It had only been three months since I’d emigrated so I wasn’t quite ready to come back to the States. I had purchased a round-trip because it was the more economical option and offered me security blanket in case my plans fell through. However, up until the last week before I was set to fly, I was constantly reminding myself of why I had decided to immigrate to Colombia in the first place. Although my 90-day tourist visa was expiring, I didn’t necessarily have to board the return flight. Colombia allows a 90-day extension to the 90-day tourist visa they grant you upon entering the country, which can be done on the Migracion Colombia website. Although, many people tend “border hop” or cross the border in nearby Ecuador to get a passport stamp then return to Colombia. I was nervous about going back to the States and had considered all worst-case scenarios upon visiting.
Living in Cali again for three months reminded me how much I adore living in Colombia. I felt safe and my human experience had been more pleasant than the common rat race, politics and threats to safety I’d grown accustomed to during my experience in the States. However, a large part of Colombian culture revolves around closeness to family and I missed mine. I negotiated with my spirit and acknowledged that this was a previously-purchased opportunity to see my loved ones and it excited me to think of seeing them. So in lieu of my inhibitions, I went ahead and booked an affordable one-way return flight to Cali before catching my return flight back to the D.C. During the overnight layover in Bogota, I regrettably decided to stay with a friend who had also been a flame I had met during a past visit to Bogota. I chose to stay mostly because it was free but I was also curious about how our interaction might be. Let’s just say we finally sealed the deal, causing me to wake up late and miss my flight the next morning. I was disappointed in myself especially since I wound up having to pay an excessive fee but it reminded me of the last time I had missed an international flight.
It had been seven years ago. At 23, I had completed my study abroad program and was returning from Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I had a 12-hour layover in Barcelona and it was my first time there so I opted for a night out which led me to frolicking with a Brazilian I’d met on my bar crawl. Needless to say, our short moment together ended too late and I had missed my flight coming back to the States. After my reckless night of partying and thotting in Barcelona, my grandmother helped my mother fund my trip to D.C. when I couldn’t afford to get myself a new flight back to the States. My move to D.C. thereafter was largely because of this experience since I would eventually live with my grandma for nearly a year as I curated my career after college. After I was able to move into my own apartment in D.C., I’d go visit her often to return the love and compassion she’s always shown me. Her health would eventually begin to drastically decline with stroke after stroke leading her to a somber state of dementia.
Fortunately, I was financially stable enough to bear the fees attached to missing my flight in Bogota. However, three days after arriving into the Washington D.C. area from Bogota, I found out my grandma passed away. She was still living in D.C. and I received the news while I was on my way to her house to visit. Though it had been rainy and I am inclined to laziness when it rains, I was initially hit hard by guilt that I had not gone sooner. I eventually found solace in knowing the relationship I had built with my late father’s mother prior to her transition. She is literally the reason I moved to Washington D.C, which opened the doors that led me to Colombia. Months after moving in with her, she’d wrote me this note for my college graduation:
Grieving after losing someone who has been in your heart for your entire life is difficult, especially when you’re only home once or twice a year. I was able to cope knowing that I had decided after all to visit my loved ones, which afforded me to help write the obituary and be present for my grandmother’s funeral.
A picture of my grandma’s cat the night of her passing. Grandma passed one year ago today. Rest well ancestor and thanks for your guidance.
In retrospect, I made the right decision by going to be around family and friends. Despite me being adapted and pleased with my life in Colombia, it’s important to consider that no one is getting younger, including those I hold close to my heart. Moments spent together are precious. This lesson remains with me as I plan my next visit with family and friends on the one year anniversary of my grandmother’s final departure.