Weston – For Susan Lewis Solomont, 2009 started very naturally. He enjoyed daily walks with Kokapoo, Stella Blue, through wooded Weston. He has enjoyed his professional work raising funds for nonprofits and consulting with corporations and foundations on charitable initiatives. He enjoyed spending time with his family and friends. His routine was familiar and helpful.
That all changed when the White House called. Solomont’s husband, Alan, has been appointed by the Obama administration to serve as ambassador to Spain. For three and a half years, Suleiman abandoned the usual rhythms of his life. She embarked on a journey not only to an unknown country, but to a new consciousness of her and the world. His book “Lost and Found in Spain” is the story of his journey.
“It started with a series of letters that I wrote to my friends and family in the US informing them about our activities in Spain. In the beginning, these letters (each one my name is Hula, the Spanish word for“ hello ”) had readers of precisely thirteen friends … at the end On the tour, about 3,000 people received a “hello” from me every month … Almost… Suleiman says in his book.
On his Madrid debut, Solomont couldn’t find his way to Madrid’s Newbury Street, Calle de Serrano. It was disappointing, but it was just the beginning of an uncomfortable feeling that we had lost our way in a greater sense.
Alain Solomont, as Ambassador to Spain, was President Barack Obama’s designated representative to the Prime Minister and the King of Spain. Susan Solomont described the diplomatic mission.
“Like every company has departments, the embassy has departments. The ambassador should oversee all the departments. They had a political department, an economic department, a consulate department … Then there is an administrative department and a general diplomacy department that deals with cultural relations. Everything goes from art to music.” … there are also the military, the four branches (except wartime), the FBI, customs, and immigration … there are all these priorities that the ambassador should watch, ”Solomont said.
“I didn’t have a role. There is no formal role for husband or partner. No problem for a professional entrepreneur like Solomont, who previously worked for The Philanthropic Initiative in Boston, WGBH, and who also founded her independent consulting firm. I assume he can continue his business in Spain. Unfortunately, he was informed that he would not be able to work in Spain due to a potential conflict of interest.
Not to be frustrated and always ready for the challenge, Solomont showed off her great business skills to all departments of the embassy. So it was easy to find a place where you could contribute your skills.
“I really wanted to boost the embassy’s priorities. So I introduced myself. They were all really nice.” Thank you. We will call you when we need you. “No one called me,” Suleiman said.
For the first few months, there was homesickness, language barriers, and a lack of the support network of friends and colleagues that I was used to in Massachusetts. The American Chamber of Commerce in Spain has proven to be an effective organization for triggering your ideas. Then discover something really important. Whenever I invite a person or group to the embassy, they always come. He found a platform and could start to see the way forward.
Starting with his career with Stella Blu on the streets of Madrid, he learned that Spaniards are very friendly and approachable people. The importance of family and they love dogs cannot be overemphasized. There is respect for hierarchy and they are in some ways more formal than average Americans. And they like to eat very, very late.
Just as getting lost in a new city can lead to new and unexpected experiences, so an unexplored adventure in Spain has also given rise to a new consciousness.
“I learned the importance of interstate relationships and how to really get to know a country. I don’t just mean to travel and sit in a cafe. I mean how to get to know and understand people. I learned how beautiful and important it is to share values.
Spain shares borders with Morocco, Andorra, France, Portugal and Gibraltar. This closeness to their neighbors means that they are in tune with what is happening in other parts of the world.
“My view of the world has expanded … I’ve learned that we are part of this entire world and that it is important to care for it,” Solomont said.
Another lesson is about your flexibility. “I learned that I could make a difference. I learned the value of having a platform and not being afraid to use it. I’m very proud of it. I know my voice matters.”
Solomont continued, “The message is that you can still make a difference, even if no one expects you to play a role. Despite feeling homesick, you can still make old friends. It might be difficult, but you can do it.”
Looking back at these years, Solomont’s accomplishments are significant. Little by little, she created a role focused on women, entrepreneurship, and volunteering. In cooperation with Spanish officials and businessmen, she produced a series on women leaders and charitable initiatives.
Her book pages also contain the experiences of a self-proclaimed foodie enjoying the abundance of Spanish food and wine. There is friction with the celebrity and his personal view of bullfighting traditions. It is a visit to different regions of the country and a deep immersion in the rich cultural heritage of Spain.
What’s next for Solomont? Her new children’s book, “Stella the Ambassador”, is expected to be published this spring.
“I feel lucky that after three and a half years I love Spain as much as I love my home here,” Solomont said. She is happy to announce that on her return to Madrid, if a tourist stops her and asks for directions, she can provide accurate directions anywhere in the city, in Spanish.
“Infuriatingly humble travel fanatic. Passionate social media practitioner. Amateur writer. Wannabe problem solver. General food specialist.”