All my many avid readers (shout out to my single follower!) will have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. There have certainly been things to write about and being too busy isn’t a real excuse. I think it’s more that I don’t have the same strong tendency for publicly processing my experiences here, which was something that I really craved when I first arrived. As life settles in and things take on a sense of normalcy, the urge to reflect is diminished, but I believe no less important, if only because part of being grateful for this opportunity is being purposeful about the ways I am learning and developing personally and professionally (that sounds like it could’ve been on a cover letter or something – in short, I have s*** to say again, so hence a new post).
So, after months of anticipation (you’ve all been on the edge of your seats, I know), here’s a quick recap of some of the (at least relatively recent) highlights in my exciting life.
Stateside for Christmastime
Like…there’s another option besides having winter. No one has to live in conditions like this!
Endlessly grateful to the friends that let me basically move in while I was backpacking around Jamaica Plain and Madison, WI, which I’ve heard are some top backpacker destinations, especially in January.
People had warned me that I would experience reverse culture shock upon returning home, which is supposed to be in some ways worse than normal culture shock because feeling bewildered around the seemingly familiar can be deeply unsettling. I will admit, when I arrived in the States after a few months away, groggily navigating my connection and then Logan after departing from Bogotá at 1 am, there were a few moments of feeling overwhelmed and confused. Particularly I noticed being startled by the ubiquitous use of English around me. I had become accustomed to using Spanish for almost every transaction-type interaction. Using my native language almost felt like cheating. However, the feeling of unease wore off by the end of my first day. Turns out, after spending about 25 years and 360 days in the US and then about 5 months away, the US still feels like home. I think it helped that I not undergoing yet another major life transition, and only taking a temporary break from the routines I had only just established in Colombia.
In all honesty, there is not too much to report from my trip related to the theme of this blog (which I think is doing transitions and getting lost a lot, both physically and metaphorically. Well, let’s be honest, I got lost a bit in my hometown, but that comes with the territory). I courageously braved the freezing temperatures (like, for real, that was no joke. I showed some pretty extreme bravery just existing in temperatures like those). I was insanely grateful to many of my friends for hosting me and for the opportunity to visit with many of those who are dear to me from all different periods in my life thus far – Framingham, Kenyon, Madison. I got the opportunity to get some up close and personal details of wedding planning for a best friend’s wedding I’ll be participating in this summer. Much hugging was done, much coffee was drank, several other beverages were also consumed, and then a few weeks later I was bag on a plane to Bogotá for a week, where I enjoyed a week-long intensive Spanish class (yeah, I already speak it, but extra practice never hurt anyone!)
Whew…what an experience. I not sure quite how to succinctly sum it up, or if I can really capture what happens both in my town and in Barranquilla. Colombia has the second biggest Carnaval in the world, behind Rio in Brazil, and along the coast (like where I am, sort of) is where it is most celebrated. As I have already posted excessively on social media about the experience – I became a selfie addict for the weekend after the professional makeup artist did some truly amazing work – I’ll keep things brief. I cannot help but acknowledge that I am proud of myself for putting myself out there, despite lacking any – and I really do mean any – innate proclivity towards dance. It was a little challenging to stretch outside of my comfort zone in such a public way. Competitive swimming and running don’t exactly set one up to be onstage performing traditional Carnaval-style dances, but there I was, in full costume, trying my absolute best to remember the weeks worth of choreography and get my steps to at least vaguely mimic those of the people around me.
