Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hola Bogota!

We're here! We made it! 

We arrived in Bogota last week after what seemed like a lifetime of hoop-jumping, packing and preparation.  It sure ain't easy picking up and relocating your life every 2-3 years!

Or course, there was quite a bit of drama and unexpected kinks leading up to our departure.  A week before we were scheduled to leave for post, S got an email saying our apartment wasn't ready and we were going to be placed in temporary housing until it was.  Umm, that wasn't exactly what we wanted to hear 6 days before we were supposed to arrive, so naturally, we had some questions. Namely, where was this temp housing, how long were we going to be there and was there Internet available?  I do have a job that requires Internet, so we shot off a quick email to the powers-that-be and waited. Turned out, our apartment was no longer available at all and they were trying to find us a new one to move into right away instead of putting us in a TDY apartment.  After days of stressful waiting, we finally got confirmation that they had located a permanent apartment for us and we would be able to move right in upon arrival.  Score.  Stress level decreased.   Except...

We took our pets to the vet that same week because as may Foreign Service pet owners know, pet vaccines can only be given 10 days prior to arrival in a new country. At the vet we were told we would have to drive down to Richmond, VA for the USDA stamp and signature.  Well, this was news to us because the official pet information from the Embassy in Bogota said that wasn't necessary.  So we asked around and of course, we never got a clear answer.  The closest thing I found that made sense was that Colombia does not require the stamp to enter the country, but the U.S. requires the stamp to leave the country.  So, if we were, say, entering Colombia straight from Turkey, no USDA stamp necessary.  But since we were coming from the U.S., we needed it...or something like that.  I still don't even know if that's right.

Since we weren't 100% clear on the requirements, S and I decided we would rather be safe than sorry and rented a car for the drive down to Richmond.  We got the stamp, got the signature, and got all the pet vaccination records without any problems.  We were good to go!  Packout had taken place the day before, so all our stuff was gone.  We were within our weight limits and things were looking up. 


Weeks before we were scheduled to depart, S took charge of taking care of all the travel plans.  He spent a good deal of time on the phone booking our flight itinerary to make sure everything was easy on our kids, our pets, and us.  We were golden.  Tickets were booked, seat assignments were all together, and we had reserved spots in cargo and in-cabin for both the cat and dog.  Nothing to worry about! 

Well, two days before our flight was scheduled to depart, we realized our pre-paid/priority tickets (that had us all sitting together on both legs of the flight), had been cancelled.  For what reason?  I don't know.  We paid good money for those seats, and then, poof.  They were gone. So, not only were we stuck trying to figure out how to get a refund, we were also stuck trying to re-book our seats so that we were all seated together.  Or at least doubled up with one parent per child.  Because of course, the airline had our 4-year old sitting by himself and our 12-month old sitting by himself.  Because of course, that makes perfect sense, right?  Well, after hours on the phone dealing with ticket agents, we were finally told that we could not get seat assignments until we checked in at the airport.  Say what? That didn't make us happy because of course, we had paid weeks in advance to not have to do that exact thing.  We had been burned like that before and we didn't want to have to deal with it again.  Yet here we were dealing with it.  Again.  

But we sucked it up, realized there was no point in arguing anymore and crossed our fingers that we could get decent seats at check-in.  That was that.

Then, at 2 a.m. on the morning of our flight S received a text message from the airline that our first flight had been cancelled and they were re-booking us on a flight later that afternoon.  Great! Except that meant we would miss our connecting flight to Bogota.  So, again, we spent about an hour on the phone (in the middle of the night, mind you) trying to re-book our entire itinerary and ensure that our pets had spots available on these new flights as well.  In the end we were booked on a flight that arrived in Bogota at 8pm instead of noon, but we were happy.  

We got to sleep in a little later, enjoy one last breakfast in D.C. and then we packed our stuff in a gigantic van and made our way to the airport.

The entire trip was going well until D developed a fever in Miami. He proceeded to be feverish and cranky for the rest of the trip and then woke with a fever the next morning.  He had a fever for four straight days, the side effect of all the vaccines he had to get before we left D.C., according to the pediatrician here at the Embassy and my own research on WebMD.  Getting to post with a sick child is a miserable experience and I don't wish it on my worst enemy.  Trying to find medicine (thankfully I had packed some in our carry-on, but we ran out by the second day), find a doctor, find the pharmacy, etc., all in a city you are unfamiliar with and in a language you don't speak is just ridiculously hard and overwhelmingly frustrating.  

But D got better and is doing fine now.  In fact, he and E both started preschool this week and they are loving it.  It's all Spanish-speaking, which is fine for D because he is young enough to absorb it all, but a little difficult for E since he is older and was immersed in Turkish schools for the past two years.  However, E is a tenacious little guy and has come home two days in a row bragging about all the new words he knows.  "Mommy!  Amigo means friend! I have an amigo named Joaquin in my class!"  I have a feeling he will do just fine.

The apartment that we ended up with after all the drama is amazing.  It's two story, which we were not expecting, and only 3 bedrooms, which means the boys will have to share a room, but we can't complain at all.  It's large, it's modern and it is in an excellent neighborhood. There are so many shops and restaurants and malls and movie theaters nearby. I can't walk down a street without seeing at least two or three places I want to duck into.  It's amazing. S and I are already writing down all the restaurants we want to try.  There are so many!  And this is all within walking distance.  We haven't even driven around the city yet, so there is definitely more to explore.  

With one week down, I would say we are all settling into our new home quite nicely.  The boys love it here.  There are plenty of parks and playgrounds and indoor play spaces for when it's raining.  I have my Internet and I am back to work, and S is getting the hang of things over at the Embassy.  Oh! And all our stuff, including our car is here (in country) but is waiting to be cleared.  Once we get everything moved in, it will really start to feel like home.

So, to all my friends and family out there reading this--Bogota is fabulous!  All the problems we had to deal with before arrival are a thing of the past and we are excited about the future.  So come visit! We can't wait to have you.  And we can't wait to see all this beautiful country has to offer.  

Ready to Rock n' Roll!