United States Consulate Visit
I am the fortunate child of an international family who grew up around the world, so visiting the US Consulate in Thessaloniki sounded very interesting. However, it couldn’t help but bring up my under lying thoughts about not being a “real” American. I am “half” American through my mother and only lived sporadically in the United States. I felt my fellow group members who grew up in the United States were much more deserving of this experience. They’re the ones who should be in this building. After a lifetime abroad and this past month in Greece, it felt strange to see pictures of President Obama and the American flags proudly displayed everywhere I looked. I wondered if it felt strange for the other group members, but was too embarrassed to ask. I was anxious as we entered the room.
We did not have to wait at all before the US Consul General Rebecca Fong walked in and introduced herself. She was friendly and smiling and the complete opposite of what I was expecting. A room full of tired teenagers is probably one of the hardest audiences to captivate, but Consul General Fong was able to capture our attention immediately. Her opening story was about having to store an American human leg in her freezer while trying to figure out what to do with it because the owner did not want it back! Not only did she have us falling out of our chairs with laughter, but now we were eager and excited to hear more. Along with the stories that seemed too crazy to be true, she told us about the hardships of a diplomatic career. There are many risks and dangers which sometimes even lead to loss of life. We were told stories of terrorist attacks on American buildings and reminded of the horrible loss of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi. The room filled with silence as we contemplated this sobering fact and we all had a new found appreciation for those brave Americans who represent the United States around the world.
The hours passed by in what seemed like only minutes as there was a constant dialogue between Consulate General Fong and our group. She was open to answering all of our questions and never fell short of an interesting new story to tell. It was comforting to be in the room with such a respected member of the US diplomatic corps and we felt as if we had just made a new friend. She was an inspiration to all of us. We learned that ConsulGeneral Fong took a very different path than most diplomats in high positions. She chose this career based on a dare and had only been a diplomat for the past eleven years. Prior to that, she had multiple careers and had chosen a path very different from the one her family had taken. As young adults, we are constantly being told that this time now will shape the rest of our lives, so it was comforting to know that no matter what stage in life you happen to be in, there is always and open door and a new opportunity. Consul General Fong grew up in a Chinese American family with expectations of her that were different from other Americans. As she explained the challenges of her mixed background, I sat in amazement because I could relate to everything she was saying. After a lifetime of feeling like an outsider in my own American skin, I finally understood that I am just as American as everyone around me. It was a wonderful and strange feeling to realize that there is no “typical” path to being an American. Everyone who sat through this talk left inspired by Consul General Fong and with new and interesting ideas about possible career choices, but I walked out with something different. I was just as inspired as my friends, but left the US Consulate feeling like a true American for maybe the first time in my life.
-by Kathleen Weetman, ACT student