Making Long Term Plans

As 2016 drew to a close, Edwin and I were frantically organising the documents and their respective translations to English to start our journey to Australia.

Although I’m not sure you could really call it the start of our journey to Australia. I think it actually started somewhere on the Panamericana highway between Ipiales and Pasto on the first of January in 2016 where I, hit with the full force of nostalgia of New Years Day in my home town, suggested that it might be time to make plans to move our family to Australia. Edwin agreed and we decided to save up the hefty application fee during 2016 and apply by the end of October.

Although our timelines blew out a bit, we were able to submit the application before Christmas in a frenzy of stitching together pdfs of the original documents and their translations so they wouldn’t take up so much space in the allotted 60 documents per person in the application, naming all the files in an orderly fashion, creating spreadsheets to keep track of the documents uploaded and to be uploaded for each of us and a whole lot of printing and scanning so that everything could be attached to the electronic application – since we are now well and truly in the 21st century and you are no longer required to stuff a tree in an envelope and send it to the immigration office.

Even though we had most of our documents ready, it still required four full days to attach them correctly to Edwin’s partner application with dependent child included and it was a juggling act with our Christmas holiday plans and my studies also on the go.

Now that we’ve submitted the application, and Edwin and D have had their biometric data collected, we sit tight and wait for any messages of additional information required, the details to schedule the medical exam and hopefully, hopefully, within 9 to 12 months, that we receive a joyous email advising of a visa being granted so we can move to Australia.

Nine to twelve months seems like a long time, and it is. A baby can be conceived and born in the time it takes to receive notification of me being able to live in my home country with my family who happen to be of another nationality. For many people  in a similar situation looking at the same visa type, this timeframe is probably torturously long. For others of other nationalities trying to apply for partner visas in countries with different restrictive requirements (I’m looking at you, UK) it might seem but a tiny hurdle in comparison to restrictive eligibility criteria.

For us, it’s an opportunity to enjoy our (hopefully) final year in Colombia (for now, at least). We can really make the most of our time and lifestyle here. D can drink Postobon manzana as much as he wants (I’m too afraid to tell him that soft drink flavour doesn’t exist in Australia), we can eat delicious pan de bonos, enjoy the freedom that walking to work allows, be grateful to have a cleaning lady come to our apartment once per week, look at the cerros every day and feel the inspiration of living in the mountains, spend time with friends and Colombian family and visit places on our Colombia bucket list.

Now that we’ve made our large, non-refundable investment in moving to Australia and I talk to more people about it, many are asking me why are we moving if we enjoy a greater disposable income here than we will likely have in Australia, if we do truly enjoy our lives here and I’m not debilitated by homesickness. In other words, we’re on a good wicket, why change that?

True, they are all valid points. But so is the fact that I will have spent over 5 years living here – which I consider a decent chunk of time, Edwin genuinely wants to move to Australia and be closer to my family and also to have a fairer earning capacity in his chosen career, it is a good time for D to move and learn English and have better education opportunities than he might have here and really I am keen for a little bit of that Australian lifestyle, freedom and space that I love.

We will always have the opportunity to come back to Colombia at some point in the future if we decide to (if my Colombian visa officer is reading this, please do give me a new TP-10 partner visa tomorrow) and perhaps we may even live somewhere else in the world. Who knows?

All I know is that we are half way through our two-year plan to move to Australia and Australia is where we are keen to be for the foreseeable future. The journey ahead won’t be without heartaches, tough times and likely tears, but there will also be adventure, opportunities and new family memories for us to make together.




A crazy day of Colombian cliches

Yesterday was one of those days where there are so many observations to make about Colombia and Colombians. Even if my phone had enough memory for a Twitter app, I wouldn’t have tweeted this, but let’s just say that if I had live-tweeted yesterday, it would have looked something like this:


12:55pm – Gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllllllll #Colombia

1pm – A little loco comes running into the bedroom screaming and yelling. He flies on the bed and appears to be having some kind of fit.

1:02pm – The little loco starts jumping on the bed brandishing pillows and repeating “Gano! Gano!” (They won, they won)

2:05pm – Time to get ready to go to a family birthday party at the opposite end of Bogota #familycommitments

2:10pm – I want to wear a dress, but everyone else will be in jeans so I guess I’ll acquiesce

2:25pm – On our way to the #Transmilieno station

2:29pm – We need to buy a present, chocolates from Carrulla

2:31pm – Uh oh, looks like some kind of riot ahead.

