Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

   –  Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Canyoning Serbia

Canyoning Serbia!
Canyoning Serbia!

Saturday I went on an adventure sponsored by the Belgrade Foreign Visitors Club.  A wonderful organization run by one of my favorite people in Belgrade, Philomena, a lovely and very genuine lady who brings much happiness to the expatriate community in Belgrade through her tireless work organizing cool stuff for us to do and making life a little better for all of us.

This time Philomena out did herself with an excursion to go “Canyoning” in the mountains southwest of Belgrade about an hour and a half west of Valjevo.  I wasn’t sure exactly what “Canyoning” was but it sounded interesting so I signed up for the trip.   My curiosity peaked when I received an email last week asking for my height and weight so I could be fitted for a wetsuit.

I got up at 5:30 Saturday morning and took a taxi to the Sava Centar parking lot where I met a five other Americans and Philomena and we caught the chartered bus at 7:00 for the three-hour drive to the Canyoning site.  Along the way we picked up several more people and had a group of 11 plus our two guides from the “Wild Serbia” tour company.

Serbian countryside
Serbian countryside

After a stop in Valjevo for breakfast (by the way there is a bakery right off the pedestrian street there that makes a great Burek), we left the highway for the long, winding and very picturesque drive through the mountains of west-central Serbia.  Our driver took us as far as he could before the road got really bad, then we loaded our gear into a Lada 4×4 and walked the next mile or so to a small farm near the canyon.  Once we got there we received our gear: A wetsuit, a rappelling harness, a helmet and rope.  The guides decided we’d go in two groups an hour apart.  I was in group two with – coincidentally – all the other Americans.

The hike to our starting point was about mile downhill, during which we picked delicious wild blackberries, plums and pears to eat along the way.  This part of Serbia is quite picturesque with tall mountains and rugged cliffs,varied vegetation and small farms and villages.  We came to a little creek running through a small valley, after walking along the creek a short while we came to the top of a water fall I estimated about 40 feet high.  As it turned out from this point on we would be rappelling down cliffs, through waterfalls, and swimming through deep mountain pools to work our way down about 1,500 feet in altitude to the bottom of a beautiful little canyon.

IMG_9565aThis was cool.  I had rappelled in the past but the mother and her 14 and 15-year-old kids that were with us had not; however the guide was wonderful, his English was very good and his instructions clear, everyone did great and had a great time.  We spent about three hours going through the canyon, hiking, swimming in the cool mountain spring, checking out numerous caves and rappelling down cliffs up to 70 feet high.  It was good times.

The only downside was that after canyoning we had to hike a couple of miles back up the mountain to the farm-house where our hosts had prepared a most excellent traditional Serbian meal with farm fresh food including two types of pork, stuffed peppers, homemade cheese, Kajmak, tomatoes, fresh breads, homemade juices and of course locally made Rakija.  The people here are just so darn genuinely nice.

Home cooked meal
Home cooked meal

As is usual on these trips we stayed longer than planned and it was after midnight when we got back to Belgrade.  Philomena lives close to me so the guides basically dropped us off at our respective doors. What great day!  If someone had tried to tell me when I came to the Balkans (now nearly three years ago) I’d be Canyoning and Scuba diving I wouldn’t have believed it.  Serbia is truly an (mostly) undiscovered gem, a diamond in the rough.  I see things beginning to change here, I hope the change isn’t too fast or dramatic; I like my rough around the edges, gritty city with its graffiti, bad streets, coffee shops, inexpensive restaurants and women that still dress up to go shopping.

A quick word about Wild Serbia

I have been on several trips with these guys now and I recommend them highly.  They always work hard to make sure everyone has a good time, they are friendly and knowledgeable and they plan great trips.  If you are in Belgrade and want to get out-of-town and do something completely different for a day or two these guys can hook you up.  For hiking, canyoning, kayaking, caving and pretty much anything else outdoors they are the go to guys and their prices are reasonable.

**Sadly due to the “wetsuit” warning I left my camera at the farm and don’t have photos of this adventure.  One or two of the others were braver than I and did get some pictures they promised to share.  When I get those I will post a few to this article.

