No we aren't experts, we aren't even rookies yet. But life is unique here. I am sure any missionary can say that about the country they have been called. I don't want to discredit that at all. We as missionaries are trained to handle "culture shock," we are taught to deal with the shift in lifestyle and family dynamics. But can you really be prepared to do life in a totally different place with a totally different way to live!?!
The answer is yes but there is a steep learning curve! Everyday is a learning process. We thought that process would have ended at the closure of language school. Ohhhh it hasn't! Now, this may sound negative but it really isn't. It's a new reality that our American brains will get accustomed. This way we can be effective in ministry work as well as our daily relationships. The fun part of all of this is simple... There is something to learn everyday and every situation (buying groceries, looking for a salon or getting internet setup) which creates a funny story or lesson for us to add to our book of knowledge about Colombia.
I have spent these last few weeks on the Colombian lifestyle and several things ring true...
1. Leave Your Schedule at the Door
We walked into the bank just to see how our money transfer was going. 2 and a half hours later we walked out to go to another bank because that bank didn't have the information we needed. After another hour we were on our way home tired and drained. Everything we do just takes more time. Everything has more process involved. More process means more frustration.
It isn't the end of the world, I have realized that we just need to leave our North American expectations at the door. I can try to force "our way" on these free-loving Colombians but it will not work. It will simply create a social gap in the end. The great part is when you get to the point of contentment with it all life gets so much freer here. Life isn't any easier here, the complexities still exist. But, going with the flow does make life "freer" for sure.
Everyone around us is watching us like we are aliens already, when we interact incorrectly there is a heightened sense of awareness that we have "done it wrong!"
2. Don't Play With the Heat
People, it's hot. And I mean, it is really hot! Think a southern swamp in the middle of the summer and that would be everyday here. We kept wondering why everything here comes to a crawl around 12:00 pm until 2:00 pm. Well, after asking our Colombian teammate he gracefully told us that no one can deal with this heat for a full day! Now, we make a run for air conditioning around lunch time and don't schedule anything until after 2:00. That way the humidity and heat can dissipate a bit.
3. Relationships Are No Joke
Leaving or coming to a party, introducing yourself and so many other facets of personal interaction have nuances that are crucial to know. Everyone around us is watching us like we are aliens already, when we interact incorrectly there is a heightened sense of awareness that we have "done it wrong!"
The great part of relationships being so important here is everyone quickly gets to know you and becomes a friend after 5 minutes. It is heart-warming and takes time to adjust as we meet anybody new. However, the best and most amazing part of all this relationship stuff is simple. People want to know so much about us that the questions they are asking give us AMAZING opportunities to share about Jesus Christ, his Word and what He has done in our life.
With people showing interest in your life and sharing comes a dilemma for our North American way. Conversations can go for a long, long, long time. Normally a person has to say, " Well, it is getting late... I am going to need to go now," more than once. Really, we do it 3 or 4 times before leaving is OK to do!
4. In The End People Love
No matter what looks we get we feel the loving nature of everyone here in Barranquilla. The people here are known for their passion (especially for sports!), carefree nature and kindness. Everyone we have encountered has been so loving. Everyone here has been so gracious and patient with us. The heart-warming time is when we are being treated unfairly in a situation where others are around. Every instance God has put a caring Barranquillero (person from Barranquilla) in the situation that can correct/help in an amazing. It just feels so cool in those situations to be a "part" of a community where complete strangers genuinely care!
In closing, you will see more and more about our lives here so that you can get a glimpse into our lives. We love sharing about the Colombians and even though we will never BE Colombian we already feel a part of this hectic, bustling city. God has been good to us even in the steaming hot climate filled with changes in our schedule for sure.