This won’t be a shock to you, diplomats have to keep secrets. By extension, their wives have to do too (or they are supposed to). They are dealing with a lot of info that mustn’t be revealed to the wrong person. Yes, even a small country like Belgium has intel. From the real diplomatic files to the place where this guy meets for lunch with another diplomat. We’ve been taught that everything could be used as valuable information, so we have to be extremely cautious.
But if you know me, you already know this; I’m terrible at keeping secrets. I mean, I could keep a secret pretty easily IF I could share it with some good friends… which basically isn’t keeping a secret, I think. I’m too honest, naïve some may say. I should make sure my brain Is running before I put my mouth in gear.
So, my husband has been coaching me for two years. It worked so well… I really got better at keeping secrets, hiding stuff, … then I decided to open a blog and an open Instagram account and be quite transparent about this life. To his great despair.
I thought, because I wasn’t using my real name, that this blog thing would stay hidden forever. My husband told me from the beginning “Everybody will know in about two months”. I laughed; he has always been a little dramatic. Literally one month after opening this blog, I got an email from my Ministry of foreign affairs of my home country about it… How did they know? I still have no idea. But I’m lucky, they liked it and wanted me to write an article for their newspaper. So, we’re good. For now. (Hello to them reading these lines btw).
There is no real problem to have this blog, I think, because I never talk about politics here or on Instagram. I’m free to say where we are, mention some meetings and receptions. Probably because we’re in a safe posting. I wouldn’t do it in a posting where you risk being attacked or mugged if your location is out in the open. I remember meeting this Latin-American woman at a diplo night (I can’t tell you which country exactly and I can’t tell you which party either). She told me (after probably one too many wines) “In my country, honey, you would have been raped or killed.” Delightful women.
Although I recently read a book resulting from a blog held by an ambassador’s wife posted in Pakistan. It is possible to do it, even in high risk postings. Let’s be clear for the Ministry people reading me: I’m NOT saying this as a wish for our next posting. But dealing with this border of sharing information is very interesting wherever you are posted. Share enough to tell a true interesting story, but don’t share the full picture with names, locations and what was behind those meetings. This creates a distortion of the reality. We can’t always tell our friends and families what we are living. First, they probably wouldn’t understand it (they don’t know half the system here or the things going on), and second they might worry for nothing. That’s why I try to write the stories I can and to write them with as much as I can without stepping on some long or short feet. Except for this diplomat who called me pregnant…
Us, diplomatic spouses, we are no spy or anything like this, but our husbands have hands on some info they sometimes cannot or prefer not to share with us. I mean, it’s his job, I don’t need to know everything, and I don’t want to. I don’t see him that much, he is working like crazy, so when we are together, we are not talking about work all the time! But from time to time diplomats talk at a diner, some national day reception, a meeting at home, whilst the diplo partners are there. In our diplo wives club, we know there are some grey zones about what we can share to each other about our husband’s job, so we try to stick to the basics and avoid getting into too much details and that’s it. Some trips, some meetings, better left untold. There’s too much “non-work” things to talk about anyway! (Yes, you know me, also some gossiping.)
But this is often what people fantasize about. “They are diplo’s, they know things and people.” For the Game of thrones fans only, if there are any left after that last season, I should probably say: “That’s what I do, I drink and I know things”, people think diplo’s are some kind of Tyrion Lannister, yes. Some people will even befriend you ONLY for that. I learned it the hard way. Now, I’m more cautious. I never tell what my husband is doing for a living unless I’m really asked. The problem is the diplomatic license plate. With these, you can’t really hide. Your neighbors know what you do and so does everyone at school pick up. Talking to new people from time to time I wonder why they tell me this and that. Some days I might even be a bit paranoid. We’re Belgium after all, we tend to be quite ok and on friendly terms with everyone… most of the time. And in any case, it’s fine, we live in a decade where everybody has a mental problem, some strange disorder, allergy or intolerance and kind of “brags” about it. I probably have several, I’m kind of a collector.
However, in this job, you have to GET information too. From time to time well hidden, from time to time hiding in plain sight or in need of a more profound look. Not only you have to keep some of your secrets, but you have to get theirs! The diplomats do it every day (the “share and you shall receive game”, but what do you share?), but us, the wives, we have our role too! And this is where I found myself quite good at. They are mainly working in this country. We are actually living in this country. Talking to parents at school, having a lunch or coffee with other diplo partners or, what afterwards, appears to be the partner of a CEO of some big company. People in general trust me with some of their experiences, worries or secrets and I end up being full of information on this country. I don’t really know why people trust me quite quickly. Probably because of my honesty. Or because I talk a lot. Or because I look so young and naïve (to not say stupid or drunk). Either way, it’s ok with me and trust is a two-way street. I have the time to create a huge network (I’m “only” a mom of 2). I meet new faces every day, and I have to quickly identify which ones I have to be careful with, which ones I actually like, or have to at least be on good terms with for the network or might come to trust and care about. I’m very social and it helps for sure but It’s a new job for me and I have to adapt to it. Best way to do it is to practice! So, if you wish to share a secret with me, go ahead and I’ll do my best to keep it!