I wonder now if my decision-making process is questionable. When they called me during my maternity leave to offer me a 3 year posting in Colombia I’d been given 20 minutes to make my decision.
Pros: the only place I’ve ever danced on the table. Exactly the kind of job I want. And in a place where I’ll be able to afford childcare.
Cons: Escobar has just been killed. The narcos and guerrilla organisations are gaining power. Kidnappings and bombings at an all-time high. I barely speak any Spanish. They disapprove of single mothers.
It was the dancing on the table that swung it.
Now, day one of my leap into the unknown, crouched in the doorway with my baby waiting for the earthquake to stop, I am beginning to have my doubts. I have two days to sort out childcare, a car and accommodation. My rusty schoolgirl Spanish is proving woefully inadequate. The security briefing was frankly terrifying and I feel very alone.
After these two days I know it won’t get better. I’ll have to convince a reluctant crowd of locals that I can be their director – despite being 20 years too young, the wrong gender and having the vocabulary of a 2 year old.
“Can we do this?” I ask Juniper. She looks at me with the solemn knowing of a six month old, channels my fearsome grandmother and asserts that of course we bloody well can.
I indulge longingly for a moment in memories of the post-natal group. Those lengthy discussions about ethical nappies and disappointing spouses seem almost appealing compared to bodyguards and bomb-checks.
But this won’t do. When I created the women’s group in the oil company and we demanded more expat postings, I had already chosen to step off the beaten path. I thought for a moment of Mary in Pakistan, Liz in Kenya, Julie in Vietnam. They are testing us for sure. With their patronising smiles they are waiting for us to fail. And we are going to prove them wrong. We are going to do this thing. I am going to do this thing.
The earthquake seems to have stopped. The building is still standing. I grab my phrase book, the yellow pages and the changing bag. “Come on Juniper. We are going to find a kindergarten today.”