BY: Shirley Echeverria
Experiencing Our Town:
In The Words of Women Immigrants in Columbus, Indiana
When I first came to Columbus, my first impression was that it was too cold. My home is Barranquilla, in the coastal area of Colombia near the Equator… so it is always warm year round.
Six months later, I came to Columbus to work and live here. It was summer, so I thought, “This is temporary, I can live here if there are only three months of cold weather.” However, I’m still not used to those three months. Now, after six years of being here, I find the opposite is true. I visit my hometown and my family in Colombia and it is always too hot. The most challenging thing about living here is that I don’t get to see my family very much. I get to see them every two years now, so I have learned to appreciate every moment that I have with them.
In this town, I have been able to meet very close friends that are like my family here. I am impressed with the diversity I found here and enjoy the ability to meet so many people from different cultures and customs—not to mention all the different foods.
In the first few years here, I interact with my friends at the various and changing bars, during volunteering opportunities, and at the city parks. Now that I am pregnant with my first child, I am starting to learn about schools and daycares, experiencing a totally different side of Columbus.
One of my favorite places is Zaharako’s Ice Cream Parlor. I love not only the ice cream options there but the ambiance and the history of the place. For every person that has come and visited me here, this has been a must-go for us. I like them to hear the Orchestrion play and show them all the authentic 1800s and early 1900s fountain features. We also like to eat food that isn’t always available in Colombia.
My friends, many of whom surprisingly came from Barranquilla, used to go to the bars and restaurants downtown a lot. I am so excited for how these locations have evolved over the years, like the new Upland brewery, Puccini’s, and the Garage. And that there are more options and events downtown, like Ethnic Expo.
Another thing I like about Columbus is the opportunities to make an impact through volunteering activities. I always like to give back my time and skills to better the community I live in and am very pleased to do that through different organizations as part of United Way and Cummins. Most recently, we helped to run a fire prevention campaign with the American Red Cross in different Columbus neighborhoods.
Although my favorite part of the year is summer, I also enjoy going out in the fall season, especially to parks like Brown County State Park and watch the fall colors. This is another experience that we don’t get to see in Barranquilla as we don’t get different seasons throughout the year. I am very grateful for ending up living in Columbus, especially because my husband, my pet, and my sister also all live here now. I have more of a sense of family now than before and that has helped me love living here even more.
Recently, we found out we are expecting our first child. We have started to experience so many different sides of Columbus that we didn’t get the chance to explore before. Now we have to look for schools, recreation areas, daycares, etc. and we are very glad that our kid will be growing up in this warm (not weather wise) place that has received us very well and opened us to many opportunities to contribute and grow as a family.