Riding the Culture Shock Wave

My second week in Colombia brings new faces, a little more loneliness and a whole set of new challenges.

Monday morning I wake up early to go to the Migration Office with a co-worker to apply for our Colombian ID’s, which you must do within 15 days of arriving. I am nervous about my documents, not knowing if my blood type receipt is legit and still have to get my photo taken once we arrive. My co-worker is unusually calm and collected, weaving through Medellin traffic and is confident our appointments will go smoothly. I can’t imagine doing this on my own and am so grateful to be in her company this morning. How do you repay people for these moments?

DAS takes for-ev-er. Luckily, it’s worth it. Three hours later we are on our way to the office and I feel as though the energy from this task will carry through my day.

Something clicks at work and I feel all of my wheels turning. I begin to feel invested in long-term projects, while still efficiently completing the tasks handed to me for the day. Two new faces are at the office: A returning fellow who now has a permanent position and a new fellow just beginning their work, who is also returning home to Medellin after studying in Singapore 🙂

Today, I enjoy my packed lunch and also saved money (a foreign concept I am always trying to incorporate into my life). I leave the office with 3 other co-workers to ride the train together and of course, I scuffle to exit the train in time when the girls hear that it won’t stop at Aquacatala. They all agree that the train said naranja, meaning it should have stopped, but oh well. I am off and ready for the taxi challenge. However, I wasn’t quite ready for what I got.

The girls help communicate my address to the cab driver who seems feisty, but I’m like great-he has a personality! Unfortunately, it was a little too much personality for me. Conversation started off well. I was quite proud of how well I was keeping up with the conversation. Apparently, the time allotted to us because of the heavy traffic prompted him to begin a lesson on the difference between friends and boyfriends, of which I could understand very little. To be honest, I was done with the interpretations and listening comprehension as soon as he reached behind the passenger seat to hold my hand in order to explain the meaning of boyfriend in Spanish.

Fear didn’t enter my brain for some reason. I’m not sure if it’s because I couldn’t even understand what the content of the conversation was or maybe because I was completely aware of my surroundings and knew I was close to home. Either way, I got home to find my friend and her mother enjoying manicures. My faith was restored. I recounted my odd ride home and they were appalled and worried. They gave me strict instructions on how to proceed if that ever happened again. “No me toques!”

Hoping to move on, I offered to cook my favorite Thai dish for dinner. They were relieved I solved their question of the night and kept me company in the kitchen while I cooked. Dinner turned out really well. It tasted good and everyone helped themselves to seconds!

Tuesday comes quickly. I have leftovers from last night’s dinner, carpooling happens smoothly, work happens. I’m still trying to navigate the feelings and personalities in the office. Everyone seems very nice and concerned with others happiness, which is nice, but I’m still skeptical.

We all go out to lunch for our new Instiglian. I share my Thai food with another co-worker who has been sick lately and we order dessert with the rest of the crew. I like this bring my packed lunch, out to lunch concept. I am able to be social while saving money! Who woulda thought?!

I stay at work late, very late, with the incentive of going to the mall with two other co-workers. I’m exhausted, but still hoping to find a new work bag that can fit and conceal my belongings.

I am in awe of the size of this mall and all it’s weird shops. I instantly think to myself, I need more time here. This is where I will find solace, if sadness becomes unbearable. Forever 21! Dunkin Donuts! Zara!

Somehow…being here, with my co-workers, makes me feel lonelier. We quickly part ways and I am on my own again to find my way. The taxi stand is on the ground floor, conveniently located near the grocery store. My driver’s eyes are very friendly and he allows me silence in the ride home. My bed is calling me.

Wednesday is a fun work day. We are all antsy for the holiday and I’m able to move through my responsibilities with ease. Communication styles here are very sensitive and I am still trying to figure out the best language and tone to approach everything… I leave promptly at 5 to try and get some rest before my scheduled Spanish lesson with a co-worker at 8. Payment will be made in wine.

I stop at the grocery store near my house for some snacks and the wine. Heating up Thai food and crawling back in bed feels so good. I even think about canceling on Spanish, but I can’t. I MUST LEARN THIS LANGUAGE.

With a little motivation from friends back in Boston, I make myself tea, have a snack and get ready to taxi over to my co-workers. I open up my trusty EasyTaxi app and hit request. Searching. Searching. Searching. No taxis nearby found, would you like to try again? Yes. I do this probably 18 times. No luck.

Despite my friends’ warning about taking taxi’s from the street, I decide to go outside and try my luck because I had tea for god’s sake. I want to get to this lesson. For another 15 minutes I try, but I can see that with the amount of traffic, no empty taxi’s are coming this way…I feel helpless. The only thing I have control over is going back inside and tapping into this wine. 

A Netflix movie it is. It looks like defeat, but my body is soaking up all this rest.

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