So You Think You Want To Be An International Advisor? (Part V.)

PART V.  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Note:  I this final section I try to answer some questions that people often ask or should ask me that weren’t covered in the earlier sections.

Steve, I understand how you landed a great job overseas but how can an average guy like me ever hope to achieve my dream?

Well that is a great question and the way you phrased it shows great insight and perception.  My advice to anyone wanting to work overseas is to do some real introspection and research before you make the decision. You need to be as sure as you can it is something you really want to do, not just a middle-aged, Walter Mitty fantasy.  There is nothing more embarrassing than spending a long time landing that first job overseas and then “popping smoke” your first month there and going home because you don’t like it, or get homesick.   If this is really something you want to do follow my advice in section III and be persistent.

I’d like to work overseas but I really just want to do it for a couple of weeks at a time then go home for a while, can I do that?

Join the club, you don’t want to work overseas you want a paid vacation.

Everyone wants to get paid a bunch of money to go overseas for a couple of weeks and teach a class and then go home. Those jobs exist, but they are few and far between, and if you aren’t already doing it there is probably a good reason.  If you have some very specialized knowledge or experience, or if you have worked overseas a long time and made a ton of connections (or both), you might land one of these sweet, sweet, jobs. You should, however, plan to pay your dues like everyone else.

Will I have to work in an unpleasant place or can I get a high paid M-F, 8-5 job in London or Paris?

Well, that’s a complicated question there are two parts to my answer:

  1. Sure, there are good paying, great jobs in London, Paris, Berlin, Geneva, etc.  The people working in those jobs are mostly from London, Paris, Berlin, Geneva, etc., or they have degrees from Harvard, Yale, Oxford and a ton of specialized experience in banking, finance, international law, etc.  Nice places that aren’t all screwed up have no problem finding people to work there. Also, if they are nice places the people who live there know how to run them and don’t need assistance; hence they probably don’t need your help.
  2. If you are an Attorney, Cop, or even Judge from “Anytown” USA, and you have no real international experience, but you want to work overseas, you should expect that in order to get hired you will have to go to the places where they need the most people and will hire new, inexperienced people.  These places are inevitably the most screwed up places in the world and hence need the most help.  Thus in order for you to get a high paying job overseas  your first job will probably be somewhere that isn’t a vacation wonderland.  Working in unpleasant locations for a year or two is known as “paying your dues.”  Many people who do this type of work do it for one contract and leave never to return.   Others get used to living in challenging conditions and stay a long time and are fairly happy.  Other people decide they like the work but not the location.  They pay their dues, make their connections, or just get lucky and find jobs in better locations.

If I have bad debts, beat my wife, don’t pay child support, have a criminal record and dual citizenship will I have trouble getting a job overseas?

Short answer:  Yes.

Explanation:  They have to do a background check before you can be sent overseas.  You will have to get something call a “Public Trust Waiver” to work as a contractor for the USG.  If you have problems like those above or there is some reason to question your loyalty to the US you will have trouble getting hired to work overseas.

While I am always surprised at those that somehow slip through the cracks, bad experiences, bad press and litigation have caused companies to look a lot closer at who they are hiring now than they did in the past.

Can I bring my dog/cat/rabbit/pet monkey with me overseas?  If I can’t I don’t think I can go.

A surprising number of people have asked me this question.  If this is a legitimate question to you, you are probably wasting both of our time.  If you would honestly give up a $200,000 a year job because of a cat you’re priorities are probably not what they should be to work overseas and deep down you are not serious about this.

That being said if you lucky enough to get a job where you are responsible for finding your own housing on the local economy there is probably no work related rule saying you can’t bring Fido with you.  It is a huge hassle, very expensive to do and you will have to comply with all the laws pertaining to this in every country you go to or through.  If Pookie, your spoiled rat dog, is your substitute child and you can’t imagine life without her, knock yourself out.  I wouldn’t mention it to your recruiter though.  If you just like animals and want to have pet when you are overseas there will be plenty of opportunities to adopt a stray cat or dog in most of the places you will probably work.