While the performance itself left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied – why do other people’s bodies just seem to naturally move in a certain rhythm while mine is stiff as a board – the outfits and ensemble really couldn’t be beat:
Headed home…but first, let me take a selfie
A French braid may not be the most traditional hair option, but a friend suggested it as an easy way to keep my hair out of my face while dancing, and I was impressed with how well another friend tamed my hair into a braid. Also pictured: snagging the queen’s crown for a quick second (though I was absolutely NOT the queen, and major props to my friend Brendolyn who totally knocked it out of the park as la reina)
Semana Santa (and that extra week we get off post Semana Santa)
Words cannot express my gratitude for my wonderful friend Amy coming to visit during Semana Santa. As I stood in the international arrivals area at El Dorado airport in Bogotá, I spotted a familiar tall silhouette and short haircut. All of a sudden, I was crying, seemingly out of nowhere. The weight of everything – wanting to live abroad for so long, finally signing the contract, jumping into an unknown, the journey to get to this point, establishing a whole new life here, and then having someone from my old life fly all the way to another continent (or the southern half of this continent, debatable I know) to visit with me – was entirely overwhelming. She walked out of the customs area and we embraced, our tears intermingling, both exhilarated by the week of travel and exploration ahead.
It is a cliché, but the 10 days flew by, and were absolutely incredible. I am sure no one else cares about the minutiae, so I’ll leave the day by day updates to my personal diary, and instead share a few broad themes of the week. For me, there is always a slight apprehension about traveling with someone one on one for an extended period of time. I am an only child after all. We can be prickly and enjoy our space, but with Amy it was the most natural time in the world. We seemed to be in synch with when we wanted a crazy night out or just chill night at the cine (La Pantera Negra was truly a treasure of a movie. Highest review possible from this avowedly non-cinephile). From hiking in coffee region to exploring the social life of Bogotá to finding the best vegetarian restaurants, we made a dynamic travel duo (except maybe for our mutual dislike of anything related to navigating directions).
Salento…you’ve stolen my heart. How is it possible that a place is this pretty?
No, wait, maybe it’s Bogotá that’s truly captured my affection….or maybe it’s just the experience of sharing it with a friend!
Not to be outdone by week 1, week 2 of break offered plenty of new adventures as well. Saying goodbye to Amy was painful, but luckily I had plans to meet up with some friends in Cartagena. I quickly found myself boating around the most clear, blue tropical water I could imagine, then hopping off for some quick snorkeling, then back on the boat to be ferried to the beach. I couldn’t help but text a couple friends in the States and point out that my Tuesday morning snorkeling in the Caribbean Ocean was probably cooler than their Tuesday mornings at the office. Probably. There were a few more days exploring Cartagena, then again back to Bogotá (where I visited a lovely specialty running store! Reminded me of home!), and I was finally ready to head back, feeling happy, satisfied, fulfilled, well-rested, and ready to get back to teaching full steam ahead.
And that basically brings us up to current day. The past couple weeks at school have been busy, especially with IB tests coming up and a half marathon I ran last weekend while being very out of shape. My initial goals at the outset of training shifted from running close to a PR to merely finishing, which I have come to terms with as a consequence of everything else going on. For now, I am grateful to still have running in my life, even if I’m not putting in the same work I did back in Madison. I won’t bother including a picture because the pictures have been blowing up my facebook….the only way to collect my photos was to allow the company to post them directly the book and my intention was to catch them, download, and then immediately erase from the public domain…but by the time I’d found them on my page, it had become probably the most popular thing I have ever posted, and so up they stayed.
I’ll end by answering the question that lingers at the bottom of this coffee mug spootted in a Bogota coffee shop, waiting for the unassuming patron (me) to finish their drink (or gulp down my daily travel latte).
Thanks for asking, coffee cup, I did enjoy the latte
Sí, coffee cup, me gustó. De hecho, me gustaron todas de mis viajes.
Moving abroad of course has had its ups and downs – I am a first year teacher after all, there are times when I feel like I have made a lot of progress in Spanish and times I stumble over my words, I have days I get frustrated with incidents at school or dealing with logistics in a new country in a second language. I am definitely still navigating living in such a small town and not having access things that exist beyond the confines of the mine.
But overall am I happy here? Did I make the right choice? Do I love my students and the subjects I am teaching, and am I excited to continue? Am I grateful for those opportunities to venture beyond the mine, explore both the hidden and the well known riches of this wonderful country? ¿Me gusta vivir acá?
Yes, unequivocally yes. Por supuesto.