This was by far the smoothest transition back into life in Cartagena that we have had yet. I know it is different for everyone, but the longer we are here the easier it is to come back from a break.
My kids started school in the most normal way possible and we jumped back into our routine as if it were second nature.
The thing about living overseas is that not much ever stays the same. The rules change, the people change and you change, so maybe you just get used to a lot of change. You get used to being flexible, to rolling with the punches, to finding some joy and peace in simple things. Like coffee and lots of coffee dates with friends.
Here we are, 2 years into living abroad and I’m certain that I am where I hoped we would be. We all have friends (Colombian, International and Americans from different parts of the country) and we are learning and enjoying our life. That’s really it.
When I break down each part – schooling, work life balance, family time, traveling experience, affordability, we come up winners in every category. I’m not saying it isn’t without its faults – but currently the scales tip in our favor.
I do believe that coming to Cartagena was best with younger children. It is easy to argue both sides of this coin, but it seems what kids end up sacrificing only increases the older they get. My kids aren’t missing prom, Friday night football games, or any of the other rites of passage that American teenagers might wish to have. They are young enough to easily assimilate into friend groups, soak up language and adjust to cultural differences without too much struggle.
We have families that are gearing up to leave in the next few months and it really makes this experience seem fleeting. It has gone by so fast and then it’s over. I am not sure how much time we have left, but I know that if we leave tomorrow or a year from now, we have accomplished what I hoped we would.
To wrap it up, I wanted to answer a few questions about my experience living overseas…
Q: What is the hardest part?
The hardest part about living overseas is that you are far away. Seems simple, it was anticipated but it is still hard to be far enough away that you miss many social gatherings, family celebrations and opportunities to connect with your people. Now our get together’s back home are more purposeful and usually last longer, which is nice.
Q: What do you wish was different about your current situation?
I wish I could communicate better. This is purely my own fault and I have the ability to work on it. My Spanish is ok for getting around but terrible for getting to know someone who doesn’t speak English. There are people you encounter in your daily life that don’t become your best friends but you would like to know them better. I like talking to people and this is difficult for me. Perhaps I should finally get a tutor.
Q: What is the best part about living in Cartagena?
First is my apartment. My kids call it the “tall house”. I wake up every morning to the most beautiful view I have ever seen. The Caribbean Ocean, the boat traffic in the bay, fireworks over old city, and especially the way it all lights up at night. I will never get to live like this again and it will forever be my favorite.
Second is the vibe of city life. People are relaxed, they are happy, it is easy to enjoy yourself here. Nothing is very far away, and while you may not have all the options we have back home, we always seem to work it out.
Q: What do you miss?
People aside. I miss seasons… Fall particularly. I miss the cooling of the weather, the changing of the leaves and the feel of the holidays coming. It’s my favorite time of year. Also, good Mexican food and giant entrée salads. I miss driving with the windows down. And last but not least, my cats (who are currently living it up with my Mom)
Q: Do you feel safe?
I still get this question, and I still say yes. There are policies and people in place to make sure we are safe abroad. I follow the advice and the warnings and I go about my daily life. As Colombia becomes more and more of a tourist destination for Americans, I feel like I will hear this less.