Can I bring my spouse & children with me overseas?

I while I would like to say “see above” a better answer is – well it depends, if you get a job in a war zone or recent war zone it is very, very unlikely.  If you are lucky enough to land a sweet job in Eastern Europe you probably can bring your family with you.  Whether or not you should, or whether it is a good idea and whether it will create all kinds of other problems are all other questions you will have to consider if and when the time comes.

Are you a spy?  I heard everyone who works “Overseas” is really a CIA agent.

Ok, stop watching the “Bourne” movies.  No, I am not a spy.

What exactly do you do in your job and do you think I am qualified to do something similar?

I can’t tell you in any detail, but I am not a spy, I signed a non-disclosure agreement.  I primarily conduct or organize trainings, conferences, etc., and equipment donations.  I also advise and mentor local officials as needed and/or appropriate.  There is a lot more to it then those two sentences but if you have a pulse you may be qualified.  The trick is convincing the person who hires you that you are qualified.

How many hours a week do you work in your job?  How many hours a week will I have to work?

See above.  Your mileage may vary.  Expect your contract to require you to work at least 40 hours per week, probably more.

I was looking at your blog earlier.  Will I get to go to all the cool places and see all the neat things you have since you’ve been working overseas?

Short answer:  It is hard to say, it is what you make of it.  In Iraq and Afghanistan sightseeing opportunites may be limited.  But where ever you go there will be things to see and do.  When you get R & R you can go anywhere you like.

Do I have to have a security clearance to get a job overseas?

No, but it helps.  You don’t need a security clearance to get many overseas jobs.  But you will probably have to get a public trust waiver.  That is not a security clearance, but to get the waiver you will have to pass a background check.  If you pay your bills, meet your obligations and aren’t a criminal you probably can get a public trust waiver without any trouble.  Filling out the paperwork is a pain in the ass neck, be prepared.

There are whole subsets of jobs overseas that do require a security clearance.  Most contracting companies do not want to go to the trouble and expense of getting a security clearance for potential contractor and would rather hire someone who already possesses the needed clearance if possible.  This is where having a clearance of some type can give you a leg up on the competition.  If you don’t know whether or not you have a clearance, you probably don’t.  If you have never been in the military or   never worked for the federal government you probably don’t have a clearance.  If you were in the military and went to overseas to Iraq or Afghanistan you may have a “secret” level clearance and not know it.  If you have a clearance above secret you will know.  There are a lot of overseas jobs that pay well that are based on you having a clearance.  If you have one this is a good website to check out: ( )

Will the local people I work with worship me as the Great White Hunter?

Sorry dude you’re at least 150 years too late for that.  But allow me to pontificate:  Do not go into this thinking you are going to civilize savages.  Everywhere I have been the local people are every bit as civilized as Americans, unfortunately often more so.  The local people you work with will be smart and they will be survivors.  Many of them will hold advanced degrees, often from the US, often from better schools than you went to.  How the locals will react to you will depend on a couple of things:  How the US came to be there, and how you act when you are there.

If the US invaded or bombed the country you are in into submission, you should not expect the population there to be all that fond.  They may tolerate you, some may even act friendly toward you, but even if they ‘totally had it coming’ people don’t like being bombed and they will resent you being there.  Now if the population believes that Americans saved their butts, they will treat you like a rock star.  They will have small prepared speeches about their love for you and your country, they may even be sincere.  In any event they will gladly accept American aid money, though they will prefer it in the local currency.

You have to do the best you can and try to do your job.  Do not expect to change the world, much.  Remember that you are not the first contractor to come there and they know you will probably only stay a year maybe two at the most.  If they don’t want to do something you want them to do they will humor you and stall until you leave.  If you want to know what the local people you work with really think about you buy and read the book “Blink” and watch their expression the split second after you initially talk to them and before they realize you are watching them.

