By Ellen Bremenstul
Diplomacy takes many forms. Through art, music, sports, and dialogue, Department employees can engage with others, conduct business, keep the peace, and have fun.
During his first tour as a consular officer in Caracas, Houston Harris forged relationships with members of the local community in a unique way—through his love of jumping rope. Little did he realize that his favorite workout would capture the interest of his barrio and even earn him friendly nicknames like Señor Rocky and El Gringo que salta la cuerda (The jump-roping gringo).
Harris got hooked on jump roping at his home gym in Houston, Texas. While he typically completed his cardio on a treadmill, one day, Harris noticed a jump roper who seemed to be enjoying their cardio workout. Inspired by the person he’d seen at the gym, Harris decided to give jump roping a try, and within a month, he had built up to one-hour jump roping sessions almost every day.
Harris has since moved on to his second tour as a staff assistant in the Embassy Tokyo Front Office. However, he still holds morning jump roping sessions in a neighborhood park, which has caught the attention of the local community. Quiet and solitary, jump roping fits the Japanese ethos of “wa”—harmony—and is a rather enjoyable sport to watch, similar to rhythmic gymnastics. Some spectators of Houston’s sessions have been inspired to pick up a rope and join him.
One woman, who began jumping rope with Harris, also shared her interest in embassy work, and Harris connected her with embassy colleagues. Another park regular, and member of the Japanese legislature, even invited Harris to tour the legislative building. The legislator introduced his adult son and encouraged him to join Harris for a jump roping session and sample the fun.
Harris’s jump roping has served as an inspiration to his colleagues, and sharing his love of fitness with others has demonstrated a fresh take on American diplomacy.
Ellen Bremenstul is an office management specialist at Embassy Tokyo.
Video by Houston Harris