candies, viability unknown 
  • Chicken Riot for Wii and pistol accessory, new in box [unearthed 2/28]
Without the benefit of obvious geological layers it's tough to properly date these artifacts, but there are clues. The Tabasco probably came out of an MRE during the last evacuation, which would date it from the Third Vice Consular Era. That office hasn't had many female occupants, so the earrings are probably from VCE 4. The shot glass is from the Marine Ball before last, clearly VCE 5.  But alas, the origins of most of these items will remain shrouded in mystery. Their destination is more obvious; with a few exceptions, all of these unique historical artifacts will shortly find themselves in the giant trash bin outside my office. A tragedy for the nascent field of bureaucratic archeology? Perhaps, but certainly a big win for office management.


  1. Hi Meredith!
    Thanks for the great blog on life in the FS. We've nominated you for a Liebster Award! Check out our latest post -

    1. Thanks for the mention! I shall strive to be worthy of the honor.