Tuesday, August 31, 2010

construction woes

There's a new apartment building going up next door. That means we don't open our windows for all the dust and we hear lots of construction noise, but at least that's regulated by the mayor's office. Apparently construction can occur between something like 7am and 5pm on weekdays, 7:30am to noon on Saturdays, and never on Sundays and holidays (unless they're pouring concrete at which time construction can go around the clock).

Well yesterday, I noticed that we can look out our den and living room windows and see a toilet in a little bathroom that is possibly part of the maid's quarters in the apartments. They must be showing this one apartment as the very rough model because it's the only toilet I see on any floor.

I pointed it out to Mac yesterday when he got home from school. We wondered what sort of window treatments they're going to install because it's a pretty big window looking in on that toilet from where we perch in the penthouse.

Mac's comment? "This just keeps getting better and better."

Monday, August 30, 2010

more Monday musings

1. I went to the embassy today to get my blood pressure medicine reviewed because it's not working very effectively. BP's still up so we're changing meds to see what happens over the next couple weeks.

2. While at the embassy I talked to the woman in charge of getting our household effects here, and I got GREAT news. The shipment is in country and is waiting at the port in Cartagena for paperwork to be processed. The woman in charge said she thought we might be looking at setting up a delivery in two weeks, but definitely within a month. This will be nothing short of a miracle if we have all our stuff in the next couple weeks. And it won't be a moment too soon as we are receiving our first visitors, BBFF Gisele and her husband Flavio, in early October. Dare I dream that our apartment will be "fixed" by then?

3. Jimmy's on an overnight trip. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

4. The British School has a co-curricular program which basically works into the school week those extracurricular activities that we as Americans would normally do after school or on the weekends. Mac will do two co-curricular activities per week per term (and they use a trimester system so he'll end up doing 6 activities per year). The list of options came out today and he had to make a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice for both days. His first choice was artistic rollerskating/hockey, but I convinced him to change his mind. I'm all about broadening horizons but my kid isn't going to be in the roller derby or synchronized skating or whatever "artistic rollerskating" might be. So his Monday choices (and we're banking on getting his 1st choice for each day) are fencing, robotics and tennis and his Wednesday choices are tennis, swimming and horseback riding. I LOVE THIS SCHOOL!

5. We are off to eat dinner, which is yummy ropa vieja. Because I had the morning at home, I made the recipe halfway and Ruth finished the second half. I have to tell you that it is divine!!

Monday musings

1. We didn't go to the formal do on Saturday night. When Jimmy got home from work on Thursday (after my Carolina Herrera experience of okaying a classic black suit, immediately followed by the office assistant telling me that the classic black suit was a no-go), he asked how my day was and I told him "VERY stressful". When I told him why, he suggested we just not go to the event. Is it that easy to get out of it? So on Friday morning, I decided that I wasn't going dress shopping after the school reading program meeting and that we'd just skip the event. So the assistant changed our rsvp and that was all settled.

2. Because we'd hired a babysitter for Saturday night, we went for drinks and dinner with another new couple here in Bogota. We all love the babysitter and intend to use her services as often as possible before her family departs post next year.

3. Mac came home from school on Friday and told me that the headmaster at the school told him he wasn't wearing the right kind of black shoes with the dress uniform. Oops. I knew they weren't dressy enough but I'd hoped to fall through the cracks. Let it be said there's no falling through the cracks at the British School. So we bought a beautiful pair of little boy's dress shoes on Saturday. They have very nice shoes here for all ages.

4. The school communicates totally electronically so late Friday afternoon I was checking the website and saw that Mac had to choose what he wanted to do for his performing art in music class. The choices for his year are violin, cello, percussion, recorder, drama, stomp, choir and maybe something else that I can't remember. Guitar doesn't come as an option until next year. So he has chosen violin as his first choice, but if that's already filled, then stomp is his second choice. The school has a limited number of violins that we can rent, so hopefully we answered early enough to be among the first come first served. Rental for the year is just $40 so it's a steal of a deal to learn violin. And in true British School fashion, if Mac doesn't shown sufficient improvement in some number of months, he has to choose something else.

5. We went to church yesterday at the English-speaking church here in Bogota. They have a huge sanctuary that could probably seat 350 people. By Jimmy's count, there were some 50 people in the service with probably another 15 or so in the children's church. Now I know that lots of people don't ever go to church, but all I could think was that we're posted at one of the largest US embassies in the world - there are some 400 Americans posted here - and there were only a couple of other embassy folks there. If even 1/10 of the Americans at post came to church and if 1/2 of those 1/10 had families, we could have filled the church up.

