The two week absence has been necessary for me to sort some things out. I’ve decided to turn to you all who may have been through something similar in the past. I’ve been studying Portuguese in preparation for our move to Luanda, Angola in February. I’ve heard it said that if you don’t speak the language it can be downright isolating. I’ve also heard it said that if you leave the “compound” you’ll be immediately accosted for your iphone and any incidental bling, bull mastiff in tow or not, but that’s another story.

would you tangle with this guy for an iPhone??

The truth is that I really don’t know what the truth is about our post and doubt that I will until we get there. I’ve gotten plenty of opinions and unfortunately many aren’t too encouraging. Not a big deal, we’re still very excited.  Okay, so here’s where I need some input… I’ve been studying with Snakes at FSI for 8 weeks now. With my background in Spanish, I’ve done fairly well and consider myself proficient regarding pronunciation. This week we have our interim progress evaluations.  I’m feeling pretty confident. Let me just cut to the chase….

I’m over it.

I miss my life. I miss my studio. I hate that I’ve only visited TWO museums. Summer is pretty much over (even though this week’s forecast is hangin tough in the mid-90s).  I need to update my etsy site. I need to get working on my website. (NO small task.)  I have two HUGE shows coming up in the next 6 weeks and I don’t have nearly enough stock. I still need to research, apply and prepare for holiday shows.  I feel like I’m working myself silly. When I get home from a 6-7 hour day of studying Portuguese, I high tail it to my studio in the basement and get crankin. (Just an aside: the Portuguese word for basement is “cave” pronounced with an “ahh” sound, but still pretty great considering how dank & musty ours is.) Snakes usually calls me up around 8 for dinner and after I usually head back down until 10-11. Get up, do it all again…

The only reason I’m taking the luxury of time to write this now is because I’m home, sick. One of our classmates came down with a bug last week and has been out since. So I’m playing incubator now. As much as I enjoy sneezing, too much of any good thing is just too damned much.

Sounds like I’ve got it all sorted out, right? Just resign. Drop out. Problem solved. Alas, nothing is that easy. First, what an amazing benefit and what a lazy jerk I would be for not taking full advantage. I could be “professionally fluent” if I just hang in for another 4 months.  Would chances of a job at the embassy evaporate if I threw in my fluency towel? Do I even want a job at the embassy?

Okay, so here is what I propose: I stop taking the full time course. Enroll in the abbreviated self-study (has anyone out there done this one? Is it just Rosetta Stone or do they offer weekly consults for more support?) This allows me to get back to my work. Keep the fuzz ball factor in check on the home front. (Aint easy with two big dogs, even despite our hardworking FURminator). Cook some nice meals and keep up on laundry which would definitely help to cut back Snakes’ stress levels. I think I’ve already made up my mind. Is there anyone out there who thinks I’m making a terrible mistake??


15 thoughts on “input?

  1. I can’t give any advice about learning a language or what’s required for working at the embassy, but I totally understand how exhausting it is to work all day long, and then head home to work in the studio all evening, all the while thinking about the piles of dishes and laundry that are being neglected. It’s truly exhausting, and this set up doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for fun/relaxation/a social life either. So from that side of things, your decision makes sense to me.

    PS – I love that photo. Tony and I can’t stop smiling since we saw it.

  2. Well, maybe I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but I think you might regret not having the language fluency over the next few year, when you’ll have oodles of time to update the etsy site and your web site, work in the studio, and have the option to work in the embassy or not. I’d hate for you to be feeling isolated in Luanda and wishing you had more language connections. But, what do I know?
    The shows coming up are great, but what would happen if you weren’t ready? I mean, would you have long-lasting repercussions? Monetarily or self-worth?
    Good luck with the decision making.

  3. Well this sure sounds like a pickle! Of course your plan sounds great and make sense for the now, but I don’t think you should short change yourself. Your going to have a lot of time on your hands when you get to Luanda, couldn’t your studio work wait until then? Is it possible to give these upcoming shows the bird, because face it, the more fluent you are in this language the more freedom your going to have. Aren’t you going to be there for 3yrs? You can do 4 more months, this is important! Your so strong, smart, creative, and just down right amazing. I want you to have all the freedoms for you and David to be able to embrace this experience to it’s fullest!!!
    I love you so much, and I wish you the best no matter what you decide xoxo

  4. There is not right or wrong answer for this….you have to do what is right for you…and the language training is temporary…your craft/artistry is forever….trust your gut….
    hope you’re feeling better…wish we could be there to help out with the dogs or the laundry or whatever…I don’t think there is a magic formula to figure this out…what’s the worst thing that could happen if you are not FLUENT, but can communicate…what’s the worst thing that could happen if etsy/the shows are not 100%…..thinking of you….be well and do some “legs up the wall” poses for relaxation!!

