Tuesday, May 18, 2010

they can't kick me out now: orientations to citizenship

This is my first trip to Colombia as a Colombian citizen. I never realized how still unstitched I am to the social fabric of Colombia until I thought about how I would go about doing things here that I do back home. What are the things that every Colombian learns and repeats since grade schools, the equivalents of our George-Washington-crossing-the-Delaware-River-and-chopping-cherry-trees, and stop-drop-and-roll-in-a-fire? If I had to teach illiterate adults to read in Spanish, what methods and content would I use? What is the Colombian equivalent of “a” for “apple?” Until a couple weeks ago, I didn’t even know what the emergency number was (911, my mom told me). If I want to volunteer for an organization, how do I find, and quite literally, how do I talk to the person that would help me with that?

How does citizenship change the way people approach me? When DAS can no longer kick me out or pay fines for staying more than 60 days or for working or volunteering anywhere, and that graffiti tag "Fuera Yanquis de Colombia" no longer applies, how do other Colombians, how do I, come to terms with having all the documented access that they have but lacking the social networks and cultural-linguistic protocols for different civil situations, such as say, finding a job? Making a doctor’s appointment? Getting a driver’s license and handling a car accident? What should I expect when I call the police or get a medical exam? How do I deal with handing over my Colombian ID and explaining that I’m not really from here, so you’ll have to explain to me what to do...? Or, in more social situations, with being stereotyped as an American tourist girl and then I explain that, legally, I am as Colombian as the native-born? I guess the only way is to burrow through it like a gopher and be ready for some possibly awkward positions.


Terrence W. Zellers said...

You should write down your travails in detail with commentary on what it means psychologically and socially.

Consider now the plight of immigrants everywhere throughout history. The huge majority of them had nothing like the security and support available to you, and usually far less education, often not even speaking the language at your proficiency.

*THINK* what this means. It explains why immigrant communities often gather in localized and isolated "ghettos". As you go through this experience think at each step what does or would make it easier for you; then think if and how someone of lesser resources could do it, and what would make it easier. And what is needed to make it easier for the immigrant to become a sophisticate in their new land rather than remaining isolated.

-- TWZ