How you act personally will also determine to a large extent how the local people you work with respond to you.  If you are the “Ugly American” you’ll get treated like one.  If you make an effort to learn the language, customs, culture and care about the people you work with they will treat you with respect, and you may even make a couple of friends.

©2012 by Steven Fenner

So You Think You Want To Be An International Advisor? (Part IV)

PART IV.  Special Attorney Section

Note: In this section I discuss options those with a law degree may have that the average police officer may not.  If you’re not an attorney you may want to skip this section.

I am an attorney, although as I love to say, I no longer practice law.  We attorneys tend to think we are special so this section is devoted to issues for lawyers.

 As an attorney you may have options which are not available to a lot of people who want to work overseas.  If you have experience working as a prosecutor you probably have the best chance of getting hired overseas.  Rule of Law (RoL) projects always need current or former prosecutors.  Any criminal law experience helps, and if you haven’t been a prosecutor but worked on the defense side, I would still consider applying for RoL positions.  Occasionally positions specifically for defense attorney are available, but those are pretty few and far between as RoL usually focuses on putting criminals in jail rather than defending them.

If you are one of the few attorneys who also has police experience, that will be a double bonus for you because that opens up RoL positions looking for police officers, investigators and managers. Having a law degree will give you a shot at those jobs, too.  They will often pay less than attorney-specific positions, but can still pay well and gets your foot in the door.

Another “foot in the door” position you should consider it the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law Initiative ( ) (ABA-ROLI).   This program looks for attorneys and judges to work overseas for periods of time as short as 90 days.  The problem with this “job” is it is a voluntary position.  You don’t get a salary, but I am told all of your travel and living expenses are paid and the stipend is generous enough to put some money in your pocket.  The great thing about this is it is relatively short term so you can test out whether you like working internationally or not. It also gets your foot in the door, allows you to put some international experience on your resume, and you are able to meet and network with people in the field who might hire you for a paid position.

As an attorney you will also have options outside of the CivPol/RoL area. You should look at USAID and contracting companies that work for them.  They will often be involved in civil-law-capacity-building projects and need attorneys for those.  If you have real estate or have banking/financial experience there are jobs available in those sectors.  You may also have office and project management experience which may qualify you for a job outside of normal law practice positions.  Human trafficking, adult abuse, and about any other liberal, not-for-profit cause out there may be looking for an attorney with an altruistic streak to work in one of their projects.  You are limited only by your imagination and ability to pad your resume.  If you ever “billed hours,” padding your resume should be no big deal for you.

In addition to the companies listeed in the last section there are a number of websites that specifically look for attorneys to fill overseas positions.  You can find them through a web search.

In the final section I will try to answer some Frequently Asked Questions.

Next:  Part V. FAQ

©2012 by Steven Fenner

So You Think You Want To Be An International Advisor? (Part III)

Part III.  Getting Hired

Note:  In this section we consider the two main ways of making your dream of working overseas a reality.

Ok, so you’ve read the first two sections (Seriously, read the second section.) and you still want to work overseas.  What do you do to get hired?  First of all I have a little more bad news, the CivPol and Justice Sector jobs are getting harder to find.  Here’s why – Iraq has wound down and Afghanistan is starting that process, Eastern Europe is winding down.  There are fewer jobs out there then there were 5-6 years ago.  The government is broke and cutting back funding.   At the same time you have a lot of people, who have done a mission or two, or who are currently in a mission and faced with being downsized.   Many of these people liked the work and/or the money and want back in or want to stay in.  There is a supply and demand problem.  I suspect this will result in the pay going down in the near future not to mention it being harder for a person who is new to this type of work to get hired.  The good news is Africa and Central-South America are picking up and with any “luck” Syria will be open in the future.  As long at the US wants to play world policeman and fight never-ending wars on drugs and terror there will always be jobs for Rule of Law professionals.  Someone will profit from our folly, it may as well be you.

Here are my thoughts on getting hired.  There are two ways to do it.  One is the “Who you know” game and the other is the “Numbers” game.  If you haven’t worked overseas before you probably should try both.