6. We told Mac they had a children's church and asked if he wanted to go, and he said no. Before the service started, this nice preteenaged girl came over and asked if he'd like to go. He said no and then she very wisely told him they were going to be drilling stuff and making a tent. He was out of there in a flash and afterwards, said it was the best children's church he'd ever been to. There was another CGB child in the program - a little older than Mac, but he was thrilled to make the connection with somebody from his school. He even prayed for that boy and his family last night.

7. Ruth started on Friday and she's wonderful. She was supposed to arrive at 7:30am but got here at 6:45. By the time I got home from my school meeting around midday, she'd cleaned, grocery shopped for dinner stuff and fresh flowers, had dinner on the stove and was ironing. She comes back today for more fun. Last night, I decided I wanted her to make ropa vieja today but that's a lot of recipe to translate. So I found this fabulous Google Translate program online and BAM! in two seconds the whole recipe was translated. I can't wait to eat dinner tonight!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

more Thursday musings

1. Some days you're the hammer and some days you're the nail. Today seems to be more of a nail day for me.

2. They are painting the basement garage of our building. We are now on day 4 of the painting and I'm probably going to die soon from the noxious fumes that are making their way up to the penthouse. Either that, or I'm going to have to go the Khan Academy for the rest of my life to regenerate the dead brain cells.

3. I have gotten confirmation from the assistant in Jimmy's office that the dress for Saturday's party is formal - long, dark dress with a jacket. W.H.A.T.? Jimmy's traveling today so I just emailed, hoping he's got his Blackberry on, to confirm that his attendance really is necessary before I go out and buy a new long dress. GISELE, WHERE ARE YOU WHEN I NEED YOU AND JOSE PAULINO???????

4. I'm going to have a Coke Zero on crunchy ice and see if my disposition improves some.

Love,
Grumpella

Thursday morning musings

1. The second day of school went as well as the first. Mac seemed to enjoy himself very much and he didn't complain about things in the rice. He was starving by the time he got home at 4pm, though, so I don't know how much he actually ate at school. And still no homework.

2. My friend Alisa sent out a link to this great website today. I encourage you to visit it, whether you have kids in school or whether you've always want to know or re-learn things like Newton's Third Law of Motion or how to solve a trig problem. You can read the story on Salman Khan here or visit the Khan Academy here. I've just listened to one little lecture, and I'm a huge fan. It's a great supplement to what you've learned in the classroom.

3. Jimmy and I are going to some event on Saturday night because his boss can't go. I haven't seen the invitation but he said it says "gala" on it. I'm waiting for more details, but Houston, we may have a problem. I have my little black dress (remember that one from last year that got worn everywhere?) and I have my black suit. I have nothing else that will work until our sea shipment gets here. Nary a long dress in sight. I don't even have my paint-by-numbers eye shadow kit because I figured I wouldn't need it until the Marine Ball in November and surely our sea shipment will be here by then. If I have to wear the little black dress, I don't have a pashmina - it's in the other shipment - nor do I have an evening handbag. There is no Ulta beauty store here nor do I have anyhing to fix my hair with. BUT I did line up a babysitter - there's an American teenaged girl (with the embassy) who lives practically across the street from us. She loves to babysit, so she's on board for Saturday night. Maybe she has a dress, makeup and handbag I can borrow?

4. Ruth is now starting tomorrow. She was helping her last family pack out and the packout lasted longer than expected, so she was tied up yesterday (or at least that's what I understood).

5. This embassy has what is a huge commissary for us. The only other commissary post we've been to is Brasilia and their little commissary was pretty pathetic. The store here got a huge new shipment in so I went shopping yesterday for fun things like Honey Nut Cheerios and Pop-Tarts and tortilla chips. Last night we had a nacho feast complete with Jimmy's most delicious guacamole. I could eat it by the gallon when he makes it. Tonight we're having chili with Jiffy cornbread muffins, which I also bought yesterday at the commissary. That means leftover muffins in the morning for breakfast. I can't wait!

Hope you're all having a great Thursday!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

1st day of school report

Well I am very pleased to report that Mac came home yesterday a bundle full of energy. He had a great first day at school!

