Thursday, 27 September 2012

A momentous day

Well today I handed in my resignation letter from the Canadian Foreign Service at 4:16 pm effective on 28 December 2012. I spoke with the Director of Personnel, an old colleague of mine and with my assignment officer, we reminisced about the past years, so many years and so many postings at different Canadian Embassies around the world. It all seems to me like a movie, another world, another time. When I joined the Foreign Service, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister in Britain, Ronald Reagan was President, in Canada Joe Clark was Prime Minister, a man I always like for his honest straightforward approach to things. My postings were in order: Mexico City, Cairo Egypt with accreditation to Khartoum, The Sudan, Chicago USA, Amman Jordan with accreditation to Iraq and Palestine, Warsaw Poland with accreditation to Belarus and Lithuania,in 2004 to Beijing PRC, finally in 2007 to Rome Italy with accreditation to Greece, Malta and Albania. I also served on temporary duty at the United Nations, General Assembly, Social Affairs Committee in the Fall of 1985, then in 2001 in Lagos Nigeria and  Ankara Turkey. I also organized the first Protocol Office for the Department of Citizenship and Immigration and served as first Head of Protocol and Official Visits.

I was in Mexico City on the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake of September 1985 and in Egypt during the first Gulf War when Kuwait was invaded by Iraq. I was in Khartoum on the night of the defeat of Iraq and came face to face with Tareq Aziz the Prime Minister of Iraq in the lobby of the Khartoum Hilton whose distinction was that the hotel was built at the point where the Blue Nile meets the White Nile, an impressive sight. I was stunned to meet Tareq Aziz in the lobby, a coincidence an accident really, he noticed by diplomatic passport and all he said to me was that he really like Canada and hoped to come one day to Canada. I will never forget his eyes, they were those of a man who had seen too much. They had no expression in them a bit like the eyes of a dead person, the flicker had gone out. He was as always courteous and polite, the human face of the awful Saddam Hussein Regime of Iraq. I remember in the Sudan how everything was paid for with cases of Johnnie Walker Scotch despite the fact this was suppose to be an Islamic Regime.

In Egypt I received death threats from some disgruntled person, the regime provided me with body guards and I never had a parking problem in Cairo for the next 3 years. In Jordan, His Majesty King Hussein, a charismatic and wonderful man, one of the great leaders of the XXth century, sent me a photo of himself in a silver frame with a dedication, to my friend Mr. Laurent Beaulieu with my best wishes. I was so surprised even my ambassador was a little jealous. His brother Prince Hassan followed up a few days later with a similar gift, apparently I had done something, I do not know what, that had attracted their attention. I remember on a return flight from Egypt to Jordan, I discovered that I was seated next to Sharifa Dina Abdul Hamed, the first wife of the King and we spoke of her horses, those white Arabian stallions, she was delightful and charming.

In Chicago, the great rival of New York, but with the polish and culture the big Apple lacks. Great City with wonderful architecture and cuisine. The USA from the mid-western point of view.
In Poland, Warsaw another great city, reborn after the darkness of Nazism and Communism, the rapidity of changes in the economy and life in general were dazzling. A country of culture, opera and the arts, a people with an interesting history. Warsaw a city of beautiful parks and palaces torn between Germany and Russia, a Slavic people with a Western European accent, very unlike their Russian neighbours often described by the Poles as too Asiatic.

Then China, a country which still clings to its Imperial past and the notion of the Middle Kingdom despite its 60 years of Communism. I discovered real Chinese cuisine and a very different perspective on China which is not apparent from home. Finally my postings to Rome and Athens, to end a career one cannot ask for anything better. What an incredible opportunity to be able to live and work in what is the cradle of Western civilization. Despite the fact that we have returned from Europe one year ago, we still often think of Italy and Greece, if not daily as you can tell from my posts on this blog.

All in all not a bad career and a charmed life. So it all comes to an end, like any thing else in life.
As I said to my colleagues today, One has to know when to leave the party. It was wonderful and now let's move on.

During my career I received many honours for my work but one I truly cherish, on the occasion of my 30 years of service as a member of Canada's Foreign Service a tree was planted in Sudbury, Ontario to honour me. I did not know of this in advance nor expected it and it means the most to me as it is a permanent symbol of my years of service. This tree is part of a vast project of rejuvenation for the City and it will certainly do a lot of good.

This view of Parliament in Ottawa just down the street from where we live in Ottawa. The buildings were built in 1864 and are the symbol of Canada representing our National goal of Peace, Order and Good Government.


  1. Congratulations on your retirement announcement. It sounds like you've had an impressive career with a lot of experiences you hold fondly. It's so impressive and inspiring!

    Best wishes to you on this next part of your journey.

  2. Sounds like you will have a well-earned retirement after an illustrious career of service to the government and people of Canada . . . . congratulations and enjoy yourself! Three more months to wrap things up and then your life is your own!

  3. Best Wishes as you move into this exciting new chapter in your life.

    Can you provide information please on the photo at the end of your post.

    1. The photo is of the 3 Russian Imperial Orders given by the Tsar and now by the Russian President. The orders are St-Andrew, St-George and St-Vladimir.

  4. Quite a history! Thanks for shedding light on corners of your life I didn't know about. Sure you'll be keeping more than busy.

    1. Just a few highlights, I did not mention anything scandalous or strange or hilarious. Maybe one day I will.