2:32pm – It’s a sea of yellow shirts throwing cornflour and spraying silly string everywhere. How do we avoid this?

2:33pm – They are blockading the road, there are traffic jams, beeping horns, mess and people cheering

2:33pm – What?!? They are even spraying foam into rolled down car windows #chaos

2:35pm – I’m told a gaggle of people on the median strip are surrounding a woman hit by a car #sickinthestomach

2:37pm – The pricing on supermarket shelves rarely matches up with the product. Where are the  $18,000 chocs?

2:40pm – Oh great, #cardrejected. x2

2:41pm – Now we only have about 15,000 pesos and we’re going to the boondocks. I need emergency taxi ride money.

2:43pm – Taking the side route to avoid the #crazyColombians and to exit unscathed

2:43pm – Feel sad for the woman being stretchered into the ambulance #sickinthestomach #nosyonlookers

2:46pm – These Colombians are #outofcontrol. It’s mayhem in the streets

2:46pm – Police are out n about but so many people yelling, cheering and blowing those horrible horns

2:48pm – I don’t feel very safe. What’s it going to be like at the other end of #Bogota?

2:49pm – Made mi novio call his aunt for an update on the situation in Bosa

2:51pm – Made him call again to ask how far we have to walk from the last bus stop

2:51pm – Okay, it’s just a block. I guess that should be okay #stillfeelinguneasy

2:54pm – Phew, card worked at #Bancolombia. Now we have emergency taxi cash.

3pm – Hand over $50,000 and my card at the Transmilieno stop. Teller shakes her head. Can’t hear over the noise

3:01pm – Apparently this station doesn’t recharge cards. #cranky #whydidtheymakemebuyonethen

3:03pm – Which bus to Las Americas? #Transmilienoconfusion

3:04pm – Darn, the F14 just passed.

3:04pm – The F14 doesn’t stop here. Just get on the next one.

3:10pm – Change here or at Jimenez? Yes, no, yes, no …. get off!!

3:10pm – F14 right behind. Woohoo! Seats for all three of us #Transmilienomilagro

3:20pm – We’re practically the only people on the bus not wearing yell0w jerseys

3:25pm – Street watching on the way south. Mostly quiet, most shops closed. #ChaosOnlyInNorth

3:45pm – The centre is also full of #crazyColombians

4pm – Passing Pradera outlets. I want to go shopping!

4pm – Haha “Pradera Outlet Factory” jajaa #Englishclasses

4:15pm – Finally we are arriving at Portal Las Americas. Long way from home.

4:16pm – I love that the feeder buses are called ‘alimentadores’. Obvious translation, but still sounds cool.

4:16pm – I didn’t think Colombians knew how to line up neatly and patiently for a bus #Transmilieno

4:20pm – Here’s our bus. We’re not going to fit.

4:21pm – We made it on, no seat. #squishy

4:24pm – This road is worse than the 4wd track to Ciudad Perdida. #hugepotholes #ridiculous

4:30pm – Feeling #claustrophobic. I don’t know how so many people do this every day. #Transmilieno

4:32pm – D just called it Transmi Lleno (full) #jajaja

4:40pm – Esta vaina es leeeeeejos

4:43pm – I wish we had left earlier. #readytogohomealready

4:51pm – Patience has just about to run out. Let me off this bus!

4:53pm – I think this is our stop. Get off. Push, shove.

4:55pm – Where is the building? #neverbeenherebefore #endoftheearth

4:55pm – I think we got off a stop too early. #walking

5pm – Me: what’s the birthday lady’s name? Novio: I don’t remember. What? She’s his step-grandmother.

5:01pm – This is it. Entering the conjunto and chasing down the rellies ahead.

5:01pm – Who’s that in the green #dress?

5:03pm – Sister-in-law looks fab in a dress. Never seen her in one before. #wishIhadwornadresstoo

5:05pm – The reception room is set theatre style #weird #antisocial

5:06pm – Greetings and kisses all round.

