Life lessons and a kind of love letter to Colombia

love letter to Colombia
One of the oldest streets in Bogotá, in the Candelaria neighborhood

I’ve been reading about place attachment on the interwebs. It’s a fancy term for falling in love with places like one does with people. In case you’re curious as to why it’s because I really miss Colombia and can’t seem to process emotions without a Google search to tell me I’m not alone in my feelings. I’m sure I have some interesting cookies.

But for real, I left Colombia over a year ago and it’s not fading into the background the same way as some of my former “homes”. Let’s not read this sentence as I’m unhappy in Madrid or will never go back to San Diego. I love Madrid (see here: proof in blog form) and have cried many a tear over San Diego (just reference the entire archive of 2015).

Still, each time someone asks where we’d like to settle more permanently, Cody and I respond in unison, with a little too much enthusiasm, Bogotá!

When they ask us why it’s not so easy to respond.

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The perks of downsizing: Why I loved our micro-kitchen

perks of downsizing

Those of us from the U.S. have a certain culture when it comes to size. Growing up with a hundred cereal options and 64 oz. sodas and dually pickup trucks will basically ingrain a bigger is better mantra into your psyche.

I have no problem laughing off my obnoxious love of big American dryers and multiple bathrooms. But—and especially after living abroad—I can also acknowledge the perks of downsizing.

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Summer…otherwise known as the expat exodus 

Last night I went to a little farewell dinner for a gal to whom I’ve become quite attached.  When I met her and we clicked, I felt this ray of hope that I’d found a friend in Bogotá.  But then I found out she’d be moving in less than a year, which was just enough time for me to really get to know and like her!  For some reason I thought saying goodbye to our family and friends as we left San Diego would be it…but I’m getting the feeling that the expat life is one of continual goodbyes.

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Recommended Read: A Moveable Marriage

moveable marriage

We get so caught up in the logistics of moving that we either take for granted or simply ignore the fact that after all of those boxes are unpacked and you’ve figured out how to get to the grocery store, you will be living in a new country with your support system gone and identity in limbo.  And remember that your marriage (already hard without the added stress of an international move) is coming along for the ride…

I did a post all about researching prior to an expat assignment, so it should come as no surprise that I looked high and low for a book about expat marriages and the impact of international relocation. There were books about marriage in general and how to take your job abroad. I found books about moving your kids and how to take care of them. But, there was nothing dedicated to both relocation and marriage.

Once we’d been in Bogotá for several months I finally happened upon a book about expat marriages and had it waiting for me on my next visit to the U.S.

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Year in Review – A look back from Bogotá

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For us, moving abroad was just a thought for a long time.  Well, at first it was just the idea of an around the world trip; unfortunately, we couldn’t get around the whole “quitting a great job” thing.  It became apparent that this was the direction our life was meant to go once we stuck a toe out there—all the pieces rapidly tumbled into place.

That was a year ago and now I’m peeking over my shoulder at the road behind me with a great sense of accomplishment and contentment.  With this anniversary passing, I’ve been thinking about all of the lofty goals and idealistic intentions we had when setting out on this little adventure.  So…where are we?

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A bit about hosting (or being!) an international guest

poem

My love for etiquette shouldn’t come as a surprise. Anyone who knows me knows that I love rules and lists. I mean, I basically got a master’s degree in systems of organization!

And though the word has all the allure of a sepia toned photograph featuring an unsmiling woman in a stiff collar, etiquette can provide a map to staying inside the lines of social interactions. Whether you are a guest or a traveler, being aware of your environment and trying to accommodate the other party will work wonders for your visit.

I have to say that the past few weeks we spent having visitors went exceptionally smoothly and we really enjoyed every moment. Unfortunately, though, that’s not always the case. International assignments can bring a whole different type of visit—most likely of the longer variety. And depending on the location of your assignment, you may find yourself with more visitors than you were expecting.

Below are a few thoughts to keep everyone happy.

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Expat advice: A few tips on that first visit ‘home’

expat visit home

When I wrote about culture shock and how to settle into your new home, I mentioned not going back too quickly after your move. After the shock of the initial visit, I opted out of joining Cody when he went back to San Diego for business until I really felt settled.  We are hoping to do this whole expat thing for a couple more years, so it was important to me that I took my time and didn’t rush through this huge life change.

When it came to how I was feeling, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t look back on this experience and realize that I spent most of my time just ‘getting through’ to the next visit.

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An expat’s version of home.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be flying to Oregon to visit my dad and my best friend from high school. My dad lives in Portland, the city where I was born and Katie lives in Central Oregon, where I lived during my high school years. This visit has me thinking a lot about what ‘home’ means because I don’t consider either of these places home.

The six or so years I lived with Cody in our San Diego condo was the longest stretch I have ever lived under the same roof. The nine or so years I lived in San Diego was my longest stretch in one city. However, on our first visit back to San Diego after moving to Bogotá, we couldn’t help but talk about how strange it felt. We weren’t exactly feeling at home in Bogotá, but neither did San Diego hold that feeling.

This wasn’t a new experience for me.

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