We are down to the wire. The kids finish school in six weeks. Our visas expire in seven weeks. At some point very soon we have to give notice to our landlord here and our tenant in the US. But we don’t know if we’re staying or going. Going or staying?! Staying or going? Aaack! This indecision me molesta.
We are waiting for a call about a job and a possible relocation. The call, which has been delayed for a variety of reasons, will determine if we stay or go. We are not waiting patiently. Andrew checks all possible forms of communication every few minutes, and then sings the ‘watched pot never boils’ song. He reads his horoscope daily, looking for answers. One site is not enough- he has broadened his astrological horizons and checks a number of sites, in English and Spanish. I found him the other day on Dogstrology. I think that may have been an accident, unless he’s wondering how all this uncertainty is effecting our dog.
In the next few weeks we will have to set some plan in motion. Any plan. I don’t care at this point. And that’s how I deal with the situation. I say things like, I don’t even care at this point. I’m trying to live in the moment and not stress too much because there isn’t a lot I can do about it. I think my mom would say I need to envision what I want and put that out into the universe (or tell me to move to VT). But I’m not sure what I want. There are so many things that would make me really happy about going home: being closer to family, friends and Trader Joe’s, making phone calls in my own language, seeing my nephew who I haven’t met yet (who I accidently referred to as my grandson in Spanish today and the person I was talking to didn’t even blink, which is terrifying).
But when I think about leaving Colombia, I immediately start to miss it. I’ll miss the mountains, the flowers, the birds, and the elegant Colombian Spanish. I’ll miss our friends here, although most of them are leaving too. Most of all, I’ll miss the weather. While that might sound shallow, you need to understand that Medellin has the world’s best climate. The temperature ranges from 75-85, every day, year round. You can leave the windows open all the time, no heat or AC required. In the evening, the air is the exact same temperature as your skin. It’s like being in a sensory deprivation tank. It is perfect. Why would you live anywhere else? I grew up in a place where you need to wear a winter hat inside and there are no leaves on the trees from October to June. I cannot overstate the importance of Medellin’s perfect climate on my happiness and well-being. And it’s hard to imagine leaving it.
A perfect climate means you can grow almost anything, anytime. Something is always in bloom. And the birds… Do you know that Colombia has more species of birds than any other country? The Birds of Colombia book is 996 pages long. I really shouldn’t leave until I can identify at least a dozen, by their real names. I got hung up on the guacamaya- the macaw parrot. I’m so fixated on the guacamaya I haven’t learned the proper names of the others I see all the time, which I refer to as medium powder blue bird, tiny red bird, swallow looking bird that likes bamboo, the bird that sounds like a screaming toddler, yellow and black bird that’s everywhere, and super aggressive wetland bird that hangs out by the school. If we ever get another paycheck, I will buy that giant Birds of Colombia book.
Instead of deciding what I actually want, or putting some plan in motion, or packing the boxes, I will wait a little longer and share these photos of the flowers of Medellin, which make me stop to smell them every day.
And bonus, the guacamayas!
We had a rough, rollercoaster of a week. On Thursday, Andrew’s largest client told them to stop work; they were shutting down the project and could not pay another cent. On Friday night, Andrew’s boss called and said the Board thought the Colombia office needed to be closed.
We knew things were uncertain here, but Andrew had been told by the same boss many times not to worry, that they were invested in the Colombia office for the long haul, blah blah blah. We expected to be here two years at a minimum. I imagined we would leave Colombia voluntarily, once we were all speaking perfect Spanish of course, not because a Friday night phone call told us it was over. After 9 months. Andrew’s interview for this job took longer than 9 months! We haven’t even received our health insurance cards yet!
Saturday I was shell-shocked, and really sad. Andrew told Lina, his first employee, who had moved from Barranquilla with her family for this job, that it might be over. After the morning’s kid activities we went to Crepes y Waffles and ate our feelings. Massive stuffed crepes, feta and pesto salad, wine, smoothies and cappuccino and amaretto chocolate ice cream for desert. Then we went to Lina’s place and the kids played. That afternoon there was a huge storm, the most intense I’ve seen since we’ve been here. The rain leaked in the windows and palm trees blew to the ground. The power went out and we spent the evening in the dark. That night Andrew wore a headlamp and cracked up reading his new book. I started wondering if maybe the reality of our situation hadn’t really sunk in yet.
