I left my country in April.
I haven’t always lived here in Bogotá. In fact, I spent ages nine through fifteen in the US. I was young, however, and didn’t experience too much of the country. The fact of the matter is the only place I’d known, truly known, and understood was Colombia. Even so, there wasn’t any anxiety the day I boarded my flight to Europe, just pure excitement. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but I was looking forward to being an observer to how other people lived their lives, and to get a small taste of other places.
Look, the truth is Colombia isn’t too different from Europe, culturally. We’re a former Spanish colony, after all. Sure, there are huge differences even in neighbouring countries there, but the odds of me experiencing culture shock weren’t as high as they might be if I’d gone to other parts of the world.
I was right, of course. Things were very different in some ways, but familiar in others. It was a little funny to be taught that in Germany you respect traffic lights no matter what, and to be stood at a crossing waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green, even though there were no cars to be seen. In Colombia, for reference, crossing the street resembles a game of Frogger more than anything else.
It was not very different to find the streets empty and quiet on Resurrection Sunday in Dortmund when you’re from a formerly Catholic country, or to see a city come alive to watch the football when you’re from South America. Riding the metro in Paris was every bit comfortably and awkwardly quiet as it is taking a Transmi in Bogotá, and the intense passive aggressive annoyance at some guy who got on and played loud music was every bit as intense and passive aggressive as it gets here when the same thing happens. There were kids playing with footballs at a park in Barcelona, which made me smile and remember doing the same while growing up here.
What I didn’t expect was what would happen when I came back to Colombia. Continue reading