More than a month has passed since my return to Trinidad from Colombia. Being bombarded with questions relating to missing Colombia seem to just never die. Being asked what my ‘vacation’ was like also seems to be a trending question. However no words can never really express the somewhat nostalgic yet queer yet satisfied feeling of having returned to what I call home after my year’s experience abroad.
I was undoubtedly engulfed with happiness to see my family and my crazy dog. Home is where I feel safe and happy and with my family I feel just that. Yet I couldn’t help but feel an empty space inside and a huge lump in my throat the following morning when I woke up. It was no longer cold when I woke up. I was no longer wrapped up in my thick blanket and the sun was beaming through my window and curtains, heating up the entire room. Something was missing. It felt as though I left something behind, another universe, another life. I felt the warm thing that leaps in your chest over and over as I came to the realisation that morning that I was no longer in Bogotá. Emotional as I am I did not cry but it was more of a dragging, heavy, anxious feeling inside of me realising that I can no longer hop on a transmilenio to go exploring nor did I have to prepare my English classes for the evening at the University.
This funny feeling however did not last long as in four days I began an internship which had me going. Now, everyone is different and everyone’s approach to certain situations will vary. For me, the key in overcoming this transition was to occupy myself in various activities. After the internship I began tutoring and I have also been spending some quality time with my family.
But maybe I have not overcome the transition as yet. Maybe I am keeping myself too occupied and maybe I am avoiding reflection. Avoiding everything makes the entire thing feel like a dream that I woke up from. I dare not dwell on my photos nor do I listen to the songs that were on repeat on my playlist while in Colombia.
The culture shocks on returning home began at the airport when I was half-heartedly greeted by the Trini guard at immigration as she indifferently said to me, “Move dis way.” But the one that greatly appalled me was the day I went into a store in Port of Spain with my mother looking for a paper towel holder. No one was there to greet us at the door. The saleswoman and her fellow co-workers were chatting away fully indulged in their panchayat, already discouraging me from confronting them. When I finally decided to ask, one of them responded, “Check dong so in the last lane it mustbe dey there.” Firstly, they she wasn’t even sure if the store had the item and secondly she didn’t see her job as a “sales clerk” to be that of serving a customer. Having spent a significant amount of time in a land where the culture is totally different, where customer service is priority and where everyone is confronted with smiles and elaborate greetings, facing Trinidad’s lack of courtesy and acknowledgement in it’s customer service was like another slap in the face. In Bogotá, there were sales clerks metres away from the store touting and asking customers what they were looking for (with immense respect and kindness) and then they would personally accompany you directly to the particular item in the store. That is service.
Part of life is realising that experiences like these will come and go. Part of life is coming to terms with your past and understanding that it is never good to be too attached to something. Part of life is also understanding that this is just the beginning and that more opportunities and experiences are yet to come. Experiences are invaluable and they’re something that no one on this earth can teach or give to you. Your closest friend, your parents or your favourite teacher can tell you the same thing for the millionth time but at the end of the day it is up to you to make a choice or a decision and you may find yourself making that decision after you have personally experienced a particular situation.
The financial, intellectual and emotional independence of living by yourself will inevitably be added to your invisible résumé. The independence is something I dearly miss. And of course, I could never forget the adrenaline rush and the liberating and refreshing feelings of being on the gorgeous Andes mountains.
There are numerous things that you learn while travelling. I would recommend any dear soul to grab every single opportunity that there is to travel, to work or even to live abroad. There is so much to see and do. It really is a different world, a different culture, a different language, different people, different food, a different lifestyle, different ways of thinking. The experience is inexplicable and worth it. On countless trips I travelled by myself, a risk that I took to go to some pretty lonely places but the journey in itself was priceless. You find yourself reflecting more when you travel by yourself. You think and learn more and ask more questions. You’re also more away of your surroundings and tend to not depend on anyone. I mean you’re by yourself, who could you depend on anyways…But this experience doesn’t mean that I have learnt everything that there is to be learnt about life. I am far from done and will never think that now I know it all. There is still so much to see, learn and explore in this vast world. This experience was merely just an eye-opener. So enjoy the journey, stay humble, stay patient but work hard and always ensure that you are happy in the process because mental health is essential!