The Tough Side of Expat Life – Part 2

I figured you might have been tired of reading my last blog which was so long so I decided to split it into 2 parts. Our travails are not yet over, you see.

Just as we were settling into a new routine of kitty care, a close friend of Siena’s (our 7 year old) had a major accident at school. She fell of a 20 foot swing and broke her chin, knocking most of her teeth out of place. Siena was right there when it happened and there was apparently blood everywhere. The little girl needed 4 surgeries to put her chin back together and stabilize her teeth with screws and 5 days after the accident, she is still in the hospital because she can’t eat any food and throws up all liquids that are fed her. Her face will probably be scarred for life.

Obviously, this is a horrible thing and Siena was very impacted by it. We went to visit her friend in the hospital (Kids under 13 are not allowed to visit patients in hospitals here but we talked our way in) and Siena has been talking about the accident for days. “Mom, her face just doesn’t look the same anymore and she is not smiling,” she said after the hospital visit.

I have been very impacted by this accident too. You see, the reason that this girl broke her chin is because there was a huge rock embedded into the soil under the swing.

“What do you mean there is a huge rock under the swing?” I asked Siena.

“I don’t know. It’s a rock or concrete,” she replied. “It’s part of nature so it’s OK.”

“It has been there since I used to go to that school, Mom,” piped in Jade, our ten year old.

What???! What do you mean there is a huge rock or piece of concrete under a 20-foot swing? How can the school have allowed that rock to remain there? And the teachers often push the kids on these swings so they can go higher and faster! Apparently the little girl who got hurt was told by the teacher who was pushing her to hold on but she let go in an attempt to pass a piece of paper to a friend of hers. Had there been grass or sand under the swing, she would have still gotten hurt but probably would not have broken her chin.

The amazing thing is that my husband and I are the only ones who were shocked that there was a huge rock under the swing. Other parents just said, “Yeah, we should look into that.”

What???! Accidents happen, of course, but some are really preventable. Like not having rocks under swings, for instance, greatly reduces the chances of a bad accident.

This accident happened last Thursday. On Monday, my husband Esteban went to school to check out the rock and talk to the school about removing it. The school was very appreciative of his suggestion and immediately closed the swing area and started removing the rock and replanting the area with grass. I guess it’s good that they took the suggestion seriously but I found it amazing that the school didn’t think to close the swing or remove the rock on their own. Five days after the accident, it was still there until my husband went to say something! Unbelievable!

I have to say that this accident shook me even more than I was already shaken.  It’s one thing to sit back and analyze a foreign culture through certain events which, although frustrating and upsetting at the time, won’t really impact our lives in the long run (neighbor that set her alarm off at 5 am, parasites, domestic violence in other peoples’ homes, etc.), but all of the sudden, I felt afraid for my kids. I didn’t trust their safety here.  What if it had been Siena in a local hospital, after 4 surgeries, with scars on her face for the rest of her life? What are we doing in a place with such a strong history of violence and inaction that this is acceptable?

Maybe I am being dramatic. I have to confess that it has been hard to write about this because on the one hand, I imagine offending my Colombian friends who have been wonderful, open and so hospitable to us. It feels like by writing this, I am negating all the wonderful things that have happened to us in Colombia.

On the other hand, it has been hard to write about this because I imagine my American friends thinking, “Isn’t it time to come home? Why are you exposing your children to all of these dangers?” Truth to tell my parents and several friends in the US have already asked me this.

I don’t know. It’s hard to say. One of the difficult things about being an expat is that you start to lose perspective of what is correct and what is dangerous. Am I being foolish or overprotective? My head and heart are saying “Definitely not overprotective. Perhaps foolish.” I don’t know. I am sitting in the question and meanwhile constantly telling my girls what is safe and what is not safe. It’s all I can do right now.

This entry was posted in Expat life, parenting in Colombia, School stuff, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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