I've been thinking alot about THINGS recently: clothes, shoes, furniture, make-up, CDs, books and comics. Having lived out of a rucksack for the last half-a-year, I've really started to appreciate how good it is to have things of your own, and more importantly, a place to put them. Here in Ibagué I have my own room, which I've managed to sort-of make my own with a little help from photos, my ever-growing stack of books and other assorted items, like make-up and notebooks. I also did some clothes shopping when I got here, (I thought I was going to be living in Bogotá when I packed to come away and that requires a much more wintery wardrobe than the weather here in Ibagué, so I had to stock up on some sleeveless tops and lighter-coloured clothing), which made me feel a bit more at home, but still, I miss my clothes. The fashion here is very different and if it wasn't for tennis I would've ended up having to buy clothes that just aren't 'me'. It sounds silly but it isn't really, because clothes are what people see you in every day and it becomes your image, how people recognise you, and how you present yourself to the world.
My time here in South America has taught me lots of things, and this is by no means the most important but it's what's on my mind at the moment - clothes matter! This has been brought home to me in particular when faced with the hazard of the South American, and I have to say in particular the Colombian, washing machine (one pair of jeans and one white top ruined so far!), which means it is essential to have durable clothes that can be worn in a variety of situations, e.g. the perfect pair of black trousers (thank you, tennis) or the leopard-print cardigan that goes with everything (I miss you, H&M!), and that most importantly make you feel better about yourself.
Because when you're having a bad day: you miss your family, the kids you work with are being a pain, you can't say what you mean in Spanish; you can go home, put on your PJs and your comfy cardie and feel less crappy. Or the opposite: you're having a good day and you want to show it; you can put on that dress you love and which everyone has always complimented you on, team it with your favourite sandals and everyone else can see how good you're feeling today!
It's the same with make-up, I don't wear it much here, especially not at work, but I've found that something as simple as painting my nails in a colour I know is all-the-rage back home makes me feel less adrift, more connected.
Obviously you could get started on the whole argument that clothes, make-up, etc are the influence of advertising, blah, blah, blah, but I don't think that's entirely true and it's defnitely not the whole story. I know I feel better when I wear clothes here that I would also wear at home in the UK and it feels nice to have a piece of home here, out where people can see it. Being away from home doesn't mean putting yourself or your life on hold and clothes are part of that.
#1 American Apparel top, cardigan from H&M and Topshop loafers, all of which I wear at least a few times week
#2 Belts make it slightly less obvious that I'm wearing the same trousers and skirt, over and over again
#3 My shelves