Quite a few people have asked us if New Delhi was our first choice. The answer is “No”. It was #8 on our list of 20 and here’s why. We have both always found India absolutely fascinating and wanted to go there but were not thrilled about learning Hindi. There were other languages that we were more interested in (French and Portuguese), so we bid the places where those are spoken higher. We were also concerned that Hindi is hard and will take a long time to learn. Plus, we thought it was a one-country language that would have limited utility for Paul’s (and perhaps mine) career down the road. Well, that’s because we were ignorant and/or spotty in our early post research.
We have since learned that Hindi is a Super Critical Needs Language (SCNL), which means that if Paul learns it to level 2/2, he will be eligible for SCNL bonus pay (always nice!) and he'll have to serve in India at least one more time in his career as an FSO (mid-level). I’d like to learn it too because I love languages and because knowing Hindi will give me bonus points, if/when I pass the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT) and the Oral Assessment (OA). As a FSO spouse, I am eligible for language training, which could be a class at FSI (if space is available) or online instruction. Rosetta Stone is also available to both of us through State, and luckily, Hindi is one of the languages it offers, so we can start learning it like NOW, although a lot of people in the FS community are not so hot on Rosetta Stone and its method of instruction.
Who’d have thunk? Well, some of you smart people out there probably knew this but I was completely in the dark. Upon further investigation, I figured out that Hindi and Urdu are basically the same language but Urdu has more of a Persian-Arabic-Turkic influence, while Hindi, more of a Sanskrit influence, hence the word variations. They also use different scripts – an adaptation of Devanagari for Hindi and an adaptation of Persian/Arabic for Urdu. Urdu is spoken by most Afghans as well, for geographical, cultural and political reasons. In my research, I also found that Hindi is close to Nepali, which is spoken in Nepal (duh) but also in Bhutan and Myanmar (Burma). Aren’t languages amazing!!!
So, knowing Hindi would open up a lot of opportunities for us in that part of the world, though we are not really interested in serving in Afghanistan-Pakistan at this time. If we had no kids, it’d be a different story but with a 7-year-old and a baby on the way, we just can’t go there. We are not interested in unaccompanied tours there at this point either.
But back to India and New Delhi. As I said earlier, Paul and I have always been intrigued by India, its culture, natural beauty, history, food, amazing shopping, diversity and believe it will be an awesome post for us in so many ways. We can’t wait to explore the country and see the Taj Mahal, Jaipur, Mumbai, Kolkota as well as all the amazing things in and around New Delhi. Plus, India is doing very well economically right now compared to most of the rest of the world – its GDP is growing by 8%+, according the IMF, so it’s an exciting time to be there. We hear that the American school in Delhi is excellent, so we are thrilled about that. India’s also fairly close to Thailand, China, Singapore and Nepal, which we are hoping to visit while in India.
And while we are impatient to go, the timing seems to be really good for us because we are hoping that by May 2012, our house in FL would have sold, the baby will be 1+ year old (weaned and ready for curries -ha!), and I will be good to go back to work (if I’m lucky, I may even be able to get one of those secretarial jobs at the embassy everyone keeps “raving” about.)
That said, we are well aware that it’s a hardship post (with 20% differential and 5% COLA) and there are aspects of it that will be difficult to get used to such as the extreme poverty, crazy traffic, pushy street peddlers and beggars, overcrowding, pollution, dengue fever/malaria/TB and security issues. We think that with the help of the fairly large embassy community (288 US staff and probably twice as many Indian), we’ll learn to live with those things and enjoy all the wonderful things India and the region have to offer.
Map source: http://travel.state.gov
Image source: http://curiousgirl-lisa.blogspot.com/