In about five weeks, I’ll venture back to China for what will be my sixth year abroad, and my fourth country to call home. I never planned to be gone this long, but now I have no plans of returning. It’s funny how things work out.
I like my home in Shanghai, and don’t often feel homesick; but from time to time, I’ll find myself missing the States. Or Korea. Or Colombia. Home has become something of a relative concept, so it’s hard to actually be “home-sick.”
Lately though, I have been thinking a lot about my two years in Bogota, and the wonderful memories associated with Colombia. So I made a list. Here are the top 10 things I miss most about this former “home” of mine:
I have to admit: my relationship with Bogota has not been love at first sight. It’s taken work, patience, and understanding. And as I’m sure most of my ex-boyfriends will tell you, I haven’t always been the most patient, or understanding, girlfriend.
Before moving to Colombia, I spent a lot of time daydreaming. I pictured myself in the kitchen, learning how to make traditional delicacies with someone’s grandmother. I saw myself dancing salsa in local clubs, like I had been doing it my whole life. I imagined the coffee shops I’d frequent, and the buzzing effects of their strong Colombian drip.
For me, traveling and food go together like peanut butter and honey. It just makes sense. In one bite, we can discover a culture. We bond with its people.
My family shares the same sentiment. So when they came to visit a couple of weeks ago, I took them to my favorite place for a Saturday morning in Bogota: La Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao. Although not present in many of the guide books, nor listed as a top thing to do online, this bustling, chaotic flower and food market was the first thing to make me fall in love with the city.
My friends below looked like miniature action figures as I tightened my grip on a sharp, protruding rock.
“That’s it, you’re almost there!” shouted my climbing instructor, Hugo Rocha.
Almost there? Is he kidding?
“I think I’m fine to come down now!” I yelled. But Hugo ignored me. “Focus on your feet and push with your legs. You have this, Jennifer!”
Grunting a string of obscenities, I looked for the next groove to place my right foot. Then my left. My fingers trembled as I reached toward the sky.
Fake Christmas trees, life-sized reindeer, and ornate nativity scenes have stocked the aisles at Homecenter since October. The parks in Bogota have been decorated with giant snowflakes and disco balls for more than a month. There’s even a fake bunny slope in the mall where children can zip line to the bottom.
But, according to my Colombian friends, the past couple months have only been preparation for the real Christmas season, which didn’t officially start until this past Friday, on Día de las Velitas.
I have a variation of the same conversation every day with my doorman. We exchange hellos, then we say how we’re feeling. Given I usually see him at 6:25 am and then again when I return from work, my response is usually “Estoy muy cansada.” I am tired.
Depending on the day of the week, he replies with (in Spanish), “Yes, very tired, of course. It’s Monday.” Or, “Yes, very tired, but it’s almost Friday.” Today, he responded, “It’s okay because it’s Juernes!”
The weather in Bogotá is as unpredictable as my 14-year-old students. One minute everything’s great, and the next, it seems the world is coming to an end.
Unfortunately, in both situations, things are usually a bit gloomy. So it’s critical to always be prepared: lots of layers, an umbrella, and most importantly, a positive attitude.
I gasped for air and kept peddling, my head down so the spinning instructor wouldn’t see me laughing.
“Is it just me, or is he doing a sexy dance on top of the bike?” my friend Kari said on the bicycle next to me.