PAUL BENJAMIN: Writer, Editor, Supermodel

One Year Later

Here I am at the one-year mark. One year in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

It’s been an interesting year and now that I’ve lived here for a while I’m feeling pretty much over all the wide-eyed wonder. I’ve heard that folks in the Foreign Service tend to go through several phases when living overseas. At first they’re overwhelmed and excited to be in a foreign culture. After a while, they get used to it but still appreciate all the differences. Later, however, there’s a bit of a trough in the pleasure graph: a point at which living overseas begins to lose its luster.

After three weeks back in the states (with a side trip to London), that’s pretty much where I am now. I’ve been back home where I ate at my favorite restaurants and saw beloved friends and family. I was in LA, at San Diego Comic Con, visiting family in Las Vegas and enjoying New York. We spent nearly a week in Austin, constantly wondering why we ever left in the first place. Even the simple things, like being able to walk into a store and buy something with a credit card instead of a stack of bills as tall as my water bottle served to remind me of what I’m missing. Now I look around and it’s hard not to focus on the crumbling streets and lawless driving or the large packs of police everywhere you turn. I still enjoy walking to the local bazaar for fresh food straight from the fields, but I’m really missing home.

All this tells me that it’s time for a change. I have several projects fully scripted and it’s time to put up or shut up. One now has an artist attached, someone I’ve worked with before and was dying to work with again. The other two need illustrators to move forward, so now I’m looking around, trying to find that perfect partner for each story.

Another big change comes as one of the embassy spouses leaves with her husband for their next post. That opened up a part-time job in the embassy: the job I’ve had my eye on since I came to Uzbekistan. The job is a Public Affairs Assistant position writing articles for the embassy’s website. Hmmm… writing articles every day? Proofreading content? Managing social media outreach? Yeah, I’m just a little familiar with those things as a writer, editor and, of course, supermodel.

The catch, of course, is that I’d be working in the same department as my wife. I know I’m fine with that and she’s fine with that, but even if the interviewers choose me for the job, we have to wait and see if the U.S. State Department is fine with that. Basically, the HR department has to ask someone in Washington who doesn’t know us whether it’s okay for Lisa and I to work together. Normally the job owner would report to her position, but the folks here would change it so that I officially report to Lisa’s boss instead.

If I do get the job, it’s around 20 hours a week, leaving me plenty of time to continue my personal projects. The big advantage is that the money I would earn for the job is gravy since Lisa already earns enough to pay our bills. It’s not a big paycheck, being a civil servant assistant position (and part-time at that) but it will be all mine to spend on artists for my projects. Being able to pay an artist goes a loooong way when it comes to finding a pro who can do the job right.

Whether I land the job or not, I’m looking at our next year in Uzbekistan with an eye towards making a change. It’s time to get these projects off the ground and share my stories with fans who love comics as much as I do. Then, after another year here, it’s back to Washington for Spanish language training, followed by two years in Mexico City! I’m very excited about the new post. More on that later.

Leave a reply