5:07pm – The birthday granny remembered my name. Still don’t remember hers. #Awkward #justuseSenora

5:11pm – 2 month old baby thrust upon me by the mother. #justrollwithit

5:13pm – Am told that #babies like me. Waiting to hear the usual question…

5:14pm – When are you going to have a baby? #unavoidablequestion #notodavia

5:20pm – Staring at the fields & mountain out the window #Bogotacitylimits #woopwoop

5:24pm – Food or drink haven’t been served yet. #onColombiantime #neveranynibbles #setplan

5:35pm – Found out that we will be having #lechona. Yum. Spit pig stuffed with rice & meat. #crackle

6pm – Mariachi band! #morepopularthaninMexico #thereisamariachiwoman

6:03pm – Mariachi guitarist’s white pants are very, very tight.

6:30pm – Still no drinks. Novio’s gone to the shop.

6:38pm – OMG I think a #priest is here to give #communion

6:38pm – He just put a robe on over his party outfit

6:40pm – Have never heard of #communion at a birthday party. Wonder if he’s taking confessions too

6:49pm – It appears he’s the nephew of the birthday granny

6:49pm – And he’s giving a #mass not just communion! #catholicism

6:52pm – Is it rude not to stand and kneel when everyone else is? #notcatholic #canIpretendIdontunderstand

6:55pm – Talking about the great mystery of God being 1 but 3 different things & and the message is we can be different but unified

7:04pm – Birthday #mass is over. Now the babies are being blessed.

7:20pm – #Lechona is being served.

7:45pm – We got served last despite being closest to the kitchen 😦 #lovelechona

8:05pm – Meeting more extended, removed and estranged family members. Colombian families are confusing.

8:20pm – Hometime. Getting a lift with the bro-in-law. #awesome #lucky #nonightrideTransmilieno

8:30pm – Birthday granny was a nun for 20 years! #thatexplainsthemass

8:31pm – Happy 80th birthday Dona Elia!

9pm – Family commitments met for a little while. #happyColombianfamily #phew




An overwhelming lack of enthusiasm

Arriving back home from our recent camping trip to Tayrona National Park full of excitement with the news that we are going to get married and with a beautiful ring on display, I was looking forward to letting my nearest and dearest, okay, everyone, know the news.

In the kitchen I asked mi novio if he was going to tell his mum sitting in the rocker in the lounge room, but he said for me to tell her. So I approached her and said “Señora, we have some exciting news. Your son asked me to marry him and I said yes!” while thrusting my left hand towards her so she could see the ring with which he had proposed.

Her response while looking at my ring was “That´s good. It´s pretty, it´s an engagement ring” and then proceeded to tell us that the recently dead Hugo Chavez was going to be embalmed and put in a crystal coffin on display in a museum in Venezuela.  Brief? Yes. Lacking in enthusiasm? Absolutely. A pin prick to my bubble of excitement? Most certainly.

Instantly I slumped in the chair, barely able to hide disappointment at such an uninterested reception to incredibly important news by the first person we´d told.

I gulped down my Coca-Cola and made a speedy dash to the bathroom for a shower where I admit to bursting into tears.

In our room mi novio found me on the bed with my head buried in a pillow and asked what was wrong. I told him that here we were with the most exciting news the house has had for the year and his mother hadn´t shown any excitement, let alone congratulated him. What a great way to feel welcomed into the family. I´m pretty sure in my distraught state I said that if that was how excited his mother and family were going to be, then we´d get married in Australia where all of my family, who I was sure would be over the moon by the news, could attend this important event in our lives.

After my outburst, I tidied myself up and then mi novio came into the room again to find me talking to myself in the mirror. He asked what I was doing, and I answered, rather suspiciously, “nothing”. Clearly it wasn´t nothing and when he asked again I said I was practicing what I would say to his mother to let her know how hurt I was feeling by her lack of reaction to our news. He told me to practice on him, and I unwillingly I relented and put forth my little speech. He asked if I was really going to say something and I told him that if I never said anything, I would always feel the stone of hurt and bitterness in my heart over her reaction. He asked if I wanted him to tell her, and I was unsure but eventually decided that it was probably best for him to broach the subject.

We went out to the lounge and sat down on opposite sides of the room. Mi novio then said “Mamá, Camille feels sad because she thinks you are not excited or happy about our news because you didn´t say anything or express your happiness.”

