Life can be so surreal sometimes. One minute you’re trying not to step on ostrich poop on a farm in Colombia and the next minute you find yourself sitting in a car in the corner of the Joanne’s fabric and craft store parking lot in Salt Lake City, Utah. You’re singing along to the 1983 Stayin’ Alive soundtrack CD which you ordered from Amazon and in between songs you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow. This really isn’t cool. This isn’t even ironically cool or cool in a sort of so not cool it’s cool sort of way.” I’m getting old.
Colombia was fun and aside from bowing to everyone I laid eyes on, a tendency to walk on the left, rather than the right side, and the uncontrollable tic of saying “sorry” and “it’s okay” in Japanese all the time, I’d say that I fit right in down there. Oh but wait… There was also my habit of consistently confusing the words “drunk” and “cheap” in Spanish* (“Look how drunk those knitting needles are!”) as well as the fact that I’m so pale that in certain lighting, I’m pretty sure that you can see right through me. Yeah, I was totally local, totally down with the natives if you know what I mean. Actually, Colombia was a bit of a challenge, mainly due to having to adjust to a culture where the people haven’t quite figured out that clocks really are more than just decorative objects.
Taking someone who has lived in Japan for several years to Colombia is like forcing an obsessive compulsive to spend their vacation at Chucky Cheese. A typical afternoon might go as follows:
Noon- We are told that we are going to eat lunch in a famous local restaurant and that we should get ready to go.
12:20pm- I am ready to go and sitting on the couch waiting for the rest of the family to arrive.
2 pm- I am still sitting on the couch and waiting. Mr. D’s father shows up, stands around for a bit and then announces that he has to pay a bill and walks back out of the door. Nobody has called the people we were meeting for lunch to tell them we’d be late. Nobody seems concerned about that.
2:15pm- A large argument occurs between Mr. D and his brother about how many cars we should take to the restaurant. Nothing is resolved.
2:25pm- Mr. D’s father returns bearing boxes full of chicken and rice. Thinking that our restaurant lunch must have been canceled, I eat large quantities.
2:45pm- Everyone heads out the door to go to the restaurant. When we get there, half the people have not arrived and the other half don’t seem at all surprised to see us walk in 3 hours late.
I won’t continue but you get the picture. Other cultural observations- People are utterly obsessed with the weather, in particular with “el frio” and discussions about how one might avoid catching cold are frequent. Mr. D’s family met us at the airport with a snowsuit and two blankets in which to wrap Nico. When I turned them down, explaining that it was colder on the airplane than it was outside, they looked at me in shock. Who was this radical gringa who’d been thrown into their midst? What sort of mother turns down a snowsuit for their child in 55 degree weather?? The other thing about Colombians is that they love to eat A LOT. Unfortunately this trip coincided with my new decision to eat like a french woman. I picked up “French Women Don’t Get Fat” in a used bookstore the week before and decided that from that point on I would eat only what a French woman might eat. This lasted about a week. Now I’m writing a book entitled “How To Eat Like a Colombian Truck Driver Until You’re So Bloated That You Can Never Stand Up Again.” I think it’ll be a bestseller.
Let’s see… what else about Colombia? Great food, great music, great people, and a passion for covering every inch of every space in their homes with minuscule knickknacks. Yep, I’d say that about sums it up. In Nico News, the little one started walking while we were in Colombia which is exciting indeed! The first week was the best because for some reason he felt that it was necessary to do jazz hands whenever he walked which made him resemble a tiny little drunk Miss America contestant. Now that he’s a veteran walker of 3 weeks, he no longer feels the need to include this affectation.