  5. Hmm. Tough call. I have to say, though, that I’m leaning toward the do-what’s-going-to-make-you-happy NOW camp. If you were sure that you’d need great Portuguese to get by in Angola, or were sure that you wanted an Embassy job, then sticking it out would probably make sense. But why torture yourself now for something that may or may not prove to be necessary later? Enjoy your time in DC! Plus, you DO have a good base; if you’re committed to advancing on your own, on your own schedule, then that’s certainly an option.

  6. eve i am usually in the quit and be happy side. but i think you should stick out the language class a bit more. at least until you feel you have a decent command on it. i think you will be happier in the long run. it breaks my heart to think of you being isolated and lonely in angola.

  7. You are gonna hate me, but I would say try and stick it out with the language…at least for a little bit longer. If enough people say you need the language (and you don’t yet feel proficient), maybe try it at least another month.

    Honestly, I know without the classroom community pushing me on, I might not keep up with a home-study (me, personally)…if you can do it, that’s great…but this is a fabulous opportunity, and I so wish I had truly had it even when we just went to Caracas (and you definitely needed Spanish there). Well, I had it and it evaporated before my eyes.

    I understand about the work and definitely understand about the museums! I had such high hopes for this summer…well, we made it to a few of them…

    Good luck with either decision and I will make it to a show soon!

  8. You might also check and see if they have a distance program you could be involved in. The Arabic department does and it includes a couple of phone calls a week with the instructor besides self-study. It would probably be more rigorous than Rosetta Stone and give you deadlines to stick to. Also, what about a personal tutor? Do you think you could develop a different kind of fluency outside the classroom–conversational without the specialized vocab of the State Dept?

  9. You obviously have to do what’s right for you, but I too am on the side of sticking it out for a few more months. I think you are tremendously lucky to get this training, and you really might regret it when you get there. Even if you don’t want to work at the Embassy, better language capacity will enable you to become engaged in the community (even the art community, if there is one?), make real friends, and generally feel a part of things. Good luck deciding. I can certainly understand your conundrum.

  10. Another thought for you… maybe you should put off the art/craft shows. That way the language study can happen during the day and the studio time can be therapy/fun and not feel like one more thing that is pressuring you. Then the work you stock-pile can be sold through etsy or your web site or to lovely FS-types. Best of luck!

  11. I would be a bit (okay more than a bit) concerned that with the 2 hour commute to the Embassy/downtown, the lack of (and expense) flights OUT of Luanda to major centres, and the sheer geographical distance from your friends and family in the USA, the last thing you need is to be MORE isolated.

    Add me as one more vote for sticking it out in language training.

  12. Review of all comments seem in support of making language the priority. DC will be here upon your return. You can pick up on your craft later. You will invest in your future social integration Angola. But I still say there is no absolute right or wrong. Be strong.

  13. It takes women a long time to learn we can not do it all–work, study, housekeep, etc.
    Sounds like you get a great deal out of your crafting and just love the people you meet and the experience of the shows. And you do have a gift for language as you are picking up Port. pretty quickly. The language study right now is taking up so much of your time and the pay off is a long time off. Sometimes we have to think. of the here and now and not the future. Just keep looking at all the angles, positives and negatives and you will come up with the right decision for you…….

  14. As someone who had a decidedly bad Chinese day on Friday and was ready to fling my headset across the language lab in frustration, I can completely relate to the impulse to chuck it all and go back to doing what you enjoy (which isn’t exactly an option for me, but…). That said, I think you’re going to be really isolated somewhere like Luanda without a solid grasp of the local language. If you guys were headed to Portugal or even Brazil, I might say you could get by without it or with less, but Angola? I think there are enough isolating factors going on if you do speak the language; adding one more barrier probably won’t be helpful in the long run.

    If it were me, I would probably put off any irrevocable decisions for another week or two and see how things go. I completely understand wanting to get back to the studio and do that, but as others have said, you may have more than enough time to do that in Africa, whereas this language thing is really a one-off. Also, I have no idea of what the answer to this is, but could dropping out of the language program this time make it more difficult for you to participate in another course later on? Portuguese is something you could probably teach yourself, to some extent, but if you guys get posted to Japan or Korea or something later on, you’re going to want to take language, if at all possible. I’d also second Heather’s suggestion of a tutor if you decide to give up full-time language study. So that’s my two cents.

  15. Something tells me that you should be enjoying yourself to the max! Your husband has a fabulous career in bud, you’re living in a beautiful city with loads of opportnity for exploratin and growth. You should be waltzing around The Smithsonian in a lovely frock freshly plucked from Anthropologie ~ I know,I know not valid options. However you can scoot the bed over in the guest room and practice yoga for an hour or two and you’ll be able to make a good decision. Non? xoxo

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