Her response was defensive and actually slightly argumentative, “I looked hard at the ring and it was nice. If I had have thrown a glance at it and then looked away that would have been an offense. It´s not my responsibility to ask or inquire about anything, it´s my children´s responsibility to communicate with me. I´m not going to ask questions. One doesn´t like to make comparisons, but I was thinking about your brothers and sister and how it´s nice that you´ve told me and not run off and hidden things from me.”

She proceeded to stay off the topic of our pending nuptials and instead launched into a lengthy tirade of how she wasn´t happy about how one son got married 5 months after his father died and so she only went to the church not to the reception, how another son got married in the presence of all his wife´s family and without telling any of his family, how her daughter was supposed to get married in 6 months but then suddenly upped and left the house for her fiance´s home town where a wedding was planned for in a week´s time and how she believed after seeing things on Facebook that another son had gotten married on the sly too. An interesting way of showing she was happy for being included in our celebrations and not making comparisons.

Instead of feeling the weight of sharing my feelings leave my chest, I felt berated for being so sensitive and apparently doing things the wrong way for not leaving it up to her son to tell her we were engaged.

So I told mi novio that from that point he had to tell his family. I wasn´t going to say anything because I´d probably just be disappointed by their reactions and it seems that this type of news is best coming from him than me, the foreigner.

I guess I was better prepared for the lack of enthusiasm from the rest of his family after this experience. His older brother just kind of stared at the news and his aunt (who is both his boss and my boss) just smiled dumbly. A cousin didn´t even say anything. Not once was there a felicitaciones (congratulations) said by a member of his family, except for when mi novio said to his son “Aren´t you going to congratulate us?” but I guess it´s okay to put words in a nine-year-old´s mouth.

As far as life events go, Colombians are more excited by babies and birthdays than by weddings. I´m sure that if we´d announced we were having a baby, the reaction would have been far different. In Australia, whilst many people choose never to wed or have children before getting married, there is still a strong tradition for being married before starting a family. In Colombia everyone asks when you´re going to have a baby. They´re not interested in whether you´re going to get married, just when you get pregnant.

Perhaps my views and generalisations are tainted by my experiences living on the coast. The state of Magdalena where we live is one of the four poorest states in Colombia and teen pregnancies are the norm (condoms are priced way out of reach of a huge percentage of people here) and not the same kind of big deal they are back home. As a matter of fact we are going to a baby shower today for a 17-year-old girl. Truth be told, I had expected to find a greater pressure to get married before starting a family in this Catholic country, but it seems all that matters is bringing a baby into the world, regardless of how old the mother is, or whether she is in a stable, loving relationship.

I asked the girlfriend of mi novio´s cousin why she thought I´d been met with such indifference and she said “Everyone gets divorced or separated anyway, so people don´t really think it´s worth celebrating.” I was astounded at the pessimism on a level which I hadn´t yet encountered in Colombia. However mi novio doesn´t agree with this and says it is just that more people to live together without getting married. Even his parents never got married.

Thankfully the reception to our engagement news from my parents, brothers, sister, grandparents, aunts and friends was overwhelming and effusive. Exactly as I expected it to be and like how I am when I hear exciting news of engagements, weddings and babies – with genuine happiness for the people concerned.

So whilst I had the wind knocked out of my sails, this little boat continues to navigate the choppy waters of cultural differences in search of safe harbours, crystalline water and beautiful beaches like the one where mi novio proposed to me.

Have you ever had an unexpected response to a major life event due to cultural differences?

Teary farewells

It’s so much harder to say goodbye to loved ones when you don’t know when you’ll see them next.

The final week at home was chaotic, stressful and packed full of preparations, not just for mi novio and I, but for Dad’s birthday party which was the day before we flew out of Mildura.

I really can’t believe how much paperwork and sorting out of affairs is required to go overseas for an indefinite period. I had so much stuff going on and unfortunately had left some of it way too late to get finished. However I was far more packed up than when I moved to LA last year, where I pretty much walked out of the house with everything I’d left behind in the same spot. I got more ruthless this year. I took more to the op shop than I have in all my combined visits before. I threw out mountains of irrelevant papers and organised the remainder of everything into several plastic containers

Dad’s party was a good opportunity to bid farewell to family and family friends. I was upset that one of my grandmothers couldn’t make the trip to the party and so I missed saying a proper goodbye to her, although she rang me to wish me well in Colombia.