The next few days I wandered around in a haze, yelling at the kids and chastising myself for not holding it together better. I felt bad for Andrew. He has worked so hard to get this company set up in Colombia. He found new clients, hired and trained staff (and fired someone), set up an office, and all with almost no support from the US office. I am amazed he’s been able to accomplish anything. It took me 9 months and 3 tries to get the equivalent of a social security card, which you’re supposed to get within 15 days of arriving in the country. This place does not make things easy. His boss obviously has no idea how much has gone into getting this endeavor off the ground; to pull the plug now before giving it a real chance- especially considering the costs of closing – seems crazy. And I was disappointed in myself for not accomplishing more in the time we’ve had here. I haven’t been on the metrocable yet. I haven’t been to the crazy produce market, or the Pueblito Paisa or the free Sunday yoga in the botanical gardens or the Park of Wishes, or the one bakery in town that apparently makes real New York bagels. I need to find a tutor for Juan, our cleaning lady’s 9 year old son who doesn’t know how to read. And I need to find a place to work, where I can do more than just teach English. This was of course on the to do list, saved for year 2 when we were completely settled and my Spanish was better. Oops. After my year of leaning out, as #$% Cheryl Sandburg might call it, I speak Spanish like a two-year old and I’m probably not even qualified to get my old job back.
Andrew’s boss may have felt a tinge of guilt or some responsibility for what he’s about to do to our lives (i.e. leaving us jobless and homeless) so he told Andrew there would be an opportunity for him in the Denver office. Not knowing what our future holds, I started looking into our most likely plan B. So Wednesday, after the new internet was installed (we just got high-speed internet! See, everything takes forever!) I started looking at our options in Denver. Housing, potential jobs for me. Snow. Suburbs. It snowed in May. I know, Denver and Boulder are great. I really like Boulder (and we love Aunt Ellen- hi Ellen!) and they have prairie dogs there, which is pretty cool. But I think we’d have to be in Denver because of the commute. It’s not a bad option. But people, we are in PARADISE here! Or as close to paradise as we’re going to get. We can’t leave! We’re not done yet!
On Thursday Andrew went to Bogota for meetings and I went to visit Our Lady of the Mystic Rose. I discovered this place when I almost ran into some cars parked at an exit ramp and saw a parade of people heading into a wooded area on the side of the road. Our neighbor Marta, who knows all the holy places in Colombia, told us that this Virgin Mary grants miracles. It was also the place hit men would go to ask for forgiveness for their sins. The grotto is on the side of a six lane road, right next to the on/off ramp.
It is completely serene, which is surprising given the location. I sat for a while and took it in, and thought about what to ask for. I didn’t really feel comfortable praying, but it did put me in a meditative, goddess-worshiping kind of mood. I had already resolved to do as much as I could in our time remaining in Medellin, knowing that it could be very limited. I suppose it’s never a good idea to plan as though you have all the time in the world. And as a world-class procrastinator, I always do better with deadlines. Of course I want us to be able to stay longer. I want Andrew to have a chance to make his company work. I want the kids to have the chance to really become fluent. But I know we can get at least a few more months here and that might be enough. Other opportunities might come up in that time as well. I felt focused and renewed and happy. Andrew called from Bogota to tell me about his meetings, which had gone well. He had a client who wanted to hire them for some more work that would keep them busy through the summer.
On Friday, Andrew had another meeting with his boss who agreed it probably didn’t make sense to shut the office right away if there was work lined up. They’ll take a wait and see approach. A few hours later Andrew was contacted by another company with a potential job opportunity, at a beer company! Who knows what the future holds. We might be somewhere else in the Fall or we might be here making beer. Either way, I will have done everything I wanted to do here and maybe I will have mastered the Spanish direct and indirect object pronouns. Now, hurry up and visit!