After the bus left here, they picked up the little American kindergartener but then they picked up some American boys "who were about 10 years old" who got to sit on Mac's row on the van. Hurray. Mac doesn't know their names, but he thinks one is from Texas and one is from somewhere else. Both are with the embassy, per my van expert.

Mac said they didn't learn anything, except some Spanish, and the only bad thing that happened is that there were slivers of something - GASP! - in the rice at lunch. It sounds like child abuse to me, but he survived and he might actually grow to like whatever those slivers were!

So he's off for day 2 now. The bus was on time this morning, the new housekeeper starts today (hurray for me!), Jimmy's off for a day trip to some city pretty near here, and I'm free. What to do, what to do....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

1st day of school (in photos)


But first of all, a note (in words): I did not choose to dress Mac this way for his first day at a new school. It's a British school and this is their dress uniform. Buttoning all those buttons on an oxford shirt and putting on that tie increased his dressing time by at least 5 minutes (and that's because I did all the buttoning). Gone are the days of wrinkled t-shirts and jeans. I love uniforms, but bah humbug on all those blasted buttons!

A second note (in words): 5:30am comes very, very early, my dear friends.

Now on to the photos.



(Yes, I am that mother who just throws on clothes to go down to the bus stop. I have been known to throw a jacket over a nightshirt and stuff the ends of the nightshirt into my jeans so I look dressed. But today I really was dressed. Not showered, but dressed!)

(This photo makes me feel as a mother like I'm sending him off to the wolves. There were no American-looking kids on the van yet and he saw that, too. There's an American kindergartener who lives a block away and I'm praying fervently that they picked her up next so he'll know somebody on the bus. As a consolation prize for a sad mother, none of the other kids were talking to each other, so maybe they're all new students and starting on a level playing field?)

Monday, August 23, 2010

housekeepers r us

If you're not an expat, don't read this. It may make you physically ill and I don't want you to ruin your computer.

One of the perks of living as an expat in many places around the world is that you can afford a housekeeper.

And having a housekeeper is a marvelous thing.

I'm not talking about a cleaning service that comes in once a week where you still have to clean up during the week and then you have to clean up before the cleaner gets to your house. I'm talking about a full-service, full-time housekeeper.

We are not, in fact, hiring a full-time housekeeper, which in Colombia means somebody who works in your home 6 days a week. If we had a bunch of children or a baby, that might be more inviting. But we're trying to instill in Mac that he needs to make up his bed every morning and pick up his toys and put his dirty clothes in the phantom dirty clothes basket, and if we had somebody 6 days a week, even I'd stop making my bed and picking up my toys.

So we're going to "rough it" and go for somebody 3 days a week. In this business, and especially during this summer transition season, there are always housekeepers looking for work. We have an interview set up for tonight for a woman that a friend recommended, and then I took the initiative to call another woman on my own this afternoon. She said she could come over immediately. I had planned to see if she could come over tomorrow night when Jimmy was home (with his good espanol), but she wanted to strike while the iron was hot, so I told her to come. Which meant that Mac and I had to quick-clean to make it look like we weren't slobs.

Her name is Ruth and she's a little dynamo packed into about 5 feet and maybe 90 pounds. She's worked for embassy people for a long time and she can do it all: she cleans, does laundry, irons, cooks, shops, runs errands, pays bills. You name it, she can do it. She also agreed to stay late on Wednesday nights so Jimmy and I can resume our weekly date night which we had and loved in Brasilia. She's her in 40s, married, with two children (one is 22 and is a systems engineer and the other is 12 and in school). She is also going to university at night to study child psychology. Previous embassy families have left her with their children while the parents went off on vacation. She seems perfect - even Mac said he liked her.

If you're not an expat and you're still reading this, this is your final warning to stop reading.

Guess how much Ruth charges for her services?

Less than $17 for an 8-hour day.

The woman we're interviewing tonight had better come prepared to impress because Mac and I are pretty much in love with Ruth. And if we vote for Ruth, Jimmy's going to vote for Ruth, too.

P.S. If we hire Ruth, she can start on Wednesday. Blessed hallelujah!

sweet heavens to betsy

The bus is coming in the morning at 6:22am.

No, you didn't misread the time.

6:22 AM.

As in "in the morning".

As in "is the sun even out then?".

As in "is this humane?".

I lived almost as far away from Berkeley Middle School as you could live and still go there, and the bus didn't even come that early.

