Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Yesterday Tim and I spent an inordinate amount of time scrubbing our apartment. He moved all the furniture and made the wood floors shine, and I took scrubbers and froofy-smelling products to the bathrooms. Why the cleaning frenzy? Because today the Housing Board (of which I'm a member) will be touring the soon-to-be-available apartments to help in their assignment process and tomorrow we'll have our pre-departure housing inspection.

This is the only job I can think of where your coworkers get to walk through your home to evaluate its condition and your housekeeping skills. Can you imagine working in a bank and having the tellers and your manager come by your place with clipboards, noting the size of your closets, the lack of light in your kitchen and the scratches on your floors? Yikes! And as one of said clipboard-toting Housing Board members, I've learned quite a bit about my colleagues from seeing how they keep house! (Read: "Did you see that she/he had five hairbrushes all lined up on the bedside table? What's that all about?")

So today it was our turn to be under the microscope and I was seeing the apartment through fresh eyes. Yeah - the Tabbies have barfed on the bedroom carpet quite a few times and we've done our best to remove the stains, but there's only so much one can do. Plus we're one of the only families I can think of who managed to live in Latin America without ever hiring a housekeeper. We're not slobs by any means, but there will be oven cleaning and intensive dusting in our very near future. Any type of damages above what is seen as "normal wear and tear" will be evaluated and charged, so I'm walking around the apartment with tiny nail scissors snipping off snags on the couches, spot-treating bits on the carpet and polishing tables (okay - that's Tim's favorite chore).

Besides cleaning for the inspection, we are also preparing our home and lives for our transition to Washington, DC. We've dedicated rooms in the apartment to "UAB" and "HHE" to prepare for the movers who will arrive Thursday morning. (UAB = Unaccompanied Air Baggage and HHE = Household Effects.) Our belongings will be divided into what we can physically pack and carry on the plane which have to last for three to four weeks until our UAB (450 lbs of stuff) arrives to carry us through until we reach our next post. We won't receive an HHE shipment until quite a few months after we reach that post. Naturally, nobody knows where that will be or when, so our UAB has to be a clever assortment of clothing for all seasons.

We still have over two weeks here, but there are a LOT of staples to eat through! Tim has been busily baking to work our way through the flour and sugar, and coming up with dinners that maximize the left-over ingredients. Seems I'll be bringing a bean and canned fruit melange, tossed in a white vinegar dressing to the Embassy 4th of July event. Mmmm... (For some reason we have four bottles of white vinegar left over. Oh, wait, I promised I'd CLEAN with all those. Oops.) Our left-over half-bottles of cleaning supplies, remaining garbage bags, coffee filters etc... will go to any neighbors, friends or porteros who show the slightest bit of interest.

In fact, last weekend my Embassy Spanish teacher received our old TV for her young sons. Her taxi-driving husband swung by the apartment to collect it, and when I explained to the portero why this guy was taking a TV out of our apartment, he was both shocked and seriously disappointed that it wasn't going to him instead. He's a very nice man, and we plan to leave all three porteros tips before leaving, but my teacher had become a good friend over the past year and I wanted to do something for her. She teaches at the Embassy in the morning and at a local middle school in the afternoon, all the while working on her Master's to teach English. She always comes to class with a big smile and funny conversation, despite working until 2 am on her own homework the night before. Yesterday was our last class and I got all teary as she expressed her gratitude for the TV and for our time together. One by one, this leaving stuff is going to be tough.

I think the last few weeks will just slip by. After pack-out, we'll be living out of the Embassy-provided "Welcome Kit."  The GSO guys dropped it off in a massive RubberMaid trunk the other day and once we're done packing out, we'll appoint the apartment with the four plastic plates, four plastic bowls, dull knives, light green sheets and beige towels, just like we had as newcomers. The Welcome Kit really has a way of bookending one's tour.

Speaking of newcomers - I've started to notice lots of new faces in the Embassy corridors already. People pausing in hallway intersections, trying to orient themselves, these people are here to replace us, to start making their own marks and to have their own Colombian experiences. But in a way, they feel like an intrusion. Who are they to try to take the place of all my friends and familar faces? Silly, I know, and I'm certain that as I meet them, I'll see that they're just as smart/funny/friendly as the people we're losing day by day.

Meanwhile, Bogota has been moving into the dry season, trying to make us feel worse for leaving her with blue skies and crisp morning air. It'll be bittersweet to leave our big brick city, for sure.

Okay, better get back to the scrubbing.

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