Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Company Town

I am frequently struck by how many aspects of our life these days are bizarre.

We live in a standardly large city - Caracas has a population of around 2,000,000 people.  That's about the size of Houston and would make it the 4th largest city in the U.S.  (No, I don't know if that is metro area or city limits.  Lets just be okay with the ballpark.)  The U.S. Embassy employs a few hundred people.  A fair number of those are Americans, but not all of them.  Many positions in the embassy are held by locals - in government speak, they're called FSNs, or Foreign Service Nationals.  All of them that I've spoken with have been very nice folks, but by and large the people that I'm building relatioships with are the English speakers associated with the embassy.  That's a group of a few hundred people total, including spouses and kids.  And this same group of people live within walking distance of each other, take our kids to the same playground, frequent the same three grocery stores and send our kids to the same school.

The school has families from all over Caracas and the world, so my kids live in a large city rather than a company town.  The church, albeit a small congregation, has families with varied reasons for being in Venezuela as well.  Our circles will grow.  But at this point, we very much live in a company town, where everyone knows everyone, and you should be careful what you say.

Case in point:

I went into the embassy on Friday to discuss a job.

I received an email from an office in the embassy earlier in the week.  They remembered my having interviewed last fall for a contract position there, and wanted me to come in and talk to them about a new position opening up.  I found this a bit laughable, because I performed pretty badly in the interview.  Spoiler alert: it remained laughable afterward, when I found him hoping I would apply to make badges for their office.  It seems that I did interview poorly.

The challenge I faced was discussing this "interview" with anyone.  The whole thing seemed rather laughable to me, both before and after I went in.  But to share this hilarity with anyone else would be akin to shutting the door to the available position - anyone I know could be good friends with the interviewers.  I managed to keep my laughter to myself before the meeting, but went ahead and shared it with my friend Anne afterward.

And this is where the company town became so much more apparent.  Anne is wonderful, always helping me to get adjusted to our new home.  So, when I told her that I had been willing to come in for an interview, she heard that I was interested in working.  She walked me over to HR, to introduce me personally to the woman in charge of hiring.  We looked at the hiring board together.  I pointed out the job that I would love - a job that I am underqualified for.  She knows the boss, and offered to introduce me right then.  She encouraged me to apply.

It was a little disorienting, both the Company Town aspect of the conversation, and also how quickly I had begun considering taking a job at the embassy.

And now, here is the question of the weekend:

Do I want a job?

We are at this post for 2 years.  These 2 years will be the last with little Annika at home.  She will begin kindergarten at our next post.  Do I want to give up 20 hours a week right now?  I'll never get this time back.

Then again, I will want to work at our next post.  And via telephone interview, I only made myself appealing for a job printing badges.  This job, which is a long-shot, would have me working with the political section and a lot of important people.  It would be secretarial work, but with some serious responsibilities and with a lot of connections.  Most importantly, it would be embassy experience, and work experience.  And it would plug the 7 year hole in my resume.

Its only 20 hours a week.  I don't do any household chores.  Annika takes a nap every afternoon, and I want her to spend more time alone with the housekeeper so she will learn Spanish.

Plus, we drained our savings while living in DC.  We're focusing on rebuilding those savings while we live here, and 20 more paid hours every week would go a long way.

But then again, I have not found myself with extra time since we arrived.  Life has a slow-pace these days, which we all enjoy.  Dave and I have time to talk every evening after the girls go to bed.  We can spend hours on homework, whenever necessary.  And I can attend every meeting at the school and still meet Dave for lunch somewhat regularly.  Its not a bad life as it is.

It is a Company Town.  And I currently interact with a very small subset of the population - the stay at home moms of young kids.  Do I want to expand that?

1 comment:

MJC said...

I will be praying for you during your time of discernment.