We are going to bed super-early tonight. Wish us luck on the first day of school tomorrow!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

weight loss program in Bogota

Yesterday we rode in an embassy van with two other families to the school orientation. The other two mothers commented on how they'd lost weight in the couple weeks they'd been here - like noticeable weight because they can't keep their pants up. They asked if I'd lost weight.

I thought about it.

And decided that maybe I had, in fact, lost a little bit because I wore my skinny jeans the day before and they hadn't felt tight like they used to.

Hmmmm...

Then I remembered that Jimmy said he'd weighed himself on the scale at the embassy gym and he'd lost weight too.

Hmmmm...

I know I'm walking more than I've ever walked before in my life, but supposedly you burn more energy/calories just to keep your body going at 8600 feet. I'm not a doctor or physiology expert, but this is what the mothers told me.

Isn't that a marvel of nature?

Surely this will level off at some point (although I only see skinny Bogotanos). I wonder, though, if when we travel and return back to 8600 feet, do we reinstall that weight loss program in our bodies? I could go to the beach once a month and return and by the end of two years, you won't even recognize me!

Friday, August 20, 2010

school orientation

We had Mac's school orientation this morning at Colegio Gran Bretana (there's supposed to be one of those little squiggly lines over the "n" in Bretana, but I just don't know how to add that in to Blogger). We'll call it CGB which is what everybody calls it anyway.

Here are the highlights:

1. Mac has a male teacher (his first ever) who is, in fact, British. His name is Mr. Ian Ahmet. I LOVE that Mac's got a male teacher now as there are entirely too few male role models at the elementary age.

2. There is no option as to whether to bring school lunch or to buy it. You can only buy it and that makes me very, very happy. They have a couple choices everyday plus a vegetarian choice and they always have baked chicken as a fallback. Additionally, they're provided 2 snacks a day in the cost of the cafeteria plan. It's a teensy bit expensive, but to know that I don't have to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every morning for the next 10 months makes me soooo happy. (Cafeteria is on the bottom floor of this building!)

3. The 7 year-old from the embassy that Mac's been hanging out with since we met him a week ago is in Mac's class. His name is TJ. They tend to bring out the worst in each other, so I asked the teacher to please seat them apart from each other. I can't bear bad behavior reports.

4. There are 20 kids in Mac's class (and just two classes in his grade). Although he's second grade in the US, he's Level 3 or Year 3 or whatever it's called in the British system. Mr. Ahmet told me there are something like 6-7 boys in his class this year and the rest are girls (naturally). This is the reverse of what he had last year so he anticipates a greater calming influence from the majority of girls.

5. The uniform is adorable. The social uniform is blue long pants, a white long-sleeve oxford shirt, a tie (!), a v-neck sweater, and black shoes. The sports uniform, which Mac likes a whole lot better, is a pair of really nice track pants (and shorts for when it's warmer), a white polo shirt, and a very cool jacket. Photos will be forthcoming on Tuesday.

6. CGB uses a co-curricular program where children get to choose two activities per quarter (I think I have that right). They have built in the time for these activities so that children don't have to stay late after the end of school. The choices change every quarter, but they include really cool things like horseback riding, rollerskating, different sports, music, drama, etc. CGB is also an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, which would be great if Mac were in high school.

7. CGB is out of town, which I may have mentioned is the only drawback. We'll find out what time the school van is coming for Mac on Monday (school starts on Tuesday), but the range we've been given is between 6:15 and 6:45am. YIKES! We're going to have to go to bed at 7pm! And we're praying hard that we're on the 6:45am end of things. (As a point of reference, even though the American school is here in town, the van picks up children in our neighborhood for that school between 5:45am and 6:15am so we're not losing any sleep by going to CGB). School gets out at 2:50pm and the vans leave at 3pm, so depending on traffic, Mac should be home between 3:30 and 4:00. And Fridays are early dismissal at 2pm.

8. CGB has a gifted and talented program for all their students where they promote children who aren't just gifted in academics. They provide opportunities for gifted children in the arts, sports and academics.

9. Starting at Year 3 (Mac's grade), the students get to choose the musical instrument they want to learn in the in-school music class (not one of the co-curricular activities). Last week at the interview they told us he could learn guitar which he's been super-excited about, but Mr. Ahmet said today that he wasn't sure guitar would be an option yet. But we do know it won't just be the recorder; they have clarinets and trumpets and all sorts of noisy instruments.