The “who you know” method is the easiest.  If you have experience in the Rule of Law area (Cop, Prosecutor, Judge) and you have decided you want to work overseas.  Think about who you know, or who you know who knows someone that does.  Contact them, network, and get them to give your résumé to their boss.  If you feel this is taking unfair advantage or not kosher, get over it.  That is how most of the people in this business get hired.  There are so many people looking for these jobs that potential employers are inundated with resumes, they don’t like looking at hundreds of resumes and there are so many idiots with good-looking resumes applying for these jobs that a recruiter or employer is looking for someone they know is “OK” or for someone somebody they know vouches for.  Trust me if the person(s) you talk to doesn’t really like you they won’t forward on your résumé or they will do it with a weak endorsement.  So don’t feel bad about asking.   They are, however at least likely to tell you whether there are any openings now or in the near future and they will probably know who you should contact.  Knowing someone in the biz is vital.

The second method, and the way I got started is the “Numbers Game” method.  I went on the internet, found all the companies I could that were remotely involved in anything I thought I might qualify for or be interested in and I applied.  There are a couple of things to remember about the numbers game.  First of all apply for every job you think you might vaguely be qualified for.  Employers, when they type up the job requirements, are thinking about the perfect candidate.  They might not get the perfect candidate and they might settle for you.  Good enough is a win!   Secondly fill out the forms completely, check for spelling and grammatical errors.  You should have several different resumes highlighting your experience in different ways for different types of jobs.  This method is a pain in the neck and takes up a lot of time as each employer probably has its own fill in the blank web application process.  If you have the option, save or print out the application when you finish, it could save you time in future applications.  Be aware I started filling out online applications in the spring of 2008 and it was the spring of 2010 before I was hired for my first job.  It could take a while.  But if it is something you really want to do keep at it.  Expect to fill out literally hundreds of applications.

Below are links to a number of companies I have worked for, received job offers from or applied to.  This is not a complete list.  Be resourceful, there are also websites out there who are headhunters for companies that hire people for overseas work, use those as well:

Engility (formerly MPRI):

Civilian Police International:




Checci Consulting:



Next:  Part IV.  Special Attorney Section

©2012 by Steven Fenner

So You Think You Want To Be An International Advisor? (Part II b)

Part II b.  The Bad Continued…

Note:  In this segment we consider some additional factors that can make living and working overseas a challenge.

I realize this isn’t politically correct but if your health isn’t good, you are morbidly obese or you have some disability (mental or physical) working overseas, at least in a dangerous location, probably should not be for you.  Surprisingly you can probably get a job overseas because of the employment laws in the US.  But be aware you may have to work in very physically and mentally taxing environment.  You may be in a very hot, non-air-conditioned or a very cold, unheated environment.  You will have to walk a lot more than you do in the US.  You might have to run, lift and carry things or even crawl.  Unless your contract entitles you to military medical care, the care you get will not be what you are used to in the US.   You may not be able to get prescription medicine overseas and what you can get may be of dubious quality and origin.  I have actually worked with people overseas who were well over 100 lbs over weight, their joints were shot, they had back problems, diabetes, etc.  No one wants to help you carry your things, or wait around on you, and no one wants you taking up more than your share of valuable space.  Do everyone a favor and if you are not healthy don’t be a burden to others, stay home.

The free market is alive and well in the international advisor field.  If you work as a contractor (and most of us do), you can bet that your company will know exactly what the minimum amount is that they have to pay someone to work in a specific place.  They will not pay you a penny more.   If the place they send you is really bad, it will pay really well.  If the place is nice it won’t pay very well.  What does this mean?  Afghanistan, South Sudan – lots of money.  Europe – a lot less.    For example, in 2010 I was offered a direct hire job in Afghanistan which would have, with overtime, paid about $300,000 per year.  I turned it down and instead took a job in Kosovo (SE Europe) which paid a lot less, and I mean a lot less.  Instead of living in a shipping container and dodging mortars and bullets I lived in a decent apartment in a nice part of town and spent my occasional free week-ends sipping drinks on a beach in Greece.  Was the loss of income worth it?  That’s a decision you have to make.

