Monday, October 31, 2016

Caracas Apartment

I finally moved out of the hotel and into the apartment after 6 weeks at post. I came in at the end of the summer rush and post had to expand their housing pool again, so my assigned apartment was still being renovated when I arrived. It might be another 3 weeks until our stuff arrives including a much delayed Unaccompanied Air Baggage (UAB), so living out of 2 suitcases continues. It's good that my wife was held up with a visa issue and doesn't arrive until tomorrow.

Let's see, pack out was 1 week before departure, 6 weeks of home leave, 4 weeks in DC for training, and now 6 weeks at post to get into an apartment. That's 17 weeks of feeling homeless since the end of June. I've never lived out of 2 suitcases for so long and I'm still doing it! Well, at least we have a nice apartment to start feeling like home again. We'll get more familiar belongings delivered and then it will be a home for 2 years. After that, it's time to start the whole process all over again. :-)

Here's a few pictures of the nicely renovated and furnished place. The bed will be replaced with our own, but otherwise the rest of the furniture is here to stay. The first picture is the very important water tank added because of frequent water outages, which should really hit hard during the dry season in the spring. There's also a filter for the sink because of quality issues. We may get power outages but not enough to justify a generator... yet. Otherwise, it should be a nice apartment to live in while avoiding all of the crime outside.













Saturday, October 8, 2016

Sambil Mall and Hard Rock Cafe

I finally ventured out and went to a big mall to see how it is here in Caracas. Sambil may be the biggest with plenty of American and local stores. There are American fast food places like KFC, Wendy's, McDonald's, Burger King, Subway, Quiznos, and a few others I'm probably forgetting. There's 3-5 floors to this place depending on which area. There's a really nice Hard Rock Cafe on the 5th floor with covered outdoor seating.

Plenty of people wandered around. There were huge lines for the ATMs and banks as people need lots of cash with the inflation. The restaurants were kind of dead but the fast food places were busy. It seemed like a lot of people were there like me to mostly look around since it was a nice place to do it. I didn't see a whole lot of shopping even though the stores were full of stuff to buy.

Prices ranged from a little cheaper to a bit outrageous from my perspective. Most of it hovered around U.S. prices as far as I could tell with the exchange rate. Local wages haven't kept up with inflation so everything's probably much more expensive without dollars to transfer into the country. It's good for me that I get paid in dollars. :-) If this is what their inflation has done so far then I'm not looking forward to next year if it gets more expensive than this. Hopefully the exchange rate keeps up with inflation. Here's some pics of the mall:







There were a few other customers in Hard Rock Cafe, but with a burger and 2 small local beers for 18,500 Bs then maybe it isn't so affordable to have a lot of customers. Let's say that was around $18.50 for me with easy math. They had the standard Caracas menu of food without prices and a printed price sheet in the back to easily change out for frequent price changes.








Lenny Kravitz

The Edge

Joe Walsh

Stevie Nicks

Here's two examples of prices with very rough exchange rate math:

Converse on sale for 24,999 Bs or about $25 which sounds good.

Samsung 55" Curved TV for 3,551,550 Bs or about $3,550.
It's $900-$1000 in the U.S. so I wouldn't buy it here!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Foreign Service Specialist Tenure


The cable was finally released with the Tenure Board results. All of my IMS new hire classmates made it too so that's awesome. I've heard tenure for specialists is a bit easier to get than the officers, but it's still not guaranteed everyone will get it. If we didn't get tenure on first review then we do get two more looks before time's up. Tenure is required to get past the long probationary period of Foreign Service employment and if you can't get it then you're let go.

Tenure isn't just about current job performance. The policy 3 FAH-1 H-2250 has the criteria for tenure and their consideration of potential for greater responsibilities:
The sole criterion for a positive tenuring decision will be the candidate’s demonstrated ability to perform satisfactorily in the occupational category in which the candidate is serving and the potential, assuming normal growth and career development, to serve effectively in the Foreign Service at higher levels with greater responsibilities in the candidate’s occupational category.
Tenure means transitioning from career conditional status to a career appointment. It also means the entry-level directed tours are done and my next move involves mid-level bidding on the next tour. It'll be like interviewing for my job over and over again to get each assignment. So it's not like work gets much easier after achieving tenure...