Loneliness is about learning to be alone with yourself. It’s an art, really. Discovering what makes you happy when you’re by yourself is beautiful. I needed to be reminded of this after being in Barranquilla for a few days. There are few, simple things that I need: Yoga, music and cooking. I need to stretch and breath. I need to listen to my favorite songs. I need to cook meals for myself.
I know that I am most definitely not alone in this volunteaching program, but there is a form of loneliness that accompanies picking up and moving to a foreign country. It’s starting over again. It’s introducing yourself constantly. It’s meeting new people and seeing new faces every day. It’s discovering who you are outside of what is familiar. It’s choosing who you want to be. It’s spending your time doing things that make you happy.
For the first month in Barranquilla, I am living with a host family courtesy of Volunteers Colombia. On February 12th, I was dropped off at my host family’s house in the barrio of Las Mercedes in B’quilla. They are very kind, generous and helpful – I’ve been treated like family after having lived there for such a short time. I already learned how to make patacones and my host mom made me arepas con queso. It’s taken some adapting. I do enjoy it, but I feel I need to take another step towards independence. After March 15th, I have the freedom to choose to stay or go. I came to Colombia yearning for independence and personal freedom, so I’m searching for an apartment.
Getting your bearings in a new city requires a lot of effort, patience and observance. I’ve had time to just be in Barranquilla: taking my time at the grocery store to learn new words and wait in long lines; catching buses hoping for the right direction; sitting in malls people watching; walking the city alone. I’m in a constant state of discovery and awareness, outward and inward. After a week, I’ve begun to smile at the small successes of my days and laugh at the cultural differences. Yes, cat callers are inevitable. Yes, schedules are nonexistent. Yes, heat is pretty much unbearable. The fact is, I’m living in their city. I’m adapting to their culture. The process of learning to be happy in Colombia has already begun, and I know that I can’t expect anything to be similar to what I’m used to back in the states. If I want to thrive, I must adapt and believe me, I’ve already been taking it Colombian slow.