I've got class!
No, really, stop laughing, as of January 2, I will begin Spanish at FSI! Just an 8 week Fast Course, but given that I don't see myself debating foreign policy in Spanish, I will probably be set with that and maybe a follow-up distance learning course.
I cannot tell you how happy, happy, happy this makes my little heart. Why? Well, I've probably never blogged this story, but I have not had as much Spanish instruction as I would like. Yes, I can say "creespy cheecken streeps" with the best of them (how you HAD to order chicken strips at the Friday's in Caracas), but that didn't get me too far in political debates with my housekeeper. Then again, she was a Chavista, so that was a no-go to begin with.
So, back in 2000, I was all set to take Spanish. Peter had signed me up for an early morning course, as I was no longer working full-time and we did not have the extra $1000K/month just to put Cait in daycare so I could go to class. We only had one car, so it was already going to require careful coordination for me to get to class, back home, and get the car to Peter.
I was STOKED, though. Any class was better than nothing, right? So, I showed up bright and early at the proper location at FSI on the first day of class. I gave my name and pertinent info and was promptly told, "Oh, that class was moved." Oh?
Yes. They moved it to Main State. In the city, with no parking and rush hour traffic. Fabulous. I slinked back home and realized it would be self-tutoring, remembering one year of high school Spanish and classes at the Embassy, if I was lucky. As it turned out, I did quite well with that and other than the cheese guy not understanding me when I clearly said, "cheddar," I had no issues. I could communicate with my maid, get the meat at the butcher and the grocery store was a lesson in and of itself. My past tense sucked, but my vocabulary rocked and that's all that mattered to me.
Fast forward 12 years (gulp). Peter's out of the country, all three kids are in school and no one else is vying (yet) for the use of the car. So, yippee-skippee, I am going to rock the heck out of that 8 weeks of Spanish! I think I've earned it!
And while we are on the topic of State again, I'll throw another tip (you know, tip #1: you can survive on one year of high school Spanish in Caracas, even though you shouldn't have to do so). I've been hearing again that not everyone is aware of certain *benefits* (if you will) of an unaccompanied tour. Now, mind you, this does not include those on UTs who are doing them voluntarily (e.g., for educational or other reasons). However, if your spouse is overseas, say in A, I or P, and you are in the U.S. or on virtual ISMA while overseas and have children who would like to meet him or her somewhere, they are allotted one trip per year to see said parent.
Yep, I kid you not. I didn't believe it at first, but it is true. It is very clear in the FAM and is allowed due to the nature of the circumstances. Let's face it, Dad isn't over there yukking it up and having a fabulous time and you might be here getting a little stressed out over being a parent 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year. So, if you decide it's easier for one R&R to be somewhere in the middle, voila, the kids' airfares are covered (yours is not, but still...).
Only cost of the flight is covered, but that alone can be a huge help. Mind you, this applies to those who are in the States or who have PCS*-ed overseas and are receiving virtual ISMA. If one decided to remain at a previous overseas post (via TDY**) while the other parent embarked on the UT, the children would not be eligible for said travel. Another issue to ponder while already making a tough decision.
And before anyone gets their panties in a wad, remember, when the officer serves at an unaccompanied post, the whole family serves. Something like this can make a year of hardships a tad bit easier. Where will we go? Only time will tell....
*Permanent Change of Station
** Temporary Duty