Let’s pull one of our big white elephants out of the closet about life as a woman (men too!!) in Colombia, and the loneliness and frustration that tends to come along with it.
Maybe this will be a series articles I am combining all my past and present experiences into a review of how I feel in Colombia as a woman while discussing recent, or unique situations that I have encountered.
Loneliness and Frustration
The hardest part of being a foreign freelancer in this country, is local perception. This adds to that sense of loneliness and frustration because you feel like a target, and you are.
Over time we get better at defending ourselves and fighting for our rights. It is a journey wrought with pitfalls and challenges.
You become a bug under a microscope once you move to a small town like we did. Today, the thing that I am struggling with the most, is the loneliness and frustration that comes from being foreign.
No matter what your background or nationality is, you are still out of your element in one way or another.
Even after years of learned culture and coping mechanisms, you still hit that wall occasionally knowing that it is a struggle to understand these people, and for them to understand you. I know I do.
The more you face Colombia with your eyes open, the more you realize that this isn’t Kansas, and you aren’t Dorothy. In a sense it feels more like the real world than the US ever did.
Here, there is very little forgiveness for people who don’t speak the language. Even if you do, sometimes you will find someone who decides to shut off their listening.
I have ordered food at restaurants in what I thought were very clear terms, but then received something else, because the person quit listening to me in an active way once they discover that I have a foreign accent. Have you felt it?
Sometimes I get in a taxi, I state my direction, and then the driver perceives my accent and charges me that extra 2 – 3,000 pesos because he had an only somewhat legitimate reason, and took advantage of traffic, or road circumstances.
In this culture people have an ingrained belief of: If you can get away with it, do it… Don’t get caught, and if you do, deny all responsibility and/or knowledge.
And this is why foreign residents feel so much loneliness and frustration.
How can we come out of it, or at the very least work our way through it?
By having a hobby, release, or any activity that makes you feel happy. In the city, my hobbies have always been dance, karate, flowers, pilates – you name it, an activity that interrupts my routine.
Go to local events. Patronize the arts.
This is a great way to run into people you know, meet new people, or simply feel like you are experiencing something special. Theater, symphony, art galleries, poetry readings, and local musicians are all people we need to support with our presence, if not our financial backing in special cases.
Get with friends.
This doesn’t mean you should whine about how you feel or try to bring them down. Instead, draw inspiration from their stories and experiences. Practice Spanish. Ask them to give you their opinions and ideas.
We can’t isolate ourselves. That is bad brainwashing. We were wired to have people and activities in our lives. Don’t shut yourself away. I feel reluctant at times to step out my door but I do it anyway.
Instead, I face it as the challenge it is, and let serendipity take over as I talk to people, listen to their ideas and try to draw inspiration from them.
So yeah, life abroad has a lot of loneliness and frustration, it’s normal. The only thing that matters is how we deal with it. Open your mind, breath deep, and let go of all that negative fuzz.
Some advice that has stuck with me since my early 20’s…
Don’t feel your way into acting, ACT your way into feeling.
We can do it, I believe in me, and in you too!
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