On our final day at home, we got busy packing everything properly. I already knew I was going to be a bawling mess when saying goodbye to my family, and even typing this now brings tears to my eyes and a sob to my throat.

We had a final barbecue with Mum, Dad and my siblings, soaking up the beautiful day, before some photos and the farewell to my siblings. Whenever each of them would start to say bye and reach for a hug, fat tears would start rolling down my cheeks. I’m going miss them so much.

At the airport we checked in our mountain of luggage and then a parade of family and friends started to arrive to see us off. As the boarding time was announced, I started my rounds of everyone, hugging and kissing goodbye. I was just saying how I hadn’t got to farewell my grandmother at the party the day before, which started to add to my level of upset-ness, when her and my grandfather rounded the corner, just in time for me to give them a big hug.

Lastly, just before we left to board the plane we farewelled Mum and Dad, who have been just marvellous. They have done so much for mi novio and I these past two months and I enjoyed being back home and helping out. I am going to miss them desperately. But they are planning to come and visit us in Colombia, and hopefully we can get back home for a visit within two years.

All I can say, is thank goodness for Skype. It certainly makes being on the other side of the world to your loved ones so much easier.

Oh what a night

Not half excited

Last night was seriously in my top 10 nights ever.

To celebrate my leaving Mildura, I hosted a party for my A-listers and it totally rocked my world. I still can’t wipe the smile off my face. I mean, I normally have a smile on my face, but this is one of those big, stupid, cheesy grins that gives your face major wrinkles.

It was the perfect combination of family, friends and food mixed with dance-time tunes and laughs all around.

I just want to give a MASSIVE shout out to the 60 or so people who came along and made my night. I also want to thank the gate-crashers, because no A-list party is complete without gate-crashers!

Thanks also to Mario and co at Stefano’s Cafe for supplying the fab venue and even fabber food.

There are so many amazing people in my Mildura life, it will be sad to leave their company but with the kind of send off they gave me, they’ll never leave my thoughts.

The party in full-swing

Bank of Big Sister is no longer lending

The Bank of Big Sister has two customers. Two poor credit rating customers by the names of Bro #1 and Bro #2.

This should really come as no surprise as it all started some 20 years ago when Bro #2 took advantage of his kindergarten hours to steal $10 I thought I had cleverly hidden in my room while I was at school. I never saw that $10 again. He also stole from Bro #1, which brought about some fun conversations in Bro #1’s sleep. “Bro #2 give me back my $10” was heard in the wee hours of one evening.

As horrid as my brothers can be, they can also be exceptionally charming and they also know how to press all of big sister’s buttons. They manage to wheedle money out of me by finding the weakest spot and pressing until it caves in. The weakest spot just so happens to be a desire to make things okay for them and to help them get through ‘tough’ times and the pressing usually involves them being extraordinarily nice to me and seemingly very considerate.

Yesterday was a perfect example. Bro #2 called to ask if he could borrow some money, despite his outstanding debt and having just paid 50% of it back three days earlier. My steely exterior was really just the density of steel wool, with plenty of cracks and gaps. He begged that it was for a date with, in a coy voice, “some girl”. Crumble, crumble, crumble went my resolve as I desperately tried to bolster my steely exterior.

“But I just need it to put some fuel in my car,” continued Bro #2, sensing his prey was weakening. The how much started at $50 and went down to $20 as I managed to bite my tongue from responding as quickly as he thought I would.

I asked when I would expect repayment, to which Bro #2 replied “I’ll get Mum to give it to you”. You see my mother manages my brothers’ money, giving them small allowances, while making sure there is money in their account for loan repayments and paying their phone bills online. They have us all twisted around their little fingers, even Other Sister gets hit up for money, despite the fact that the boys probably earn more than her – frugality didn’t get passed on to the male gene in my family.

So, against my better judgement, but with a lecture of “you really need to learn how to budget your money and understand what its value is and what you should be spending it on” my steely exterior crumbled like tin foil and bled plastic money.