Season Finale: Age 36

by Juan Thomas
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Today is the last day I’ll live as a 36-year-old. Tomorrow is my birthday and the 37th International Day of Juan. For the first time since 2012, I will be celebrating my birthday abroad. I digress…this post isn’t about my 37th birthday. That will come tomorrow in the Season Premiere post. This is about my year at 36 and what it meant to me. Of course, my Age 36 year was a bit interesting because COVID-19 pretty much restricted a lot of what I could do but it was still a decent year overall.

A DC EXIT. This may seem a bit out there but the biggest accomplishment for me at Age 36 was getting out of the DC area. I’ve always told people that if you move to the DC area, have a plan to leave: otherwise, you’ll end up being stuck there. For me, it was 5 years of life. Don’t get me wrong…I enjoyed my time working at the Main Interior Building and my diplomatic training and the friendships I formed there but nobody was happier to leave than I was. When I finished my final outprocessing with the Foreign Service Institute and returned the townhouse rental keys to the landlord on June 30th, I immediately dipped out on I-95 South. The Red Wolf never rode as smooth as it did on that exit and I didn’t stop until I crossed the Virginia-North Carolina state line on I-85 South, where I promptly tossed that evil E-Z Pass Flex out of the window. I’ve never been once to suppress my feelings about how much of a strain life in DC is. The traffic, the trash train systems, the high taxes, the ridiculously high rents…I won’t miss it one bit. If I have ambitions of ascending into the Senior Foreign Service, I’ll have to return to serve a 2-year tour at the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations headquarters but you can be assured that I won’t be doing that until I absolutely have no choice.

BECOMING A FOREIGN SERVICE FACILITY MANAGER. One of the early highlights of this 2021 calendar year was finishing the Facility Manager Tradecraft course…or at least enough of it. After a fast and somewhat intense 13 weeks, I graduated from the course in January. That officially made me a Foreign Service Facility Manager. With all of the teachings from the course, I’m definitely looking to make an impact in the OBO world from here in Colombia and wherever else I end up in this journey as a diplomat.

LEARNING SPANISH. For the entirety of the spring season, I was a student in Spanish Basic for S-2/R-2 Skills learning the Spanish language in a limited working proficiency. Contrary to what others say, that course was incredibly hard. I was greatly relieved when I passed my 3rd evaluation. Though I’m nowhere near bilingual proficiency—otherwise considered S-5/R-5 on the FSI scale—I am decent enough to be able to carry on with some conversation with the native speakers here in Bogotá. I practice with my domestic employee, my driver, a lot of my Facilities staff, and especially the poteros in my apartment building. Even though I don’t have to use Spanish significantly in my day-to-day as a Facility Manager, I still want to become better at it. More on that in the Season Premiere post tomorrow.

THE MOVE TO COLOMBIA. Moving out of the DC area was the biggest accomplishment of my Age 36 year. The biggest highlight of my Age 36 year was moving to Bogotá. From the moment I found out on Flag Day that this was my 1st posting as a diplomat, the excitement mounted considerably. That certainly wasn’t lessened when I arrived in July. Everything has been wonderful so far. The people are nice. The work is fantastic. The culture is interesting. I have a feeling that I’ll look very fondly upon my time here in La Atenas Suramericana. I can’t wait to really get out and see all there is to see of Bogotá and Colombia, as a whole, now that the country is opening back up.

Anyway, that’s pretty much the long and short of my Age 36 year. Besides all of this, I did celebrate my 5th wedding anniversary. Mercedes and I are still going strong. I got a chance to see my first love of sports win a world championship for my first time as a coherent fan. I’ve enjoyed a year of great financial increase and even greater health. 36 was good to me. I’m looking forward to what Age 37 has in store for me.

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