Waiting for Life on South American Time

A few years ago I was invited to a surprise birthday party for a former high school classmate of mine. His fiancé, who was from Colombia, was organizing the party, and judging by the invitation, I was one of a few invited to the party who was not Latino. I will never forget her instructions within the invitation as it was quite comical for an American like me to read. She went into great detail about the importance of being on time for the party, especially because it was supposed to be a surprise.

“When the invitation says 8:00 PM, I mean 8:00 PM sharp — not 8:00 PM South American time where you come hours later. This is a surprise party, and if you show up late, it will no longer be a surprise,” she had urged invitees.

Oh, how I wish I could live my life on South American time! I guess you could say these last few weeks I have, at least when it comes to updating this blog. I’ve missed a lot lately. I missed a presidential debate in Peru, and Washington, DC’s premier culinary event, Taste of Peru featuring chefs that flew in from Lima just for this Peruvian food festival. And on top of it all, I still haven’t had time to bring my car in to the be fixed. (I’m currently experiencing a leaky body seal.) In short, life has simply been too busy, going at 100 mph and not slowing down.

I have brought work home almost every night these past few weeks. In addition to my full-time job, I’ve been doing lots of paperwork related to my upcoming new home settlement, and I’ve fallen behind on packing and organizing my move, which is only a month away. In the meantime, I’m trying to be healthy (exercising, making home-made meals vs. eating out — which is time consuming!), and staying in touch with my friends, many who, sadly, I have not been in recent contact with due to my insane schedule.

While some of this stress is just the nature of home buying, especially for the first time and on a single income at that, I truly do think much of the chaos in my life has to do with life in Washington, DC. It’s so hard for me to explain to people who have never lived here why I have to schedule half a day to do errands, why I’m so tired all the time — even after a weekend, why I have to make appointments just to talk to my friends on the phone or why if I don’t make appointments, I have to talk to them while I’m doing something else (multi-tasking), which I hate doing. It’s hard to explain to them why people here take the day off work, using a precious vacation day, to conduct the mandatory state-imposed safety and car emissions inspections or why it’s always such a big production to do simple things like buy eggs and bread at the grocery store.

I tried to explain all this to another former high school classmate of mine who was thinking of moving his family up here due to a job offer his wife received. He couldn’t understand how the simple act of going to the super market was so exhausting because unlike the Midwest where he and I both grew up, the population density here is insane. It is completely normal to wait in line at the grocery store for 10 minutes or more on a weekend and completely normal to hold a stake-out in the parking lot just to find a parking spot before even having the chance to enter the damn store in the first place! Oh, and I tried the whole grocery delivery thing. The only slots left that are generally available for delivery are during the day when most of us are at the office! It seems the rest of the city has gobbled up all the delivery time slots outside of typical working hours.

And even entertainment revolves around reservations here — whether it’s for brunch, for weekend and week day lunches, for dinners, etc. And depending on the movie and the time you want to go to the theater, it’s advised that you purchase your tickets in advance because things tend to sell out.

Yet, despite all the waiting that seems to go on here during the weekends, people are still in such a rush. For example, they don’t stand on escalators, they walk down them and God forbid if you are in someone’s way. There is no concept of personal space, and the work-a-holic culture affects you even if you make a conscious effort to avoid it.

It’s just a somewhat stressful place to live and yet, here I am, committing myself to the area by closing on a condo next week! You can bet your bottom dollar I will be investing in whatever it takes to make my new home my sanctuary from this hectic city. Once I move, I plan to tone down my social life (both for mental health and financial reasons) and if I do socialize, it will be in my new home.

It’s so close, yet so far away, but my main goal is to bring a little South American time to my life once I am settled into the new condo. I just need to get through this next month of craziness both at work and personally before I can open up a bottle of Argentinian Malbec and hopefully relax.

My apologies for posting so infrequently lately, but thank you for your understanding. I’m almost out of the woods with this insanity!

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