“Congratulations to the great city of Barranquilla. From the first time we visited, we felt at home.”
I think we’re officially Barranquilleros now! The clip to the left is from the April 8th edition of the local paper, La Libertad. The photo and quote were taken when Gio and I attended “Barranquilla Sabe Cantar” (“Barranquilla Knows How to Sing”), a free community event celebrating the City of Barranquilla’s 200th Birthday. We were asked if we’d like to extend our congratulations to the City, and of course we said yes! Even though our quote was “doctored” a little bit and makes us look more like visitors than residents, we’ll ignore that and instead assume that this means we have indeed arrived. Hooray!
It’s a new year, and in many ways, an official start to our “real” life in Barranquilla. Despite the fact that we moved here from Miami on July 23rd, 2012, just two days after our wedding, it wasn’t until our recent return from Christmas holidays in the U.S. that we finally felt settled.
The last six months, while good, were consumed with an almost endless to-do list related to our move: find an apartment, furnish the apartment, get Gio’s cédula (the national I.D. card), get our son Marcello into the national birth registry (so that Marcello could be a Colombian citizen), get Marcello’s passport, renew my expiring tourist visa, apply for my indefinite visa as Marcello’s mother (since Marcello is now a citizen), apply for my cédula de extranjería (the national I.D. card for foreigners) – you get the idea. We set December 13th, the day of our flight back to the U.S. for the holidays, as our deadline for jumping through all these hoops. While I had to put several things – like writing for this blog – on the back burner, we met our goal. Flying back on January 6th, I finally felt like I was coming home.
As you might imagine, a benchmark like this leads to some reflection. It seems like a good time to address the two questions that my husband and I are asked most often about our move: 1) Why? and 2) Do you like it? Continue reading
I have reached a stage in our transition to Colombia that most expats probably experience but would rather skip – homesickness. Homesickness is a funny thing. We all experience it at some point. Sometimes it’s as a child, during our first sleepover at a friend’s house, or maybe as a “tween”, during that first week of summer camp. Maybe it’s when we leave college to set up our “real life” for the first time, or perhaps even later, after a divorce or a break-up, when the same house we were living in before suddenly ceases to feel like home due to the absence of the relationship that defined it. Of course, a move to another country can do it too.
Transition Point: Different colored stripes of water form at the horizon where freshwater from the Rio Magdalena, on which Barranquilla is situated, empties into the saltwater of the Caribbean Sea.
We never become completely immune to homesickness, and no matter our age, its basic anatomy remains the same. Homesickness is about identity. Continue reading
Just over a week ago, we finally moved into our new place! If you’ve followed our quest to sign a lease, you’ll know just how big a sense of accomplishment we felt when we actually had the keys in hand. Of course, our 1-year old son Marcello also took the keys in his hands, which resulted in THIS. (Side note: if you are thinking of moving to Colombia, do not use a rental agency. Rent directly from the owner.)
Our new apartment is lovely. Continue reading
The process of establishing our new home continues. Our shipment from Miami arrived, but the entire crate (they build a crate for your boxes when shipping internationally) was accidentally left outside at the Port for two weeks. It rained heavily on Wednesday. Our customs agent (you have to hire this person to get your stuff out out of the Port since you are not allowed in) called with the bad news that everything is soaked.
Most likely the bulk of it is ruined. The rest, we have been told, is already growing mold. Continue reading
After the craziness of the last two weeks, the minor spell-check typo on this placard in our hotel bathroom has taken on new meaning for me. I have been tempted on several occasions to call the front desk and tell them, “Yes, please do bring us a few sanity napkins!”
If you’ve been following our apartment quest, you’ll recall from this post that we got permission from Citibank in Bogotá to open an account here in Barranquilla. We filed all the paperwork last Friday (a week ago) and were told that it would be open by Tuesday. On Tuesday, the bank representative told us Wednesday. On Wednesday, we were told that there was still no reply. On Thursday (yesterday), my husband Gio decided to do what generally seems to work best – go ask in person.
When Gio walked into the banker’s office, she was on the phone with Bogotá concerning our account. Apparently, they declined to open it because Gio did not have his cédula, or Colombian ID card. Continue reading
All three of us – my husband, my 1 year-old son, and myself – now have health insurance in Colombia. Even with top-of-the-line full coverage, our monthly payment will be less than half of what insurance for my husband and son alone (not including me) cost in the States. We are self-employed, and so insurance in the U.S. has always cost us a lot. It’ll be interesting to see how well this insurance works, but the coverage and available doctors and facilities seem excellent and the immediate savings are a huge weight lifted from our shoulders.
Our quest to find an apartment – or rather, to get approved for the one we’ve found – continues. Here’s the latest:
Last time I posted about this, we were waiting to hear what outrageous sum of money the insurance company would require us to invest in a CD as a deposit for rental of our apartment. We were told when we applied for “the CD solution” that the insurer might require anywhere between four and ten months’ rent. We waited anxiously to hear what our insurer would require. The answer? Nine months in the CD, naturally to be followed by the first month’s rent. Continue reading
This view of the city looks over apartment buildings in the upscale Villa Country neighborhood.