I spent one month stuck in Bogotá, and it was the best month of my life
I spent one month stuck in Bogotá this past August - September 2017. Why? It's a long answer and one about U.S. immigration, hurricanes, and Food Network.
- Week 1 - I went to Bogota for a project with the Food Network.
- Week 2 - Decided to extend my trip. Went to the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá to get my visa stamped (can only stamp outside the U.S.). They were to notify me once the paperwork was done.
- Week 3 - No notification had arrived. No word from the Embassy. Had to extend my trip again. I was now stuck in Bogotá.
- Week 4 - Still stuck. No word from U.S. Embassy.
- Week 5 - No longer stuck - my visa was fine, but hurricane Maria was headed to Miami. So really, was stuck again and my flight was canceled three times.
IT WAS THE BEST MONTH OF MY LIFE. The colors, the singing, the dancing, the food.
Friends + family were sure I had lost my marbles because I was HAPPY. How could I be so happy under the circumstances? For several weeks, I didn't even have a passport in my possession. I moved apartments four - FOUR - times. The prospect of the hurricane wiping out Miami certainly was scary but my family was able to leave the city, but they were fine, and so was Miami, thank Gd.
WHY GETTING STUCK THERE WAS AWESOME
I know that there is something bigger out there, like God, the Universe or maybe even myself, that kept me stuck in Colombia because "it" knew it would heal me. It got rid of my food allergies, my fears.
Why/how did Colombia save my life?
- I FELT WANTED. I realized in Colombia that a country had never made me feel so welcome. Def. not the U.S. - 22 years out of my 30 years on this earth have been spent in the U.S. I've never been illegal, yet a routine stamp on my passport turned into some Donald Trump Twilight Zone that had me stuck in a foreign country without my passport in my possession - the U.S. asked to keep it for their review; had I not allowed them to, they would not have granted the visa for me to return home, to my things. In Colombia, on the other hand, when people realized I was Venezuelan, they were so friendly, reassuring, constantly stating: "we're brothers, we feel Venezuela's pain. You are welcome here. We have a great lawyer to recommend." Tears of joy flowed through my cheeks more than once. The Colombian government has also echoed this sentiment, giving Venezuelans shelter. I said, thank you.
- I REMEMBERED THE LITTLE GIRL IN ME. Colombian and Venezuelan cultures are very similar. We share a lot of the same music and gastronomy. I heard songs that brought me back to my family's kitchen in Caracas. I had forgotten about that little girl. Ballenato songs, sayings, phrases, smells, fruits. I was little fat baby Belén again.
- MY HAIR LOOKED GREAT. The weather in Bogotá is incredible. High 50's to low 70's. Great for the hair.
- TRAVEL IS MEDICINE. This is true when you feel safe taking Ubers alone, and walking down the street with your iPhone in hand. I felt so safe the whole time, free to explore and see new things.
- I REINVENTED MYSELF. That little girl in point #2 and I had a serious chat. I was going to not only be the best version of myself but a true version of myself. Weird, creative, sexy, passionate. Love myself as much as I could. Turn the darkness into glitter. Somehow, my light had been dimmed and it only took me spending some time in a foreign country without a clear future to make it shine again.
- I LEARNED THAT PEOPLE DO SURPRISE YOU FOR THE BETTER. I made so many new friends. Random acts of kindess. People saying "good morning," and picking up my notebook when I dropped it.
- I RETURNED TO MY ESSENCE. I also realized that all experiences in life do happen for a reason. This situation, being stuck somewhere, taught me to appreciate who I am, what I am, and give myself the balls to be the real me and shine. In an effort to get anxious, I started writing, dancing and doing all kinds of creative things that I love to do, yet I never do in Miami. I did all of those things in Bogotá. I even mustered up the courage to share some of my ideas with people I trust and admire, and may potentially collaborate on projects with that I've only dreamed of working on.
- I REALIZED THAT I LOVE THE U.S. Even though I am not yet officially American, I realize my mission is to make this country better because it is my home. I've lived here 22/30 years of my life. Beyond the U.S., which I love, my life mission is to make whatever corner or turf I'm in, a little better.
- YOU ATTRACT EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO YOU, GOOD OR BAD. This incident allowed me to pause. Value that life has kicked me around like a soccer ball around the world but that makes me wordly and adaptable to any situation.
NO HAY MAL QUE POR BIEN NO VENGA // EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING
I was so energized in Colombia, that I decided to get a journal so I could write down all the beautiful things that were happening to me. I was so happy to be alive. I couldn't wait to get up in the morning and exercise with my new Colombian friends.
Once it was time to come back home to Miami, I was a bit scared. Would I go back to my old ways? The good news is that I have honored that newfound Colombian Belen and have been just as happy, if not more, than when I was in Bogotá.
But... I still can't wait to go back. Colombia, I owe you everything. I love you. And to myself, thank you for waking up and for making your life beautiful again. YOU GO GIRL.
I dare you to do the same!!!!