Life is Different



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Bogota is different. Instead of chickens and pigs roaming the streets as I walk to work, I avoid beautifully groomed dogs and their equally beautiful owners. Instead of stepping over ditches of grey water and greeting all of my neighbours by name, I try to be careful not to get run over by giant buses and attempt to catch stranger´s eyes in the street. Instead of purchasing my tomatoes, onions and eggs at the local grocery store while gossiping with the other clients and giving impromptu English lessons regarding vegetable names, I pile every fruit and vegetable imaginable in my cart at the market down the street, in silence. Instead of collecting rain water in a bucket and hoping it lasts until the next downpour, I join in the drama of wondering who has blocked the pipe from the roof and siphoned all the water to their own apartment. Instead of a feeling of safety as I wander around the community with my camera slung around my neck, followed by a group of children, I ensure that I am not carrying anything valuable and think suspicious thoughts towards strangers.

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Work is different. Instead of an office, kitchen, dining room, and living room all in one, I live in an apartment and travel to my cubicle everyday. Instead of leaving my house to visit my friends or take pictures when things get slow, I am stuck in the office and in work mode for eight hours a day, five days a week. Instead of the unpredictable, exciting and times horrendous chaos of a lived transitional justice and reparations process, I follow an organizational plan, with long term goals and short term objectives. Instead of afternoon gossip sessions on the street, I try to make small talk with my co-workers. Instead of shorts, tank tops and flip flops, I wear long pants, sweaters, scarves, and lipstick everyday.



Free time is different. Instead of tanning on the beach once a month, I walk through parks with a sweater and an umbrella. Instead of church services every night, there are endless options from lazing on my couch to going to the theatre at my disposal. Instead of people dropping in on me for a nice chat about life and the community, I work hard to slowly make friends that I can one day invite over for dinner. Instead of plates heaped full of rice, yuca and ñame, along with shots of syrupy coffee or bright pink pop everywhere I go, I bring leftovers for lunch or pay for a sandwich with wasabi mayo or thin crust pizza.
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My connection with the realities of Colombia is different. Instead of having the ability to read my community for the impacts of armed conflict, I still only see the obvious of tall building, malls, and the bustle of city life. Instead of having direct relationships with community leaders, I read about the work of human rights defenders in my email. Instead of participating in all of the different facets of life in a displaced community, my vision of victims in Bogota is so far one dimensional. Instead of only focusing on what is happening in the local, my understanding of current events and context must now encompass the marco. Instead of small scale agriculture and projects of return, I think about urban violence and homelessness. Instead of the daily pressure of answering questions about the arrival of reparations and checking names off lists, I ponder advocacy strategies and compose letters in my head.
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(I am grateful that sunsets and moments of beauty exist everywhere)
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7 comments on “Life is Different”

  1. Anna, It was great to get your ‘like’ on our blog (Dawn and Ross in Bangladesh). Was immediately able to see your blog. Love your writing style. Loved the content. Reading between the lines – sounds like your are in the midst of a significant re-adjustment in returning to a completely different setting. Going to make it? I hope so. I still smile at our speculative “Movie Star orientation week seminars”. My hope/prayer is that you discover some wonderful friends in the city. We have been in Dhaka for 1.5 months. One recent rating of ‘the most unlivable cities” rated it #2. But there are many beautiful people here! Peace on you as you live it out.

  2. Thanks Ross! I was super excited to find your blog. It’s very interesting to see the different experiences of transition you are going through on the other side of the world. I think I am going to make it- running hot water helps a lot. Are you going to make it? It sounds like you are taking a great approach- humour and finding the best in people. I remember when I first moved to my rural community two years ago- people also told me it was unlivable, but my neighbours and local friends made all the difference. Peace to you too! I’m looking forward to reading more.

  3. Anna, I loved your style and had memories of my time as Mcc volunteer in Canada , coming through Brazil, get in touch. i would to hear about your term im Colombia. I visited that country and some mennonitte missionaries there many years ago.

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