Down Days

My neighborhood, Chapinero, at night

It’s been two weeks since Joseph left for San Francisco and a little over two weeks since we got back from Perú. Since then, it’s been my normal life: Spanish practice in the morning, occasional meetings, a class, and lots of reading. Life is good here, and the travel to new places makes it really good, but, my life in the Bog is quiet most days. And all of the quiet, all of the alone time, inevitably leads to some down days.

I guess I felt the need to point this out because my Instagram is a highlight reel and – as my sister calls it – Facebook could also be known as “Bragbook”. I want to be honest about the whole story here and, honestly, sometimes I’m counting down the days until my Christmas flight home.

I feel weird writing this, because I don’t want to sound ungrateful and I don’t want to make it seem like I’m unhappy because I am grateful and I am happy. I know I’ll miss a lot of aspects of this life once it’s over: the freedom to read what I want when I want, the ability to do yoga in the mornings, and the ease of travel. But, it’s a lot of alone time. For instance, I’ve made several friends from both the US and Colombia, and still, I’d say I eat alone for dinner most days and typically lunch as well. As I understand it, most other Fulbrights are the same way, and definitely the other researchers. None of our schedules align, because everyone is teaching English at different universities (some in the mornings, some only at night, some on Saturdays) and I’m the only research Fulbright in Bogotá.

Generally, it’s fine and I haven’t felt lonely yet, probably because I knew that this is how it would be going into it, but still, it can be challenging and frustrating. In comparison to study abroad, Fulbright is a big difference– this is real life, with bills to pay and actual work to do and I’m not exploring the city with a small, tight-knit group of people (there are over 60 Fulbrighters in Colombia this year vs. my study abroad group of 13 in Madrid). Then, in comparison to San Francisco, Bogotá is a big difference– it rains most days, the pollution is a real problem, it gets dark early (all year round), and I’m far more on guard about personal safety.

I’m not sure if I’d feel different in another Colombian city. It’d definitely help with the weather, but this experience is tiring for other reasons too. I’m the foreigner in nearly every situation, I miss the conveniences I’m accustomed to in SF (Amazon + Target + Instacart + Google Shopping Express, I miss youuu), and I stick out so much in most cities/towns for being black (literally had a security guard in Lima’s airport use a wand for my hair, after I passed through the X-ray machine without setting it off. What do they think is hidden in my hair that couldn’t be seen via X-Ray??).

BUT. I will say, a huge highlight for me in my everyday life (so, not including travel or time with friends) is the research project itself. I think this program was a good fit for me. I’ve met so many people from women’s rights organizations, I’ve learned so much about reproductive rights in Colombia, I’m sitting in on a Women’s History class, and I really enjoy it all. Even with the down days, I feel confident that I applied to the right program for me.

So I think I’m looking forward to the holidays in Maryland so much because… this is too long to go without seeing my family, I much prefer my normal relationship to long distance, I forgot how much of a privilege it is to be able to navigate life in your home culture, and I know I can keep up with my research and reading from the US for a few weeks. Until then though, I swear I’m going to continue enjoying myself here.


One Comment Add yours

  1. mission spoon says:

    Lauren, this is Natalie! (I know, weird WordPress username 😉 Thank you so much for sharing what’s on your heart. You are so brave and doing such an amazing thing, but I totally get it can be lonely and culturally grating — X Ray your hair WTF?! Just know I am pulling for you and I believe in you! You got this.


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