I am trying. I really am. I keep reminding myself that after my trip to the US (and experiencing all the stressful energy there) that I promised myself, and my family, and the readers of this blog, that I would no longer complain when people are late or don’t do what they are going to do. “Efficiency comes with a price, stress, and the price is too high”, I said.
But it’s so hard not to complain. Can’t we be relaxed AND more or less or less on time AND do what we say we are going to do? It’s a struggle for a gringa. AND an opportunity. An opportunity to learn to relax and to be more flexible.
I am actually quite flexible by American standards. I can go with the flow and actually like my life to be less planned and structured than the norm in the US. I don’t think anybody who knows me there would accuse me of being inflexible or uptight. But I am on-time (give or take 5 or 10 minutes) and I always do what I say I will. Not that I should get a medal for this. It’s the norm in the US.
In Colombia, on the other hand, nobody would call me flexible. The Colombian friends I have gotten along with best are considered extremely uptight and rigid by others. They are on-time, do what they say they will and expect the same from others. I of course, get along swimmingly with these people.
Life in Colombia demands extreme flexibility. I struggle with this daily. Take for instance, the past 24 hours. I rushed to get to a meeting at school and the group leader is late (again!) or I called for a service and the lady told me that she will call me back to confirm the time and never did (OK, I am ashamed to admit it because I feel so spoiled but a hairdresser can come to my house here to blow-dry my hair straight for roughly $8) or I was leaving my house this morning planning to drive all the way to Bogota for a class only to get a call 15 minutes before the class was supposed to start to let me know that it has been canceled because the teacher had to go do something in another part of Bogota.
None of these things are the end of the world but they do force me to wait, to find another hairdresser at the last minute, to change my plans for the day and my first reaction is that of major frustration. I get so annoyed and immediately remind myself to breathe. Then I ask myself, “What is the gift here?”
“Learning to have patience can be my spiritual practice. Perhaps the new hairdresser is even better. Now that I am not going to the class, I can write,” I tell myself and slowly feel my frustration lift. One day at a time. Perhaps Colombia will chill me out after all.