Part of the school gardens

We're very excited for Tuesday to get here!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mac's Wii version of the touchdown dance

This afternoon Mac and I were having a little not-so-friendly Wii competition. He absolutely crushed me in tennis which used to be my strong Wii suit. Every time he beat me, he victory danced and said in a condescending voice, "and that's how the little piggies got sent home."

Where did he learn that??

let's talk about safety

A lot of you have asked about safety here in Bogota. When it makes the news that a car bomb went off 4 days after our arrival, people like my grandmother get concerned that we're dead.

There are lots of safety rules we have to follow. We have to live above a certain floor in our buildings (hurray for the penthouse on the 6th floor), we can't eat outside if a restaurant has sidewalk dining, we can't use public transportation (thank goodness for that rule), we're not supposed to hail a cab off the street, etc.

There are lots of armed guards everywhere, and maybe more so in our fancier neighborhood. Lots of muzzled scary-looking dogs like rottweilers and German shepherds with these armed guards. Lots of bodyguards and drivers. You get the picture.

With all that said, I feel remarkably safe here, even more so than in Sao Paulo. Granted, I don't walk around anywhere but in our nice neighborhood and I don't wear any jewelry fancier than a Timex and a wedding band, but my security radar doesn't beep at all. We've taken a lot of taxis with and without Jimmy and I don't feel at all threatened. In fact, one taxi driver told me last week that as a foreigner or an American or a diplomat (not sure which one because that was beyond my espanol), I was the safest person in Bogota because the penalty is so severe if somebody messes with either a foreigner, an American or a diplomat (take your pick?). I just hope the bad guys got that memo along with the taxi driver!

There are all these security measure everywhere, but ironically it seems the easiest target is our apartment building. To get inside our building in Sao Paulo would've been almost impossible. But here, you just walk off the street, and the porteiro unlocks and cracks the door to see what your business is. At this point, somebody could wave a gun around and enter the building with no problem.

To actually enter our apartment, though, you'd have to be a serious locksmith or have a chainsaw to cut through the door. We have the fanciest locks I've ever seen. The deadbolt is on the top of the door so it slides into the upper portion of the doorframe (and not the side by the doorknob). And this other lock on the side by the doorknob? Well it's not your mother's door lock. This sucker has five bolts (four together by the doorknob and one down at the bottom of the door) and with each of four turns of the key, those five bolts go deeper into the doorframe. Very cool and very secure and I hope there's never a fire in the middle of the night where I can't figure out how to get out!

So don't worry about our safety. We take all the recommended precautions and we use our common sense, like we would in any big city. I promise it's safe for any of you to come visit us!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wednesday afternoon

This afternoon Mac and I went to the school uniform store where we bought 4 days' worth of clothes for about $250. Remind me why I love uniforms so much?

On our walk home, we passed the little grocery store near our apartment. As usual, there were a couple beggar women with their children out front. As callous as it sounds, normally I don't even look in their direction. Well today out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman seated on the ground, holding a baby in her arms, with her preschool-aged daughter bouncing around both of them.

Then I saw the preschooler pick up a large rock and start hitting the baby's head.

The mother looked totally unengaged and not at all alarmed.

Upon closer investigation, I appreciated her nonchalance.

The "baby" was nothing but a blanket wrapped up, complete with an opening for where the baby's face would poke out if there were a baby.

Talk about your marketing strategies...

where is the laundry basket?

The movers have come and gone and we're missing a box. It's a clothes basket according to the inventory. This doesn't seem like a huge deal but when you're lugging three people's dirty clothes downstairs to the laundry room and dropping socks and underwear along the way, it gets to be a big deal.

The big tri-wall shipping boxes were sealed upon entry to the apartment so I know the clothes basket wasn't stolen by some rogue Colombian mover. So I called the moving company to ask if they knew where the basket was. (My fear is that stuff was packed inside the laundry basket, but who knows now??)

They checked around the warehouse and didn't see any spare laundry baskets sitting around, so I've been told to go buy a laundry basket and they'll send me a check for it. Do you suppose they sell laundry baskets at the Louis Vuitton down the street?

P.S. That's a joke.

I'm in shock!

