I have been a Cuencana my whole life and yet I still don’t feel that I belong. This feeling has been with me for most of my life, in part because people were always laughing at me because I was too tall or giving me a hard time for dreaming. Even though I’m not an adventurous person, I want to live abroad. So when I see expats, I admire them for doing what I don’t have the guts to do.
These people are what I call the “cool kids.” They walk around, having the time of their lives, eating and discovering new things. I see them, with their big backpacks and incredible expensive hiking shoes walking through the paved streets of my city. They look so relaxed, laughing while local people are looking at them as if they are from some other planet. They have their own language and make jokes. Even though they live here they have their own community and I feel like I’m in high school again. They sit around tables, laughing, talking, having a glass of wine and I wish I could talk to them and be their friends, be a part of their world, but most of the time I’d rather not say anything because I feel sure they’ll shut me down.
But there have been a couple of times when I have tried. Here’s how they went:
[color-box color= “gray”]Experience #1: A new couple moved into the apartment in front of mine. As I saw them with an open door, their furniture being delivered, I went over with my family and said, “Hi, neighbors! Welcome! I’m Roxi and I live across the hall. If you need anything, just knock!” Answer: “Yeah, yeah, thank you, bye” and then they moved. What did I do wrong? Was I too friendly? All I wanted was to be a good person, to have a nice community.[/color-box]
[color-box color = “gray” ]Experience #2: This old guy was looking for his keys outside my building, with tons of bags in his hands. I said, “Hi, let me open it for you.” Then he said, in the best Spanglish I have ever heard, “Gracias, I’m bringing las colas for la fiesta” and I just laughed. We have become friends since then. He always makes me laugh and gives me advice.[/color-box]
[color-box color = “gray” ]Experience #3: This lady lived alone in the apartment downstairs. So when I saw her trying to tell the guard that she had just moved in, I did my usual: “Hi, I’m Roxi. Welcome to the building.” Then she said, “Thank you. Would you like to come in?” We talked about everything, like how to pay the bills and where to shop. It was a lovely afternoon. She seemed very nice but then one day she rang the doorbell in the middle of the night and asked me to use my dryer. I said, “Can we do it tomorrow? I’m kind of sleeping now.” She laughed and then she never came back. The next day, I heard a lot of loud noises coming from downstairs. I was worried, so I knocked on her door. Without opening the door, she yelled, “WHAT???” I’m like, “Are you okay? Can you please be a bit quiet?” She said, “I think maybe it’s a ghost or you are just crazy.” Three months later, she had to move out because she was having fights with everyone in the building and not paying her rent, etc.[/color-box]
So where am I going with this?
They, or rather, you (you who are reading this) are the cool kids, and most of us just want to be part of your world, to feel like we could belong in your life. When we offer help and we are shut down with sarcasm or, worse, with a bad attitude, it makes me feel like you are not necessarily “cool,” but popular and mean, kids who want to be Prom Queens by pushing everybody else to the side.
I get that there are bad local people too, but they are not bad only to you. They do it to everybody and we all have been cheated and lied to. Give us a chance. Maybe we would like to celebrate an American Thanksgiving just because we admire you or maybe we just want to practice English with you and help you with your Spanish. There are a bunch of us who want to learn about you, who want to be part of your life, to be a friend. Next time, think about this and give us a chance, just as we give chances to you.