A lot has happened in the 6 weeks we have been here. Can you believe it has already been 6 weeks? Can you believe it has ONLY been 6 weeks?? I cannot. It seems like yesterday we were saying goodbye, but it feels like a year ago we were pulling up to Casa Helena. Either way, today marks 6 WEEKS!!!
When we first arrived there were so many things different (besides the obvious language & culture), life, expectations, time management are a lot different. We joke a lot about how ridiculously slow and laid back everything is, until you get in a taxi or public bus- then you better hold onto your life and close your eyes. We have not been in an accident, but it is not for the faint of heart. Now, when we get in a taxi I just hold on and giggle because I know it's going to be like a roller coaster, and the kids love it too.
Shortly after we got here we coined the phrase, "Welcome to Colombia." It was a catch all for those eye rolling little irks that really didn't have rhyme or reason, except, we were no longer in our home land. However, it wasn't until the day we were suppose to sign for our apartment that this phrase really earned it's keep.
We found out Saturday we were getting the keys/signing docs at 10 am on Tuesday, because Monday was a holiday- one that most Colombians would celebrate, but they couldn't tell you which holiday it was. Tuesday at 9:55 we show up interpreter friends in tow (Bill and his wife Wanda from Open Arms), thinking by 11 we would have the keys to our sweet little "casa" and all would be right in the world. Well at 11:30, we were told Bill would have to be our cosigner and we had to go get all of this paperwork, so come back at 3 to finish signing and get the keys. Oh I was upset. I mean come on, in America this would not happen. In America we would have our keys...or at least I would understand what they were saying and what was the hold up. Bill explained to me (and Stephen) that this is Colombia, and they say what you want to hear, even if they have no intention of holding up their end. He said "Keep your expectations low, that way you won't be too disappointed." What? No, we are Americans, land of the "I will make a way-Instant gratification-If I can't have it now, I will complain to whomever I need to, until I can." Uhhh, Little Miss I-get-things-done...Here, you don't.
Welcome to Colombia.
We go back in at 3:15 and wait until 4 pm for them to tell us they have to type up the documents, it will be at least another hour to get the keys. You. Are. Kidding. We were told the contract was ready, it had been ready since SATURDAY. Ok, fine. What's another hour. Right?
Wrong. We go back at 5, papers signed, money paid, everything A-Ok, people there to help us move, moving truck lined up..."Oh sorry, the portero was only at the building until 12pm. You can't get in until tomorrow." You are joking. Why? Just give us the keys and introduce us to him tomorrow. Come on common sense. Nope. Nada. Not gonna happen. Come back tomorrow at 8 am.
Welcome to Colombia. (W2C)
We got our keys, went through the inspection with a lot of, W2C's in there...some include:
Cracks in several window panes. Fix it? Response: we noted it, it won't break.
No hot water, (on Wednesday) guy can't come until next Tuesday, Monday was another holiday.
Top windows in the back of apt don't close, ever.
Hauling furniture up the side of our building...
and the guy tried to charge additional $80 bc it wasn't a standard delivery procedure. (PS Stephen and our portero did the heavy lifting).
Ordering a "queen size bed" to be cheated into one smaller than a double.
Ok, we weren't cheated, we just didn't pay attention to metric numbers!!
Y'all catching my drift here??
Well, at least we have a home! I had stopped wanting to go "home" and God had provided different bilingual friends right when we needed them (that alone STILL has me in awe, and ever SO grateful!!).
As we were shopping for a washer, at HomeCenter (the equivalent to Lowes in America), we were alone, no translator friend, just us. Picture the super exaggerated "NO HAB-LOW ES-PAN-YOLL. ENGLACE, POUR-FAVOR." Because if you say it slow and loud, they will understand. (Not true. That is not true at all. Funny, but unfortunately, not true). We didn't really do that, but I only knew a smidge more than Stephen, so I get shoved in the spot light to try to haggle and understand what on earth these sweet chicas are speaking so fast about. So as we are not understanding each other, they call some one from another department over to translate. I am not kidding when I say there were 10 employees congregated around the "grande Americanas" probably just to giggle at how ridiculous we sound and gawk at how tall we are.
Finally decide on a washer, it was Friday, we wanted to have it delivered today or tomorrow, since Monday was a holiday. No. Nada. No bueno. Can't do that, no delivery today or tomorrow. Ok fine, can we just hire our own delivery man and take it today (I mean, my husband did just pull our bed/base and all the big furniture UP the side of the building..pshh, what's this?)? No. Nada. Can't get do that, has to come from the warehouse, which takes 2 days and since Monday is a holiday, it will be Tuesday afternoon at the earliest. UUGGGHHHH. Fine, then can we have a discount since we have to wait so long?? (Worth the shot right...). These people just look at me like I am dumb for even asking. (The Lowes people would have said yes). Just then. The most beautiful thing happened. The guy that was translating for us was telling us "No, of course you cannot have a discount. It is what it is and that is that. The earliest is Tuesday, at full price." And he said...wait for it. "Welcome to Colombia." YES. HE. DID.
I gasp and giggled and laughed out loud so hard, I said "YES! Welcome to Colombia!!" Ha! All of the phrases in his limited English vocab and out comes that. The best phrase ever! Oh, Lord, you knew I needed to hear that just like a good word from the bible. Oh my goodness, even typing this I can feel the giggles and wave of warmth, the reminder that GOD KNOWS, just like I did that day, standing in the middle of chaos, surrounded by all these people, yet still so alone. He was there.
That was the last day we used "Welcome to Colombia"- I'm sure there have been times that warranted it's use...but that was too good. It changed my reaction to the words "Welcome to Colombia." Instead of eye rolling in dissatisfaction, it makes me smile as a reminder...GOD KNOWS. He does, and I love him even more for it. :-D
I have learned to accept the Colombian clock. If they say 11, probably will be 2 (after lunch). If they say 3, it will probably be tomorrow. And the best part...it's ok! I will stop looking at the clock and find something to do...even if it's as simple as reading a book to my kiddos. Slow down. Maybe lower your expectations..no don't do that- keep your expectations high, just keep control of your attitude when it doesn't go as planned. He knows, friends. I promise, He knows.