On the subject of the contractors you will work for.  Their concern is making money not making you happy.  You are a short term resource to be exploited.  I have heard horror stories about people signing a contract getting on a plane to their new job and when they arrive being told they aren’t getting paid as much as their contract calls for, or being sent off to do a totally different job then they were hired for.  Do not expect your employer to care about you.   They will not do anymore for you than they are required by your contract, maybe less.  No one is looking out for you but you.  I have had good luck so far with the companies I have worked for and have no major complaints, but go into this with your eyes open.   If you don’t like something your contractor does and you complain about it you should not be surprised if the only question they ask you is “Window or aisle?”

It seems inevitable that you will have to work with someone with absolutely no redeeming qualities what-so-ever.  For some reason CivPol (Civilian Police)/ Rule of law work seems to draw some of the biggest jerks and idiots you will ever meet.  As an added bonus they may be your boss.  I do not understand this but the Peter Principle is alive and well in this sector.  My personal theory is that since most contracts are for one year and it is such a pain to find a new person if they fire someone, companies would rather keep an asocial moron than go to the trouble of finding someone new. – As long as they don’t directly cause the company grief.  These types of people are able to move around yearly and stay in this field.  They lied shamelessly to get the job in the first place then every year they get to add a new important sounding position to their résumé.  I cannot over stress this, I have met two of the biggest freaks I have ever known doing this work.  To be fair I have met a lot of good people and made some good friends doing this as well, but most of the friends I have made who work in this field will tell you the same thing.

Finally for those with spouses and families you have to consider the ramifications of being absent from them for at least a year.  Are the events you might miss in your children’s or grandchild’s life really worth the money you will earn?  Being away for months at a time generally doesn’t help a solid marriage and can be the death knell for one on shaky ground.   Are you here to get away from your wife?  Putting off dealing with problems at home is seldom the best way to deal with them.  Being overseas puts you at a distinct disadvantage if your spouse decides to divorce you while you are gone.

I am not joking about any of these issues, please be sure you understand the gravity of what you are considering.  There are more potential problems but I am way over my 500 word per article limit.  Suffice it to say yes there are things you may not like, but many people successfully makes the transition and find working overseas rewarding.

Next:  Part III.  Getting Hired

©2012 by Steven Fenner

So You Think You Want To Be An International Advisor? (Part II)

Part II.  The Bad

Note:  In this section we continue our discussion about working and living as an advisor overseas. I set out some aspects about living overseas that you might consider less appealing.  Overseas assignments vary widely depending on the location, company and type of in mission in which you are working.  All of the factors listed below will not apply to all missions.

“Wow!”  You say, “That sounds great where do I sign up?”  But a little voice in your head may also be saying, “Wait, this sounds too good to be true.  Is there any downside to this big adventure?”   Well the short answer to that is “yes”.  Or perhaps it is more a matter of perspective.  It depends on your personal situation, personality and ability to adapt.  The following information will give you food for thought about whether overseas work is for you or not.

Here’s a quick list of things to think about.  After the list, in the next post, some bigger issues will follow:

