LOVE LOST IN COSTA RICA
You know some people just can't figure out why a
motivated, well-educated 28 year-old guy is
an unpaid intern at the U.S. Embassy in Costa
Rica...and to be honest with you, I'm not sure if
I (the guy described above) can offer a good
explanation. After all, it's hard to make a living
0.00 Costa Rican colones per week (which,
using this morning's exchange rate from the
Journal, now equals 0.00 U.S dollars).
do know is I'm happy...actually, really happy!
despite the fact that I have watched my year end
wages steadily decline as I shifted from the
sector to the family business to the glamorous
of an unpaid intern, I truly and honestly am
life and all the experiences it is sending my
For example, take last Monday afternoon. My
phone rang, and the caller ID
AMBASSADOR DODD'S OFFICE. Obviously, someone had
misdialed my extension. For kicks, I picked up
phone and answered in my usual fashion, "Jeff
Duchesneau, overqualified unpaid intern, can I
It was the Ambassador's secretary calling
let me know that the Ambassador had heard that
other intern and I played tennis. He scheduled a
doubles match against him and his press
secretary for 7:00 the next morning.
I live for moments like
So needless to say, I was like a giddy little kid
before the first day of school, tossing and
all night long. Heck, I was already dreaming
how to work this on to my resume: Spring 2001 --
Ambassadorial Recreation Coordinator. Oh, yeah I
liked how that sounded!
The big question was what to wear. My U.S.
Congressional tie seemed too formal and, after a
more thought, pretty damn stupid since I've
seen anyone wear a tie to play tennis.
my Old Navy American flag shirt...nah, too
patriotic. I finally settled for a 1993 Andre
designer top, with the just the perfect splash of
fluorescent green. Ah, so out of date, but yet
right for the occasion.
We arrived at the Ambassador's residence at 7:00
sharp to find he and his partner already
up. As if it wasn't intimidating enough playing
against a U.S. Ambassador, we had to play against
competitive one at that. To cool my nerves, I
started focusing my thoughts on the beauty around
the fresh raybeams of Caribbean sun, just
peak over the lush, green, coffee-laden hills; the
gentle cantering of the yellow bellied tropical
kingbirds (tyrannus melancholicus) playing about
yard. Finally, I was relaxed. Now let's get it
Oh baby, the ground strokes were flowing with
ease and my serves landing with an elusive spin,
causing Señor Diplomat all sorts of problems. It
quickly 2-0, advantage interns. My
also having an excellent game, powering in an
exceptionally strong serve. Wwe soon found
ahead by 4-0. By this point we were hoopin' and
hollerin' and high fivin' all over the court,
our foes across the net were uttering quite a
of very undiplomatic Spanish and English
And after one particularly excellent backhand
put-away by Yours Truly, I swore I heard the big guy
mumble, "Damn that friggin' unpaid intern." By
we had secured the match with a two set 6-2, 6-4
What a great feeling! My rice and beans
afterwards never tasted so good. When I arrived
work two hours late (after all, I was playing
with the Ambassador), I noticed my message light
on. It was the Ambassador's secretary again,
me to call her right away. Looks like I was
pretty popular. I dialed her extension:
"Hello, Ambassador's Office."
"Hi, this is Je...” I couldn't even get it out.
"You beat the Ambassador!" she hollered into the
phone. "You not supposed to win."
"But, I was just....." CLICK! She was gone.
The entire day I had the feeling that I had been
blackballed, as if the whole Embassy was
one another as I passed by:
"Hey, that's the unpaid intern who beat the
"No? He didn't? The Ambassador is never supposed
"I know can you believe it, what a tragedy."
To be honest, it really didn't phase me.
this was payback time. Payback for the State
Department who wrote me a letter saying I had
passing the Foreign Service Exam by a single point and
again next year. Payback for the Department of
Commerce, who cut the Commercial Service budget,
with it my "promised" one year paid position with
Embassy. Payback for all the interns out there
just want to be recognized for the work they
Three days later the Ambassador left Costa Rica,
to return. Some say it was because his tour of
up and President Bush was to appoint a new
Chief of the Mission. But I know it was because I
his diplomatic ass.
By Jeff Duchesneau