losmorris (losmorris) wrote,

A Day In the Life of an Embassy Spouse

A question that often appears in my e-mail correspondence from friends and family is "so, what do you do to keep busy?". Having come from a pretty intense work life it is a reasonable conclusion to think that I would be going over the edge with boredom. While I will admit there have been moments along the way, I more often find myself being too busy to get to all the projects that I had lined up for myself to do during my presumed life of leisure. So let me introduce you to my pre-working and current life style.

A year ago today I was probably driving to work having woken up at 5ish and after a quick dash to the gym. I had a 8-10 hour day ahead of me filled with challenging problems, lots of meetings (with wonderful people of course, but meetings nonethelss), and lots of deadlines.

Here my day begins with a walk to spanish class. The "commute" is a 45 minute walk, mostly along the coast, with views like this:

I have been attending Spanish classes in a language institute connected with one of the local private universities.
Classes are two hours daily, 5 days a week and are forcing me to apply a bit more discipline to my language study. Since there is a reasonably large English speaking community in Lima and since the embassy community is pretty large and socially active, it would be quite easy to be lazy and never fully take advantage of the opportunity to become fluent. Tourist level Spanish is sufficient to get by here - but would really limit the Peruvian experience. My goal is to be fluent, but I find I need the structure of classes and the pressure of tests and book reports to really apply myself. So I go to school every day. I was very fortunate in my last month in having a real diversity of students in my class.

Our 8 student class included 5 spouses of the diplomatic community representing China, Taiwan, France, Indonesia and, of course, me from the US community. Our common language is Spanish so no opportunity to cheat and go to English to translate concepts. This has made for a fascinating international experience beyond what I expected.

So, after class ends around 11 I can either walk back along the coast or join some friends for lunch, shopping or a visit.

These gatherings could be referred to as "EFM Get Togethers" - In the wonderful lingo of State Department speak, I am an "EFM" or eligible family member. This is the term applied to spouses and children accompanying a diplomat and differentiates us from a whole other class of alphabet soup descriptions of live-in companions, gay partners, and so on. Anyway, the embassy spouses have become an incredibly supportive group and my closest friends. We take advantage of our unique position and wealth of free time by getting together for lunch, movies, pool visits, museum tours and so on.

Our group includes first-tour folks like me and women who have been in this life for decades. The stories of different countries are fascinating and helpful as we consider our next post. These are the folk who make it possible for diplomats to move from country to country and still come back to something that resembles "home" in so many far flung places. The group includes many who, like me, left behind professions to support and embrace this new life-style. Knowing that I am not alone in my life sacrifices is most helpful and I have enjoyed finding genuine friends across the equator. It will be most difficult to leave these great women behind when we move on in two years.

With lunch behind us some of us will likely have to head to the Embassy - The center of certain of our activities is the American Embassy. This is where we go to put in requests for repairs to our housing - a pretty frequent need since we are living in a brand new building in which we are the first "permanent" residents of our unit. The Embassy is home to the Health Unit, the CLO unit(for social event sign ups and such, see my last post about Swimming with the Sea Lions), the APO post office, and is across the street from my hair dresser. We also have a pretty good Commissary located on the Embassy grounds and hence the opportunity to buy Skippy Super Chunk peanut butter - a personal favorite - and other US food and cleaning products. We clearly can't find everything we would find back in Denver (and nor should we want to, we are after all in Peru), but there are certain things that we really enjoy having available. The CLO office also regularly provides "brown bags" (so I guess I am back to attending meetings after all.....)such as our most recent one on taxation in our very different life situation.

So, there are a number of draws to the Embassy. However, the Embassy is quite a distance from home and we have only one car that Richard usually has, so I spend quite a bit of time in taxis.... This is my daily adventure! While there are thousands of taxis, many operated by men who have been laid off of mid-level professional / administrative positions in the past years, we use only radio taxis from secure companies and hence have the opportunity to see the same drivers repeatedly. The drivers thus become good language practice partners. This is a good distraction since the driving and traffic here are harrowing at best. While I do drive to mundane locations like the grocery store or other nearby locales, Richard is now in the full swing of things. I haven't yet seen him turn left out of the right lane but when he does he will have his full Peru driver credentials.

So the day is wearing down and my lunch was probably substantial. Time to do something good for the body. As most of you know, Richard is a dedicated workout junkie, so having a gym has always been important. We found a gym very close to us at the Marriott (with a pretty terrific view of the Pacific Ocean and the Larcomar Shopping Center) and, with all the free time that I am supposed to have, I have started going on a pretty regular basis.

Time for dinner and a delightful dish prepared by our wonderful empleada, some TV time watching Puerto Rico based direct TV or International CNN and off to a new day tomorrow.

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