Precisely at 9am the porteiro called to tell me that the moving company was here with our air freight. Now I know we were scheduled for a 9am delivery, but I wasn't expecting punctuality. I'm beginning to think we're less in Latin America and more in Germany or Switzerland. I love it when a plan goes off as actually planned.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

we are cooking with gas in Bogota

Mac and I just returned from the movies (more on that in a second) to find out that our 600 pounds of air freight are being delivered in the morning at 9am. Can you say "hurray"? Pretty sure we've never gotten air freight so quickly but I'm not complaining. There's nothing terribly exciting in the air freight, but it means we can use our own sheets and towels and have more clothes and some of our own kitchen supplies including my beloved coffeemaker. Throw in a few toys for the Mac-man and everybody will be thrilled!

Now on to those movies. I'm pretty proud of myself because I managed to look up the movies online to verify the showtime as well as whether the movie was dubbed in Spanish or merely subtitled. Then I noticed that they had something like a frequent flyer membership so I joined that online as well. Hurray for me and my espanol. We got to the movies and after telling/pantomiming that I am a Gold Elite Member (HA!), I paid my membership fee of about $3.50 and bought our two tickets (as a Gold Elite Member, for the month of August, the ticket price is about $4.50 a ticket) and away we went.

Then we stopped at McD's so Mac could get a sundae. I ordered in my best espanol and the attendant was clearly not expecting that, so she immediately called somebody else over to help without even listening to me. So I ordered the sundae with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup from the second girl, who repeated it almost exactly like I said to the first girl, who appeared dumbfounded and admitted that she didn't think I could speak in Spanish. So DOUBLE HA! to her and DOUBLE HURRAY! to me!

Clearly I'm all about the little victories right now.

i love internet

The internet connection guy was supposed to be here between 7am and 1pm today. At exactly 8am, the porteiro called up to tell me he was here. And by 9:30, I was a fully functioning human being again. I'm even on hold on my Vonage line as I type this. Today is a very good day!

top 10 things I love about our apartment (in no particular order)

1. It’s close enough to walk just about everywhere I need or want to go.

2. The furniture is just about all brand new. The fabric is hideous and needs to be slipcovered but new furniture in the foreign service is a novelty to me.

3. For the first time in my entire life (and I’m not exaggerating), I have use of 1) a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer and 2) a freezer that spits out crunchy ice from the dispenser on the front. If I can’t have a Zaxby’s Coca-Cola for the next two years, I can just make my own Coke with not-quite-Zaxby’s crunchy ice.

4. The apartment is big enough for all of us to spread out and have some space. My favorite Khalil Gibran quote is “let there be spaces in our togetherness” and in this apartment, we can have our spaces.

5. We have three doormen. One of them seems like a grump, the other has been pleasant enough, and the third asked us if we liked coffee and when we said yes, he started to run off to get us some. I love that man.

6. We have a bathtub, which apparently is not common in Bogota. I’m more of a shower kind of girl, but it’s nice to know there’s a bathtub for the odd occasion when I want to take a bath.

7. Our new rugs from the Middle East look amazing against the dark hardwood floors.

8. There is wonderful morning light that just fills the apartment up with sunshine and warmth.

9. I love storage spaces, like closets and cubbies and nooks and crannies. There is no shortage of all those spaces in this apartment.

10. Although we haven’t used it yet, I think I’m going to love the solarium. There’s a great view of a mountain from there and the terrace, and I think either of those spots would be a perfect place to have coffee in the morning or dinner at night. Now we just need some furniture for both spots!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

week one in Bogota

I feel like we’ve been little hamsters on that exercise wheel during our first week here. I’m quite sure we’ve never gotten as much accomplished in one week at other posts. There’s been the usual embassy housekeeping stuff that always has to be done, but they've been so efficient here as to be relatively painless. The other big issues in our life were housing and schooling for Mac.

Housing

We were placed in a temporary apartment when we got here. It really was fine and the location was decent enough that I knew we could survive until our permanent housing was ready. The embassy originally said the new apartment would be ready on Friday, August 13, but let’s be honest: if you’re reading this and you’re State Department, how many times has housing actually been ready when promised?

Well let it be said that Bogota’s GSO delivered. We were moved yesterday morning into a fabulous apartment in the exact location that I wanted. None of our stuff, including air freight, is here yet but as the embassy provides all the furniture for our tour here and we have loaner linens and kitchen stuff, we are content.

