I went to Atlanta last year by myself. I took MARTA from the airport to the car rental place north of the city and drove up to my brother’s place an hour and a half away. I went to Guatemala by myself this year and explored La Antigua Guatemala by myself.
I couldn’t have imagined that I would feel so isolated here, with no one to talk to and no one to hang around with.
Torreon is nothing like La Antigua. In the first place, it’s sprawling. Seven hundred and fifty square miles, according to Wikipedia. La Antigua is about seven square blocks, with a language school on every other corner and travel agencies, coffee shops, and restaurants where there’s almost always at least one person who speaks English.
It’s nothing like Atlanta, either. There are no trains, and the buses, well, the locals tell me that it’s not a good idea for me to ride the bus. They aren’t dependable, is what I heard. And even if I had a car . . . well, here, the streets have no lanes to speak of. Cars and buses and teeny-tiny taxis vie for every inch of space and nobody except me seems to get nervous when another vehicle shaves by. I don’t think I’d have the nerve to drive much.
So for the first four weeks I was here, the bus ride to school and back every day and my walks to the supermarket were the extent of my “getting out.” I was starting to get pretty stir crazy on the weekends.
I started asking my coworkers what I could do and where I can go on my own from the first week I was here. One kind soul took me with her on a Sunday to see traditional dancing. Another spent her planning period looking at the map and suggesting museums and parks where I can go on my own. She also told me about a yoga class which turned out to be in the same block where I live.
Finally, after weeks of asking around, putting myself out there, and failed attempts to call taxis from the burner phone the school gave me, I have located a place to get my hair done and a place for a pedicure and started going to yoga classes. I can call a taxi with a reasonable amount of confidence (although I don’t understand everything they say back to me, I can ask if there is a taxi available). I can go to a park or downtown by myself and tell the driver how to get back to my house.
I miss the independence that comes with having personal transportation, but I’m getting adjusted to using the taxis. I realize that sometimes it’s good to be a little less choosy about who I hang out with in order to alleviate crushing loneliness and isolation. I know that having my social needs met is worth the pain of asking for help.
I’m still growing.