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The Wandering Dropout

After trying really hard to find something useful to be good at, it looks like my calling in life is to travel and eat

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Say Whaaaat!? Cross-Cultural Dating Dilemmas

Or: Could you please explain that one more time, in simpler Spanish, so I can make sure I’m justified in wanting to hit you right now..? 

Culture

In the grand scheme of things I’d hardly say I’m used to only existing within one culture.

I was raised within a multi-cultural, globally-dispersed family, in one of the most diverse boroughs of one of the most diverse cities in the world. I learnt to flirt, to date, and to love under the influence of, amongst others, Brits, Nigerians, Jamaicans and Indians – cultures that are hugely different in their approaches to life, dating, sex and love.

My ‘dating history’ includes one of the first Northerners I’d ever come across (ok, its hardly exotic, but I’d barely been past the North circular..), a Jewish boyfriend, and most recently a NZ-raised Egyptian whose parents really didn’t like that I wasn’t a Coptic Christian. Plus various little things across South America and in Nigeria that required understanding and compromise.

Because of this I always thought I’d have no problem properly dating ‘cross-culturally’. That it’s dangerous to make assumptions when dealing with anybody’s feelings, let alone someone whose whole grounding and background is different to yours. To always try and remember that something I find cruelly personal might have just been a throwaway comment, with no offence meant, and to not focus on it.

I never thought I’d have such a confusing and stressful time dating in Colombia. How wrong I was.  Continue reading “Say Whaaaat!? Cross-Cultural Dating Dilemmas”

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Pereza: An Essential Lifestyle Choice

There is a thing called ‘pereza’ in our wee town of Girardot. 

Loosely speaking, it translates to ‘laziness’.

But don’t be mistaken – it is so much more than that. It’s a feeling, an affliction, a whole lifestyle, and the best way to understand Girardot. Working pereza out definitely helped us eventually settle in here.

For a bit of context, it is generally between 36-43ºC in the afternoons (between 95-110°F). When we wake up at 5am, it’s already a balmy 28ºC . When we fall asleep at 10pm it is rarely below 30ºC. It is ALWAYS hot.

Oh, and it’s a super sticky kind of hot only found in the bottom of  valley a million hours away from any coasts. Pure delight.

This makes doing almost anything about 20x more effort than it would be in a more reasonable climate. And so the term pereza is really able to come into it’s own here. “Ayy no, tengo pereza” is a genuinely acceptable reason to not do something.

You’re supposed to be going into town to buy some things and you’ve been overcome by the heat? Pereza. Don’t even think about moving from that bed.

In class and can’t be bothered to do the exercise? Pereza. A valid thing to say to your teacher to excuse you from working, apparently.

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Studying outside because the classroom = a bazillion degrees hot!  

Trying to do some exercise but sweating before you even started? No problem, go ahead and skip it because.. pereza!

Planning on doing some job applications this afternoon? Pereza kicks in. Nap instead.

An interesting result of pereza is that hours pass without anything at all happening. They honestly whizz past while you just.. suffer? enjoy? the pereza. Maybe you work up the energy to open Netflix or pop out for an almuerzo lunch. Maybe not though.

It took me over 3 whole weeks to take my phone to the Claro shop to get the internet issues sorted, simply because it required a 10-minute bike ride into town in the afternoon. Pereza wins out over good intentions at 38°C.

One thing I do know is that its going to be a shock to the system when pereza is no longer enough of an excuse to get you out of doing anything and everything you don’t have the energy to do. Help!

 

 

Surviving Culture Shock

¿Estás Ama‎ñada? It’s a question I’ve been asked countless times while in Colombia.

‘Ama‎ñada’ is essentially a very local way of saying ‘settled in’ – and finally, when I smile and nod enthusiastically in response, I am being completely honest.

Because I really struggled with settling into my placement city when I first got here. Continue reading “Surviving Culture Shock”

What A Difference A Year Makes

A year ago, I was on the brink of my new life in New Zealand.

I was flying towards someone I’d fallen crazily in love with, despite (because of?) the ridiculous distance separating us.

It turned out that I was in love with a bit of a dream. An illusion. Something I’d convinced myself was real because I wanted to believe in it so badly. 

So what has changed in a year?

Well, now I’m in Colombia. I’m an English teacher. I have a life here, Colombian friends, a routine that includes hilarious zumba classes and almost-daily siestas in 42ºC heat.

Sometimes, I still miss my NZ boy. I miss the way he would look at me when he thought I wasn’t looking, how he loved to surprise me, and the life we settled into together.

Lying in the sunshine with bubble tea and salsa, wandering round food markets and working our way through the offerings, and popping out for last-minute hot toddies on cold Christchurch evenings, became the daily happinesses that I shared with him.

