I’m just back to Colombia after spending two months in the USA, so I’m experiencing both major and minor cultural tremors on a personal level. Add an extended rainy season in the Colombian highlands (leaking roof and windows!) to the usual adaptation one experiences when culture hopping and you get the picture.
My half-opened door in the small Colombian highlands town of Guatapé
Visiting and spending quality time with my two unique Sisters in the USA is always a trip—in the literal sense. What we share genetically more than anything else are our eccentricities.
While we all have our own idiosyncratic personalities, and despite the challenges apparent in placing three older-adult siblings into the same living space for two months, this scenario always provides me (and I hope them as well) with a great opportunity for personal growth. We’re all three prone to saying “It isn’t easy being us” far too often. 🙂
Young monks waiting outside Thai immigration office
Many photographers would agree that the most photogenic moments take place randomly and, of course, when you may least expect them. On the day I snapped the photo above, I was making an obligatory appearance at Bangkok’s main Thai immigration office which is located in a mammoth complex near the old (now domestic) Don Mueang Airport in the northern sector of that sprawling metropolis. After a long taxi ride, my mind was preoccupied by the wait I had ahead of me as well as the encounter I was about to have with a mammoth bureaucracy.
As usual, I hadn’t been given all the necessary forms by the international school where I was working, so an immigration employee provided the missing pages and directed me to fill them out in the courtyard of the office complex. As I walked out of the office into the cavernous interior of the building–mumbling now censored rude words about my employer under my breath–I looked around for a spot where I could sit while I filled out the forms. There were circular stone benches surrounding large planters that lined the outer edge of this vast space, so I headed for one of those.
I love meeting new people along my journey, the kind that, due to their intelligence and awareness, cause me to question my assumptions about the world and the daily habits I take for granted.
Such was the case this week when I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with an extraordinary young woman who was visiting my closest friend here in Colombia. This young woman studied and lived abroad and now runs an NGO in Mexico City (which she founded) called “Ollin,” which roughly translates to Youth in Movement.
During one of our discussions on international issues, she casually asked if I would describe myself as an expat or an immigrant.
Hum, I thought, as conflicting thoughts raced through my mind. This is a quandary. Based on my current status here in Colombia, how would I label myself?