Hello and welcome to my blog!

My name is Daniela and I am a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) with the U.S. Department of State, or in other words a U.S. Diplomat. My husband, Paul, used to also be an FSO but decided he no longer wants to be a diplomat and left the State Department as of March, 2020. So we used to be a tandem (when both spouses are FSOs) but we are not anymore. We have two kids, Nia and Max. Join us on this amazing Foreign Service journey. 

My first post was a consular job in New Delhi, India. We were already in India because that was Paul's second post in the Foreign Service. There was an open consular position in New Delhi on my first bid list and I had already taken ConGen (consular training) and Hindi, so I was able to fill it immediately and we were able to serve together.

My second post was a General Services Officer (GSO) in Addis Ababa, Ethopia. Getting posted together with my husband the second time around was tricky. When you are a tandem, the more junior officer (in our case - me) becomes the lead bidder and the more senior has to follow. So I got my job in Addis and Paul had to figure out how to get there too. He kept bidding and lobbying for a job in Addis for more than a year after I got my assignment. He didn't get one. Not in Addis anyhow, which sometimes happens with tandems. But he did get a job. In Washington, D.C. It was a public diplomacy job related to Africa, and after some hard-core negotiations, he was able to work out an arrangement, which allowed him to telecommute from Addis, and we got to keep the family together.

Paul's fourth post was GSO in Sofia, Bulgaria. I had extended in Addis, to make sure our daughter didn't have to leave in the middle of a school year, so our tours were a year off. He went to Sofia with the kids and I stayed in Addis to finish my assignment. We were separated for about a year, which was hard. Eventually, I also got a job in Sofia as a political officer and followed them there. 

Paul's next and final assignment in the Foreign Service was an Economic job in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia starting in the summer of 2019. I still had a year left in my assignment in Sofia, so we had to separate again. He and our daughter were going to go to Riyadh and our son and I would stay in Sofia to finish my assignment there. Just as Paul and Nia left Bulgaria, Riyadh reached out to me and said they had an urgent Financial Management job to fill. They knew my husband was headed there and asked if I wanted the job. I was going to look for a job in Riyadh anyway but was not ready yet. My father had just passed a couple of months earlier in Bulgaria and I had decided that being there for another year was going to let me spend time with my mother and support her in her grief (and process my own). The Riyadh job offer changed my calculus. It meant we could cut our separation to a few months instead of a year. So I took it and curtailed my job in Sofia. Doing that on a short notice was immensely challenging. I actually accepted the job while on vacation in the U.S. Paul went from the U.S. to Riyadh with both kids so they can start school in time. I had to go back to Bulgaria, transition out of my job, sell our two cars and a bunch of stuff we no longer needed, pack out and leave in a couple of weeks - very stressful.  Then had to go to Home Leave alone in the US, which was weird but I couldn't get it waived. I also needed training for my new job which was not available when I was transitioning, so I had to go to Riyadh for three weeks and then back to the U.S. for three months of training before finally arriving at post permanently. It was exhausting but it's done.

Why I blog?
  • to keep family and friends updated on our trials and tribulations - life in the Foreign Service has its highs and lows.
  • because I get to be my own editor - and I can break those AP and State Department style guide rules all day long, if I want to. So liberating, ha?
  • because it gives me an opportunity to vent, which helps me deal with the craziness or as a friend puts it "I write because it's cheaper than therapy."
What does Tuk&Tam mean?
Tuk&Tam means Here&There in Bulgarian. I picked that name in honor of my family and my native Bulgaria. It was also the most popular name in the very unscientific voting process I used to come up with a name for the blog. If you don't like the name, blame my Facebook friends.

Why not blog in Bulgarian?
It is my native language, after all and yes, I did consider doing that because my family knows little/no English and didn't want to rob my biggest fans of the joy of reading my gems. But in the end I decided that English made more sense because my husband's family is substantially larger than mine and almost all of our friends know English. I will have to keep my family updated on what's going on with us via Facebook, which they love anyway because they get to watch the kids' antics.

What to expect from this blog?
  • I will probably be writing a few times a month. I don't see myself doing it daily but there may be a flurry of activity here and there.
  • I will more than likely subject you to digressions, parenthetical statements, and the occasional end-of-the-sentence preposition. 'Cause that's how I roll. If that's not to your liking, this blog may not be for you. Don't say I didn't warn you.
  • I will post pictures and the occasional video of what's happening to/around us.
  • My "partners in crime," Paul, Nia and Max, will make frequent appearances and I will include their comments as we go along.
  • I will need your comments to keep my sanity, so don't be shy.
  • The views and opinions expressed on this blog are mine and not those of the Foreign Service/State Department.
If this sounds like something you might enjoy, subscribe at the top right of the page to get new posts directly in your email box. This way you won't have to keep coming back to the blog itself - the new posts will find you.

Thank you for stopping by and enjoy!


  1. Hi Daniela! I've been reading your blog as I was thinking of a life in the foreign service. I followed your comments about the written exam. I was wondering if I could ask you a question about it. I also recently took it and wrote the essay, but ran out of time before I could hit submit. You wrote that you also ran out of time. Does it still count your answer if you run out of time??? Thanks!!

    1. Hi, thanks for stopping by. Based on your description it is hard to say whether the system took your essay. I hope it did but there's no way for me to know. Otherwise, you have to get a score of at least 154 on the multiple-choice sections of the FSOT (Job Knowledge, Biographical Information and English Expression) in order to get your essay read. If your multiple-choice score is below 154, they don't read your essay. If it's higher than 154, they will read your essay and grade it, even if it's incomplete. The essay score ranges from 0 to 12 with 6 being the minimal passing score. So for example, in 2010 I wrote what I thought was a decent essay and was able to complete it in time but my multiple-choice score was 142.97, so my essay was never read/graded. In 2011, my essay was OK but I didn't feel as good about it and it was a little unfinished. I had 162.20 on the multiple-choice sections this time and my essay was read/graded. My essay score was 6 - the minimum passing score, kinda lame, I know, but it's better than not passing. Hope this helps. Best of luck!

  2. Hi - I just found your blog and will look forward to following it. Not sure but your families background sounds a little similar to my own. I am a former PCV married to someone I met in the country where I served. We have a young daughter and I am thinking about the FS. If you don't mind, I'd enjoy emailing you to ask you a few questions about your experience? Thanks

    1. Hi Leomund,

      Your story does sound similar. I'd be happy to answer your questions off-line. You can email me at bolyarka(at)hotmail.com (where (at)=@ - trying to avoid spam here). Best of luck with the FS! It's a long process but hopefully you will be able to get through.

  3. Zdraveyte! Just like the others above, I found your blog as I was starting to research the FS- I just recently took the FSOT and turned in my personal narratives and just waiting to hear back. I really appreciate your detailed posts about you and your husband's process getting to where you both are, especially since I'm also an RPCV (Bulgaria '07-09) and my husband is Bulgarian (and American now) and we recently moved from NYC to Sarasota, FL (I grew up in Tampa). Would love to email you with more specific questions if you have some time. Thank you so much!


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