  1. If you expect things to be like they are in the US you will be disappointed.  It is different here. That’s kind of the point.  If it is important to you to shop at Wal-Mart and eat at Appleby’s you won’t like it overseas.
  2. If it bothers you when people don’t speak English you probably shouldn’t work overseas.
  3. If you can’t make yourself try strange new foods you probably won’t be happy here.
  4. If you need to pack three large suit cases for a week-end trip, working overseas isn’t for you.
  5. If there is no way on God’s green earth you will ever understand the metric system, you could have problems.
  6. If you can’t imagine working unarmed.  This work may not be for you.  Some missions allow advisors to carry a weapon, many do not.
  7. If you are a type “A” personality and have to be moving at a gazillion miles an hour all of the time, overseas work may be unduly frustrating for you.  On a daily basis everything moves slower here and no matter how hard you try you will not be able to speed it up.
  8. You may feel much of your time is spent unproductively and the way work gets done may be extremely frustrating and hard to comprehend.
  9. If you think the rest of the world love’s Americans, the American Dollar and wants to be like us you are in for a rude awakening.
  10. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase “situational awareness” please, please stay home.
  11. On a related note:  No one outside of the litigious US really cares much about civil liability, it is a dangerous world out there, full of sharp pointy things, electrical hazards, unsanitary conditions, holes in the ground, really bad drivers, etc.  If you can’t pay attention to what you are doing and your surroundings you are likely to get hurt.
  12. If you think you would totally freak out if you were shot at, mortared, rocketed or if someone tries to blow you up you should think twice about working overseas.
  13. If creäture comforts are important to you, you may not like it here.  If you are living on a FOB (Forward Operating base)in Afghanistan if you are lucky you will live in a CHU (Containerized Housing Unit) this is a finished out shipping container which may or may not have electrical power to it.  It may not have a bathroom and you may have roommates.  You might live in a tent.  You might have to walk a couple of blocks to use the shower or the toilet, which sucks at O’dark-thrity on a brisk January morning.  If the shower works it will probably be cold.
  14. You may be required to work long hours.  Seriously, you might be working 12-hour days six days a week, sometimes even seven.   This is one factor to consider when you are thinking about the “big money” contractors make.  If you work 72 hours per week is your hourly wage really all that great?  Does it matter since you won’t be home for a year to spend it?
  15. That’s right most contracts are for one full year.  You will get a chance to go home a couple of times during that year, but every time you go home it costs you money.

Next:  Part II continued, more factors to consider.

So You Think You Want to Be An International Advisor? (Part I)

“The pool of people who think they want to do overseas work is large.  The pool of people who really have the desire and are qualified is much smaller, and the pool of qualified people who have the desire and will actually leave home for at least a year is actually very, very small”

–          Recruiter for a major defense contractor.

Author’s note:  This is part I of a seven part article which is intended primarily for Americans who are seeking first time jobs overseas in the CivPol/RoL sector. Items discussed may or may not be relevant to other international positions.

Part I.  The Good

Living and working overseas as a civilian contractor for the US government’s Rule of Law projects has helped make the past few years the best of my life.  I am now working on my third contract. I work for a company that helps train and equip police in other countries. Since 2010 I have been to over 20 countries on three continents and seen places such as Venice, Paris, London, Vienna, Prague and Munich just to name a few.

Since I started doing this work a surprising number of people have told me they would also like to work overseas and many have asked how to go about doing it. It occurred to me that instead of going through the same spiel every time someone asks I should just put it in a convenient written form. So here it is. The best way I can help you is to give you the straight scoop at least from my perspective. Hopefully what I have written here and in the forthcoming sections will be helpful to you or at least be entertaining.

Here is the good news:  Working and living overseas can be fun, profitable and exciting.  If you like traveling, seeing great sights most Americans never get to see, experiencing new cultures, languages and cuisine you might like living overseas.  Many parts of the world are as nice as (or nicer than) the United States.  The work is  interesting.  You will meet fascinating people and the pay will be good.

A trained monkey can work overseas, some do.  There are as many types of jobs as you can imagine.  Most of them pay better than what you can make doing a similar job in the US.  The military uses contractors these days for pretty much everything except actual combat.  You have no real skills you say?  Well you don’t need any.  If you can do laundry, sweep floors or peel potatoes you can get a job overseas.  If you can speak English or a foreign language, you can get a job overseas.  I don’t have much to say about many of the jobs available since I do somewhat specialized work. If you want an unskilled or semi-skilled job I’d start with KBR , Halliburton, or by just doing some web searches.

If you have some specialized skills, training or experience or a security clearance it may be possible to get a very good paying job outside of the US.  By good paying I mean in the range of about $100,000 to 300,000 per year, your mileage may vary.  If you work in or retired from the criminal justice or legal field you may be in particular demand.  Police Officers, Attorneys and Judges are all needed overseas.  Every time the US goes to war, gives assistance to a country after a war or some other calamity there is a need to reestablish the “Rule of Law.”  This requires Police officers, Attorneys with criminal law experience and Judges.  Initially to do the actual policing, lawyering, and judging but also to train and mentor those in the host country who take over those duties.

