S got his bid list in early November, and since that time we have spent countless hours poring over post reports, school reports, housing and security information, and pet policies for dozens of cities around the world. We read, we watched videos, we looked at first-hand blog accounts, we talked with S's colleagues who have more experience than we do, and in the end we ranked our preferences and turned in our list of 30.
Then, with a quickness that I was totally shocked by, S got the email informing us that we will be moving to BOGOTA, COLOMBIA in Summer 2015. And we are ecstatic.
But let me back up a bit.
When we got the list, we had a few must-have criteria when it came to our bidding strategy. We wanted a). to get on a summer cycle b). get the best job for S's career (natch) c). try to get to an Embassy d). get a post with language requirements. Allow me to break it down for you.
Get on Summer cycle: E will be starting Kindergarten during our second year at post, and we would really like to get him on a cycle that does not disrupt his schooling. Uprooting a kid every 2-3 years is hard enough, but it gets even more difficult when you're uprooting them in the middle of a school year. So, one of our main priorities was to get a post that would have us arriving between May and September. A lot of families do this, which is why the winter bidding group is always smaller than the summer group. Goal #1 achieved.
Get an in-cone job for S: This was hard and I can tell you right up front that this goal was NOT met. S is Management and he is currently serving a Management/Consular position. The bid list had very few management jobs on it to begin with, then after priority staffing position/hardship officers got their preferred jobs (these are people that are serving in places deemed more difficult than Adana) all the management jobs were gone. After seeing the jobs that remained, S decided he would be fine with whatever job he could get as long as it was at an embassy.
Getting posted to an Embassy: The consulate here in Adana is small. S loves it, but he really wanted to see what it was like to work at a large Embassy. He was actually advised by several people to go to an embassy next, so once a management job was off the table, getting to an embassy was his next priority. Goal #3 achieved.
Getting a post with language requirements: S didn't get to learn Turkish at FSI before coming here. The post badly needed a management officer right away, so they waived his language and sent him with the assurance that he would learn the language from a private tutor at post. They delivered on the private tutor, but learning a language a couple hours a week between conference calls and meetings doesn't garner the same results as sitting in a classroom at FSI for months on end. S needs a language in order to get tenure and get off so-called language probation, so we could only bid on cities that would give him that. Obviously, that took places like London and Sydney off the table. The other factor was that S tested at a 2+/3 in Spanish before we left for post back in January. We knew going into bidding that he would need a 3/3 in Spanish (at least) to get off language probation, so he had to find out just how much classroom time he would need to do that. Once he got the estimate from his CDO (career development officer), we started looking closely at Central and South American posts. We knew that if we wanted to get on summer cycle and get to an embassy, learning Spanish would be our best shot. In the end, goal #4 was achieved.
Needless to say, we are very happy. We had two Bogota assignments listed as #2 and #3 on our list, and we were pretty confident we would get it. In fact, I had a dream a couple nights before getting the email that we had indeed gotten Bogota.
S is excited about how new and different this experience will be for him and I personally am excited to finally learn Spanish, a language I have wanted to learn for a long time. Of course, there will be no FSI classes for this girl because S will be there for such a short time that it won't be possible for me to take a spouse course. However, we have an Argentine friend living here in Adana who has already agreed to teach me over the next year. Plus, I have Rosetta Stone and other FSI resources at my disposal. E will hopefully get to learn Spanish once we enroll him in preschool, but I do worry it will be totally confusing for him at first. He will have been in a completely Turkish-speaking school environment up until that point, and plopping him directly into a new language kind of makes me nervous. But S will work with him on the basics before we move, so hopefully the transition won't be too difficult for him.
We are also happy that this move won't be nearly as stressful for the pets. Getting them home from Adana already puts my nerves on end and and that's still a year down the road. But getting them to Bogota will be far less harsh and a lot shorter than traveling to Turkey. We read that the people in Bogota love dogs too, and that there is excellent vet care available as well. We love our pets and we want them to be happy too!
So there you have it. Bogota, get ready. The McGuires are coming.