Okay, I have a confession. Since my arrival, I haven’t ventured out much. I made the mistake of joining 2 Facebook groups that are dedicated to Expats in Colombia and Expats in Medellin. The questions posed that generate the most responses are ALWAYS about crime and safety in Colombia. I’ve read one too many stories of robberies on motorcycles, on foot, and in taxis. People have been in taxis and confronted at stoplights, by shiny silver pistols, to give up their possessions. Blackberries (WTF wants them) have been confiscated. iPhones, as globally usual, are hot commodities, and they’ve been jacked. One U.S. citizen’s passport was taken along with about $40 equivalence in pesos (i.e. the jackpot). I even met a fellow African-American expat who suggested I remove my (cheap) “silver” bangle, my middle finger ring (that I’ve not removed in years), and that I replace my costume gold/silver earrings with basic studs. I know that I can push the envelope sometimes with my fashion and be gaudy even, but before I came here, I made sure to tone my shit down. Define “tone down” you say? IDK. I’m not rocking gold plated bamboos or wearing pom pom shorts. My shit is not short or sheer. My flip flops have taken a backseat. I roll without a purse and stash shit in nature’s pocket (my boobies). I can’t do a damn thing about my full lips and cheekbones, so how much toning down can a chick like me do? No gloss? No highlighting?
What I know for sure is that my fear has immobilized me. This girl from Chocolate City, our nation’s and FORMER murder Capitol, has allowed cultural stereotypes to hinder my movements. Medellin is not ruled by Pablo Escobar’s legacy. Though I’ve gone grocery shopping twice and ended up in one of the LARGEST malls in the city, I still am stifled. Though I’ve left my ritzy, quasi upscale apartment and hopped into local taxis, I’ve found myself still pumping the brakes on seeing the city that I’ve committed to be my home address for at least the next 3 months. Less than half a mile from my home is a popular park that boasts beautiful flowers, with fresh fruits, meats, and local handmaid products. There’s an expansive dog park where Otis can roam and have his Napoleon complexes tested. I haven’t been. Though there’s a 24 hour web cam on the entire park, I still haven’t gone y’all. This is new shit to me. I am normally fearless. I look aggressive hobos in the eye. I confront neighborhood thugs with stern “Dude, I don’t play that” looks. I am hardcore and confrontational…in the U.S. Here? I’m a sheep. I’m a wuss. I’m a puss. I’m a punk. I divert eye contact. I no hablo Espanol, yo. I’m working on this, though. I’m chanting “nam myoho renge kyo.” I’m pushing my faith to its limits. I’m relying on the good Lawd up above, that that foolish fear disappears and the mystic law continues to covers thee. Will you do the same for me?! Please.