I miss what I thought we would become. Having someone to plan trips with, to dream about travelling the world in a ramshackle caravan (complete with scrappy dog) with, and to argue over India-vs-China with as if it was really going to happen.

But most of the time, I’m good without him. My future no longer revolves around someone who doesn’t really want to play a starring role in it.

And it’s terrifying, because I have to actually work out for myself what I want to do next. Where I want to be, how I want to support myself, and what kind of life I want to build up from here on.

But it’s so incredibly exhilarating, because it’s all down to me. 

Last September, I was running towards a guy, and towards a dream. It was amazing, I’ll never regret it, but it ended.

And then I had to rethink everything, because everything involved him. But now? Well, now I am free to wander, explore, and go wherever my restless feet take me.

I have no idea where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing come January 2017, but at least I know I’ll be doing it 100% for me.

Watching Brexit From Abroad

Apart from the obvious reactions of horror and shock, the thing that has struck me most in the aftermath of Brexit is that I’ve only met one Brit (in fact, just one person) who is even vaguely sympathetic to Brexiters.

Being pretty far away from the UK, I’m only really exposed to a certain type of person of UK origin: those who love to travel, are exposed to and at least vaguely understand the beauty of other cultures. Those who see the EU as a solidifying force, albeit one they probably don’t entirely understand. 

In the past month-ish I’ve met hundreds of people who are genuinely heartbroken at the thought of what ‘we’ have chosen. The majority have talked – with varying degrees of seriousness – about reclaiming lost Irish/French/insert other EU country here heritage, or marrying into the EU, in order to continue to travel, to work, and to belong. 

But that potential personal reclaiming of EU-ness doesn’t quite take away the hurt.

I have Finnish citizenship. I can easily get a Finnish passport (my UK one only has 1 free page for stamps anyway so it’s pretty much fate..). But that doesn’t take away the fact that I am a Brit. 

And that every time I head back home, I now have to do so in the knowledge that over 50% of voters essentially voted against having people like my family in the UK.

I’m a born Londoner. I love the UK and it’s people, it’s all I’ve ever known as home. But I’m also about 0% British in terms of my blood. 

Where does Brexit leave people like me?

When I go back to London in December it’ll be to a new country, to somewhere I’ve never been exposed to before. 

All of a sudden I’ll be in a place where a majority (however small, it was still a majority) of voters chose to not want me to belong. 

For a whole generation of mixed-heritage, born-elsewhere people, the UK has suddenly become somewhere they have to question our own belonging.

It strikes me as weird to be driving wedges between people – especially given the current threats facing Europen countries – rather than allowing them to find solidarity in their Britishness. 

And for me? I guess it’s probably a good thing that I’m considering staying in Colombia for another year!

Blogging Breaks

I realised today I haven’t even attempted to blog in over a month, the longest time since I made this blog over a year ago. Oops.

Actually, it coincided with me having probably the most exciting break of my time in Colombia – 3 weeks of pure, backpacker-style travelling after living like a local for so long. 

Ironically it also coincided with my phone exploding in a mess of over-heated metal (thank you, Girardot, and please spare my laptop) and my camera disappearing from the bedroom of a friend’s flat so my photos of the trip are severely limited to what I can pilch off others.

Travel blogging at its finest.

So keep your eyes peeled for some peeks at backpacker life on the Caribbean coast of Colombia (hint: think lots of ridiculously beautiful beaches, piña coladas, happy brownies and sun-drenched days full of happiness) and a couple of more dodgy updates from the less wholesome streets of Medellín.

August 2015: Back to Basics in Finland

In August I went off to stay at my gran’s summer cottage in the lake area of central Finland – two weeks of pure, unconnected, back-to-basics, good old fashioned living.

Continue reading “August 2015: Back to Basics in Finland”

TEFL in Colombia: Expectations vs Reality

Picture teaching English in a public high school in Colombia. What do you imagine?

A tough, tiring and difficult morning’s work, for sure. But then?

Afternoons spent lying on Caribbean beaches..? Walks to school down remote Amazonian footpaths..? Cramming in some lesson planning before a night of passion-filled salsa..? Continue reading “TEFL in Colombia: Expectations vs Reality”

Turning 26

I turned 26 a couple of weeks ago so I reckon I can no longer even remotely plausibly call myself “early 20’s” anymore. Boo.

It feels like a much bigger change than the previous couple of birthdays did. Maybe because I’m in a headspace where I’m thinking about change more, and about growing up, and also because I’m a bit bored and on Facebook more than normal, so I start comparing myself to people around me. Continue reading “Turning 26”

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