Thursday, November 3, 2016

Stepping Off the Plane

I left Colombia at seventeen to go to college at Baylor University, and nearly flunked out because of culture shock. Merriam-Webster says it's "a feeling of confusion, doubt, or nervousness caused by being in a place (such as a foreign country) that is very different from what you are used to."

The displaced feeling never left, but I managed to graduate four years later and move to Washington, DC.

Living in the capital was a thrill. I loved walking down the busy streets, stopping for motorcades, visiting the museums, and finding all the statues spread around town. Every once in a while, though, I still pined for my childhood. "Life was so much better in Colombia," I'd tell anyone who would listen. The cold DC winters and the hectic pace wore me down, and the people, although friendly enough, didn't have the warmth and caring I grew up knowing.

One cold January day I was missing Colombia yet again when a new thought stopped me in my tracks. If I missed it so much, why not go back?

The idea took shape in my mind; maybe I could work at Colegio Bolivar, the American school I attended. Plenty of young Americans took jobs overseas, and I already knew the language. Why not me?

I set up an interview with the school and found another job opening in sales, then bought my ticket and headed to Cali. I could hardly contain my excitement in those days leading up to the trip. One way or another, my life was about to change!

On the airplane, I pressed my nose to the window as we approached Cali's airport, studying every mountain and cloud and village below me. Everyone clapped when we landed safely, the crew rolled the stairs up to the airplane door, then I stepped into the warmth of the balmy Colombian afternoon, and..... I knew immediately.

I knew I didn't belong in Colombia anymore. I loved Cali, but my life was in the States.

My stay was wonderful, even though I turned down both jobs. I visited friends and places, and didn't look back when I headed home again. And when I thought of Colombia after that, it was with a nod to an excellent past, and peace with the new life I was making for myself here.

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