My two homes

Those of you who saw me in Pittsburgh or New York heard me say, maybe more than once, that I’m getting tired of Bogotá. It’s true. The city is a difficult place to live, and it’s only getting worse right now. More importantly for me, in the ways I’ve experienced it so far, it’s not improving with time; it’s only getting more frustrating, stressful, and uninteresting.

That sounds pretty bad, right? As I was saying variations of that to a number of people last week, I could sense how bad it sounded, and I imagined a response that was never vocalized: “So what are you still doing there?” Well, there are a lot of reasons for me to stay here a while more.

But this week, my first week back after my U.S. vacation, drove home one reason that had faded from my mind when I was in the U.S.: My life here is really exciting. There’s an energy and dynamism I feel each day when I leave my apartment that I rarely feel in the U.S. Some of it is actually a result of the city’s problems. I put my finger on this in two earlier posts from months ago. First, from last September, two weeks after I arrived in Colombia for the first time:

Life here, [my roommate and I] agreed, isn’t as easy as it is elsewhere. But it is, and will be, as long as we stay, wonderful in so many ways. At the least, it’s exciting. The adrenaline released just by walking the streets is something I already suspect I’m going to miss when I leave.

And second, from the last time I returned to Bogotá, in January:

Facing my return to Bogotá in my last week at home, I was nervous about coming back. Not so much nervous that anything specifically bad would befall me, though that was a small concern I hadn’t had the first time I left (when I was one computer richer and several stabbed acquaintances poorer). More so, I feared becoming severely worn down by the city.

See, I live here now. And I have for several months. The honeymoon is over. I’ve wrung every little bit of enjoyment, wonder, and intrigue possible out of the bus rides I take. I’ve examined TransMilenio in as many ways as it can be examined. (Bottom line: It’s the best of a bad situation–transportation in Bogotá–and even that only at times.) I’ve studied the people and the streets and I’m pretty used to them by now. They’re people. And streets. Different from the ones I grew up around. But not intrinsically better than what I used to know. Even, actually, worse in some ways (the streets, not the people–I hope). No longer very exciting. Also, have I mentioned that the city can be dangerous and that that’s a real bitch, just a total drain on the psyche a lots of the time?

That was what was so nice about being back in the U.S., and what made me nervous about coming back here. I didn’t want to spend hours a day on shitty buses again, nor any time on the streets holding my bag tightly and keeping my hands in my pocket, where my phone and wallet are. I don’t have to do that in the U.S. And I hate that I have to do that here. So I wasn’t feeling great–ready, but not great–as I packed up my things and headed to the airport again.

But then I landed in South America. Instantly, things got better. The heat–relative heat: it’s only like 70 degrees here–was immediately comforting as soon as I got off the plane and into the airport. The vibe of being back in Latin America was exciting. And the fact that I got out of the cab in a new and much nicer neighborhood than I used to live in was a great surprise, in how much it both comforted and excited me right away.

This time, leaving New York’s 85 degrees, Bogotá wasn’t hot enough to make me excited to be back. But there was Latin America’s smell and feel, which I don’t miss when I’m away, but which I love when I’m here. That’s literally the best of both worlds, right?

And more than that, I’m back to my business. I don’t have the right words to explain the excitement of my work. I’m sure I’d feel similarly if I were successfully freelancing in the U.S. But I don’t have much faith I could pull that off, since I’m making things work here thanks to competitive advantage and a low cost of living. It’s really working, and I really love that.

So when I left my parents’ apartment to go have fun each day on vacation, that was great. But when I leave my apartment here to go to work, it’s even better. I miss New York already, of course, but I’m happy to be where I am.

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