Mark Gwozdecky wears body armour and travels in an armoured vehicle surrounded by a protection detail whenever he travels to Baghdad.
But it’s a different story when he’s in Amman, the capital city of Jordan.
As the Canadian ambassador to Jordan and Iraq, Gwozdecky’s life in Jordan is about as normal as one could imagine.
“Amman, Jordan is a fairly secure place. There’s Starbucks, McDonald’s and shopping centres. We can live fairly much a lifestyle not too different than in Canada,” he said.
In Iraq, it’s another extreme, he noted.
“I can only go to certain places, places we’ve reconnoitred and we’ve verified to be secure for that time.”
A Thunder Bay native, Gwozdecky spoke to Grade 12 students at Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate and Vocational Institute Thursday about what his life as an ambassador is like and about possible career options in public service.
“Thirty-some odd years ago I was like them, a kid growing up in Thunder Bay looking for a career,” he said, adding his time in the Canadian diplomatic service has taken him and his family around the world.
Gwozdecky stumbled across the career path while travelling the world. He was backpacking through Australia when he met a Canadian diplomat working in Sydney.
“Lo and behold she was a regular person like me,” he said. “She helped me understand that it’s the kind of thing anybody can apply to do and if you work hard you can make something of it.”
One of the best things about the job is the variety, Gwozdecky said. He oversees eight different programs and deals with immigration, defense, political and economic issues.
“I try to bring it all together so that Canada has the best possible relationship with both Jordan and Iraq,” he said.
The ambassador hoped to shed light on a career path many students may not even consider as an option.
“Sometimes the public service has a bad rap, but it’s an endlessly fascinating profession that’s allowed me to do a whole variety of different things and live and work in a variety of places and raise five kids along the way,” he said.
Churchill principal Steve Daniar said the school jumped at the opportunity to have someone of Gwozdecky’s notoriety and political background come talk to the students.
Most of the students in the audience Thursday were from Grade 12 history, geography and law classes.
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