Today marks one week living in Medellin, Colombia. We are all alive and healthy but also overwhelmed and exhausted. Within the last week I believe I have felt every emoji there is possible, sometimes within the same hour. There have been many moments of pure exhilaration and excitement quickly followed by frustration and doubt. Our first thoughts were something along the lines of “holy crap this place is fricken gorgeous” 😲. It’s a very modern city located within the mountains at about 5,000 ft elevation with insane greenery peaking out everywhere serving as a reminder that we are so close to the Amazon rainforest. Medellin is also named the “city of eternal spring” as its climate is the same year round with average temperatures of 75-80 degrees. So initial emojis were 😍 everywhere we looked. Beautiful + perfect weather = why didn’t we come sooner.
But in this gorgeous and vast “instagrammable” photo worthy backdrop on every corner here, this is real life. The reality of moving our two young children into a foreign environment and all that entails: 4:30 a.m. wake up calls, feeding your kids raw plantains thinking they’re bananas, breaking and spilling glasses at dinner because your kids are not used to a meal lasting a minimum of 1.5 hours, falling off the couch because living in 1/16 size of space takes some getting used to and tantrums in the middle of the mall floor or checkout line or basically you name it. You get my drift? If there were emojis for overtired and hangry this family would have perfected them in the past week 😫😴. And as you can tell by the pictures my children don’t necessarily blend in here. With their very fair skin, blonde hair and blue eyes, they stick out like a sore thumb. We definitely draw attention everywhere we go, there are comments (“que lindo”) and everyone wants to “chocolo” (high-five) with my son. Colombians are extremely nice and friendly but when you can’t communicate back to them I often feel like a fish out of water.
The biggest challenge that we have faced so far is communication. I have learned my Spanish sucks. I feel like I am starting at square one. I thought I could speak pretty decent “spanglish” from my prior study abroad experience in Spain and interactions in my life and work in Texas. Well, the Spanish spoken here is much different. Colombians speak so eloquently but its fast and the accent is very different that I have trouble understanding quite easy words. Instead of “hola” its “buenos”, instead of “adios” its “ciao”, instead of “de nada” its “con gusto”. I feel like my 21-month son, trying so hard to ask for one thing when the other person is completely lost. No wonder toddlers throw themselves on the ground in frustration I have wanted to the same so many times this week 😡. But then I will have little moments of success, like when I did a solo trip with both kids to the market, which is a 9 minutes walk away (basically uphill both ways) to successfully buy fresh fruit and milk. When we got home with no major injuries or catastrophes, snacking on the the best pineapple ever, I basically felt like a superhero 🦸♀️.
I am convinced that the more you know the more you realize how little you really know. What I mean is that when you open up your mind and heart to new things you realize what you have been missing and what you are capable of. When I started out a week ago I refused to pay for anything and made my husband do it. Trying to speak Spanish while converting the Colombian pesos to dollars in my head simultaneously corralling my children from running into the street was a panic attack waiting to happen 😱. But, I obviously could not live my life here reliant on my husband to pay for all my lattes. So on our 2nd night here I decided it was time and I set off alone to a market to buy some dang butter. And I did it; I made it to the market, found the butter and paid for the dang butter. It sounds ridiculous but this was a turning point for me. That if we are going to be successful in making this life in Colombia work I was going to have to get outside of my comfort zone and see what I am capable of, not only for myself but for my family. Because when our children see us struggle and either fail/succeed they don’t feel as afraid to do the same. We ended this week on a high note, today my daughter all nervous and anxious went up to two children and attempted to ask them to play. They struggled for a bit and there were a lot of gestures but what came out of it was “I don’t know what they are saying and they don’t know what I am saying”. In the end they didn’t play together, but the fact that she put herself out there and tried is worth all the emojis we have felt this week.
😘 Ciao from Colombia!