The apartment is more than we could have ever dreamed of. It’s an older apartment but it’s got character and is in very good shape. And it’s completely humongous and too big for the three of us. We have 4 bedrooms, 3 ½ bathrooms, kitchen, laundry room, maid’s quarters (which will be storage for us), living room, dining room, office, den, playroom, terrace, and solarium. We also have 3 parking spaces in the garage (for our tiny little Corolla) and a storage room in the garage. Every room has got more built-ins and closet space than we have stuff for (maybe!), and the master bedroom walk-in closet is beyond belief. And it’ll be the only time in our lives that we live in a penthouse apartment (and it’s a two-story penthouse to boot). We have tons of enormous windows so the apartment is really nice and airy and light. We obviously don’t have our stuff to make it our home yet, but we have put out all those gorgeous rugs Jimmy bought in Afghanistan so we’ve added a little character for the time being.

We are located in the Chic√≥ neighborhood which is the “trendy” area of the city with a ton of great restaurants, shopping, etc. We are 3 doors down from a small, but nicely stocked grocery store, 2 doors down from a fresh pasta store, about 3 blocks from a big mall, and 5 blocks from the most magnificent fruit and vegetable store I’ve ever seen. Within about 5 blocks, we’ve eaten at a delicious Peruvian restaurant, an okay Mexican restaurant, the most divine Italian restaurant, an international restaurant called 1492 that was very good, and a very ordinary but Mac favorite, Subway. (As an aside, the Italian restaurant here is called De Lucca. If you’re a faithful Story Tales follower, you may remember that we ate in Charleston a couple weeks ago at another extraordinary Italian restaurant called Lucca. Is it a coincidence that two of the best Italian restaurants are named the same thing??) (As another aside, we have eaten at all those restaurants since we arrived last Sunday and not since we moved into the apartment yesterday!)

In short, I think we’re going to be very, very happy at this apartment.

Schooling

You may recall that school for Mac has been a thorn in my side for about 4 or 5 months now. I am at least 50% grayer than I was in January for the worry over schools in Bogota. We went to the “American” school (although it’s an international school and not American in name) on Tuesday for his testing. Let me tell you that this was a process. Mac got a checklist on a lanyard around his neck that included a reading test, English and Spanish writing tests, DRA, an interview with the counselor, and an interview with the principal. Jimmy and I had to interview with the principal as well. You don’t even have to jump through these many hoops to go to college!!

We all obviously passed our respective tests because we got an email the next night (Wednesday) that said he’d been accepted so we at least knew he was going to school somewhere. The problem was that we had to notify the school in writing by Thursday if he was accepting the spot and he wasn’t even testing at the British School until Thursday morning.

The three of us went for testing at the British School on Thursday morning. The only drawback to this school is that it’s way out of town (but after the car bombing in town on Thursday morning (!), I decided that the school being out of town might be a positive). The British School is much smaller in enrollment (500 versus 2000) and that appeals to me enormously. The British School is also much more diverse in terms of nationality of students: no one nationality can represent more than 50% of the student body so unlike the “American” school which is anywhere from 70-85% Colombian according to who gives you the statistic, the British School is this great hodgepodge of cultures and nationalities. I love, love, love this.

Mac was taken away to do some testing for about 1.5 hours, during which time Jimmy and I had our interview with the school psychologist. This was no fluff interview. She asked questions like what is the best and worst thing that Mac inherited from each of you and if Mac were sitting here, what would he say he likes most and least about each of you. YIKES! We should've had a mock interview before we went in. (Mac also said his testing was much harder than the American school, which seems to be an underlying principle of why the British school was even started here, which is another thing I love, love, love about the school.)

The facilities at the American school are far nicer and more extensive than at the British school, but I was sold on everything about the British school from the moment we entered the grounds. The garden alone was enough to sell me, but Jimmy wouldn’t let me make a decision based on flowers alone. Jimmy was very much in favor of the American school because of its sports opportunities, but even he walked away from our morning at the British school believing that Mac would get the best education at the British school. We can supplement baseball training at home but we most certainly cannot supplement an entire education every night!

We got the call from the British school that afternoon that Mac had been accepted, and although Mac wasn’t entirely convinced that’s where he wanted to go, we were entirely convinced that’s where he needed to go, so we informed both schools on Thursday afternoon of our decision. I am so excited about this decision and can’t wait for him to start week after next.

I’ve bored you enough for now so I’ll close but there’s more to come, especially after our internet is set up on Tuesday (supposedly) and I don’t have to “borrow” the internet from some dear soul in close vicinity who has an unsecured network!!