Next:  Part II.  The Bad

©2012 by Steven Fenner

Dubrovnik – Another Week-end, Another Great Place

The Old Walled City of Dubrovnik

Oct. 10, 2011:  My friends Ron and Leslie recently came to Pristina.  Ron came at my request and taught a four-day class on Public Corruption.  Ron did a great job and the class was well received.  The class ended Friday and Saturday we flew to Dubrovnik Croatia.  I had not been to Dubrovnik nor had my friends.   They had decided to stay on Europe a couple of weeks after leaving Kosovoand Leslie’s parents were meeting them in Dubrovnik for the week-end and then the four of them planned to drive through a good part of Europe  before heading home. 

St. George's Dragon - A statue in Zagreb, Croatia

My plan was to go to Dubrovnik over the Columbus Day week-end and come back to Pristina on Monday evening.  I was able to find a round trip flight for about $200.00 and we all headed out of Pristina on the 5:55 a.m. Croatian Airlines flight to Zagreb.  There is no direct flight between Pristina and Dubrovnik and we had a seven hour layover before our connecting flight.  This turned out not to be a bad thing though as we caught a taxi to the downtown and since I had been to Zagreb previously I got to play tour guide to Ron and Leslie and take them on a whirlwind tour of “old town” Zagreb.  As I have written about Zagreb before I will not repeat myself.  I think Ron and Leslie had a good time and it was definitely time better spent than sitting at the terminal all day.

Dubrovnik from our apartment. 560 stair steps up the hill.

After returning to the airport we boarded the one hour flight to Dubrovnik and upon landing Leslie’s parents were there to pick us up. Leslie has found a three bedroom apartment to rent for the week-end and her parents had already been in it a couple of days before we arrived.  The apartment was nice and the price included Wi-Fi.  After dividing the cost five ways I ended up spending 32 Euros on lodging for the week-end.  Not bad at all.  The only drawback to the apartment was that it was about 560 stair steps up the mountain from the Walled City portion of Dubrovnik.  That was a bad thing for repeated trips back and forth to the apartment but did afford a great view of the city.

Dubrovnik CIty wall, from the top of the wall.

Dubrovnik is a beautiful city.  It is probably the prettiest city on the eastern Adriatic.  It is a wonderfully preserved walled fortress and the Croatian people are rightfully proud of it.  It is the type of place that is just a little too perfect for you to believe that it is real.   The walls are kept in top condition, no ruins here.  The city within the walls is exceedingly clean (especially by Balkanstandards) it is rare to see graffiti or trash anywhere in the city.  It is a living city with people running businesses and staying  in the apartments and generally going about the business of going about their lives the best that they can.  There are a number of beautiful churches in the town, museums, restaurants and apartments/hotels to rent. 

One of the many Sculptures in Dubrovnik. What exactly is he pointing at?

There is an outdoor market in the mornings and many shops.  Dubrovnik is pretty thoroughly western, and the prices of everything reflect that.  Food was expensive by Balkan standards and I didn’t see any particularly good deals in the shops.  Our apartment which was about ¼ mile outside of the walls was reasonably priced, but even though it was the “off” season nothing else really seemed to be.

(To be continued)

9-11 September 2011: Lake Ohrid Macedonia

The "Old Town" of Ohrid from the promenade on the shores of the lake, Lake Ohrid Macedonia.

Recently UNMIK sponsored a trip to Lake Ohrid Macedonia.  I had heard many good things about Lake Ohrid and so I took the opportunity to spend the week-end there.  I have a lot to say about Lake Ohrid…

… with this post I have gotten up-to-date on all my significant travels to date.  They have at least placeholder posts.  Now I just have to find the time to go back and fill them in…   ….it may be a while I have a guest coming to town this week and two guest next week, as well as a training and a conferance.