Back in Colombia, New Observations

Right now my grandmother and her friend Sylvia are discussing the negatives of having roommates. I cannot for the life of me understand why young Colombian women between the ages of 18-30 appear to enjoy living with 65+ year old women. Both lovely senior ladies are currently enraged by the lack of tidiness/cleanliness and morality of today’s young ladies. My grandmother is furious that I sit in my room in front of the computer with the door closed. About every two hours or so, she barges in and not so under her breath says things like, “Sitting here like she’s in jail all day, I can’t live like this, this is terribly depressing, open the door for God’s sake, she’s a computer addict, I don’t understand how people can sit in front of the computer all day,” et cetera. I think my grandmother has a very difficult time understanding that I’m actually doing work and even though I don’t have an office, my days can’t consist of going to Unicentro and tea time at my aunt’s house. It makes me quite sad and stressed that she thinks I’m purposely trying to lock myself in seclusion and not do the things she’d like to do, but I have 330 pages of content to turn into Frommer’s on Tuesday. I am going to start the process of looking for a place as soon as I turn in my Frommer’s stuff.

In other news, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, Latin Americans seem to have a a more flexible perception of morality (except when it comes to YOU, of course) this is what I’ve noticed: In the U.S., a guy who cheats on his wife is a cheater and therefore A Bad Person. A guy who hits his wife is an ABUSER and therefore a Bad Person. Someone who does drugs is an addict and therefore a Bad Person or at least a very sad person. And it takes a long time to forgive and forget. The perpetrator must work long and hard (or have a great P.R. team) to work himself back into the good graces of his loved ones and society. And some people, let’s say the abuser and a child molester, will probably not be forgiven no matter how much time goes by and how hard they try to redeem themselves. Not that I think they should be, just my observation.

Now to Colombia, where lines like these are common: “Oh, she’s such nice woman, so helpful and kind…sure she hasn’t had a job for 30 years and mooches off of everyone but….” or “He’s a dignified, cultured man, comes from an excellent family, he just has the slight problem that he gets drunk every night and verbally abuses his wife.” I’ve even heard some really troubling ones like, “Oh, he was such an important man, he had a lot of class and a good job and was so generous with his mother, took her everywhere, did everything she asked…he seemed to have an eye for young children, that was the only thing.”

The other thing I’ve noticed is that in the middle and higher classes, it’s as if the niceties only apply to fellow middle, high classers. A professional at a large multinational might expect a severance package. Suddenly have to get rid of your maid? No need for a severance package, “those people” are used to being poor. People in the same social circles treat each other amazingly. Kiss on the cheek, interested in each others lives, great listeners, a human warmth that really just doesn’t exist in the U.S. Yet, security guards, janitors, low-ranking public officials, retail workers and the like are regarded with distant politesse. You can almost see that there’s an electric fence that comes up and you can only get so close because these, ladies and gentlemen, are not “the right kind of people” who one should associate with.  Sometimes, I feel like”poor people” in Colombia are regarded as wayward children who are slightly pitied from a distance but who no one actually wants to get involved with. Black people also seem to be regarded as cute and cheerful, but again, only safe at a distance. I am probably being more honest than I should be if I ever want to run for public office, but oh well.

Today I am having a down Colombia day. But it makes me feel better that some poor Colombian living in Wisconsin is probably baffled by the “crazy” and “ridiculous” customs and social norms he observes in the U.S. I’ve never seen my neighbor! The streets are always empty! No one asks me any questions about my life! No one gives me any advice! They live such sad, lonely lives! They send their children away at 18 and the children only visit their parents once a year after abandoning them at senior homes! I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. But I’m glad I lived here so I could get rid of the doubt. Now at least I can say with 100% certainty that the U.S. is the right country for me.

Well, I better get back to work. I developed a work ethic during my time in Virginia. Unfortunately, I have found that doing things right can take a very, very, very long time.

Categories: Bogota, Colombia, Colombian culture, Observations

Tags: , ,

2 replies

  1. Do you think that people in the U.S. have more respect for poorer people and minorities? Or people in the U.S. are just more politically correct when they talk? Or is it that there is just a larger middle class so the difference between rich and poor is not as starkly pronounced?

  2. I think people are more politically correct, but I think there’s definitely more real racism and classicm here.

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