Sunday, August 06, 2006

Where I think about...

...where I come from.

I was born in Colombia (as in South America) to parents who were American citizens. This is not all that unusual I suppose, though I meet very few people in the USA that fall into this particular category. I call it expat-by-birth, because by the very nature of my birth, I would be an expat where ever I live. For example - if I am in the USA I am an American sure, but there exists a sense of "well, she wasn't born here" when that sort of situation arises... which when outside the norm, seems to come up a lot in my life... (think the ubiquitous question of "where are you from?" I am never sure how to answer this)... When I am in South America it is a strange middle ground... .I guess I am trying to say that blond hair and blue eyes are really not all that strange and people with them can be and are accepted as natives to the country.

When I was in Ecuador once, I had a breakfast conversation with my host brother and sister... where we discussed what I could call myself. Since I had arrived from the USA they initially called me "American" but then I said to them... "but I was born in Colombia... so am I only American?". They decided I wasn't, but that I could not say I was South American either... so when I asked that what that made me? They looked stumped (I should as that they were about 7 and 9 years of age)... that moment of them being stumped is where I have been most of my life... what is home?

I deeply love the patchwork mountains of Ecuador, have profound loyalty (and therefore profoundly understand the birth country requirement for US president) to Colombia, and adore the wild deserts of Arizona... so, from the moment I started becoming familiar with ancient greco-latin sayings I found an affinity with "I am a citizen not of Athens, nor of Greece, but of the world". I do not have a home country, but a slew of them... places that feel like home even if I visit for a short while.

So, why am I telling you all this... very recently someone else who had a similar birth experience to mine indirectly called me a bologotano (as in someone who hails from Bogota) and it was such a beautiful moment when I noticed this, because for the first time, someone other than my own family recognized that is exactly what I am... I was born in Bogota, Colombia... the color of my skin may not reflect that to many people but it is a part of what I am, and my birth country is not something that can be taken from me, that experience of growing up as a part of the community there and not just among other expats, of having my soul touched by the place of my birth and that in the end, regardless of what happens, I am that. Just like there should never be a reason to lose my American citizenship status... that is also something I am... and so I am a citizen of the world, with places I love that I can call home.

I wear a coat of many colors, colors from different flags... and I am being called a blogotana (evoking the feminine) and it feels so nice. Thank you Dr. Filmer, because of that gesture I felt confident enough to apply to blogscolombia.

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Patricia Tryon said...

Such a beautiful story. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Lovely story. Thank you. I remember when I came back to the US after years away, that I felt I could speak no language, or at least I was no longer skilled in English and often felt like I was underwater and my words came out only as bubbles.