Category Archives: Colombia

Lingering Longings

Mexico 2005

I have lived in this country since birth with small stints of living abroad. I’ve trudged through the rains of Ireland, gallivanted all over Italy, relaxed on the beaches of Ecuador, soaked up the sun in Colombia, and bathed with buckets in Nigeria. If I add up all the time I’ve spent abroad it’s less than two years in total. And yet, I still miss living and being abroad often.

I love having a car to get from place to place. I love having Target and Panera Bread and Big Lots and Chipotle and Ross and Hobby Lobby and Moe’s all a five minute drive from my door. Most of the time, I love that I can communicate with most people I meet. I absolutely love to not be a spectacle most places I go. I love that retail items are cheap and fairly durable. I love that I don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a flight to see most of my family. I love that I understand how finances work. I love that most of the time when people say that they’re going to do something tomorrow, they actually do it tomorrow. What I love the most? I LOVE free refills. So much.

Ireland 2006I do. I love all these things about life in the States. They were things I found myself missing when I lived abroad. They are things that are genuinely unique to my life here in the United States. And yet, in all those other countries there were some commonalities that sometimes come upon me and I miss desperately.

I miss walking. I know that sounds silly. I could walk anywhere I want. Sort of. It’s just that, for the most part, life in this country is designed around having transportation available. There are actually a lot of people in my neighborhood that use the bus and walk to the neighborhood store (it mostly sells beer), but there are hardly any sidewalks! I get so frustrated about this when I’m walking or driving. There should be sidewalks. The city should be encouraging walking. Beyond the lack of sidewalks, the closest real grocer or restaurant is about two miles away. And again, if I walk there, I’ll be dodging cars all the way. There’s also this stigma with walking here where if you see someone walking somewhere you feel badly for them. I loved to walk in Maryland and I would be stopped often to ask if I wanted a ride. “No, I have a car. I just prefer to walk.”China 2008

I miss the slower pace of life. I often feel rushed to get from here to there to the other place. Keeping a schedule is partly just my personality, but life here is so busy that it seems inevitable. Now, maybe this is just me. Maybe there are lots of people in this country keeping to a slower pace of life. (I mean, other than maybe retirees.) I respect them wholeheartedly, but the fact is it’s difficult to live in this culture if you’re not keeping up.

I miss the sun. This one is specific to the more southern countries I’ve visited, but it is so true. When I lived in Colombia I started teaching at 7 am. And when I left my house at 6:30 the sun was already high in the sky and the air was warm. I miss that desperately, especially in these cold winter months. It makes me long for summer in a way that I can’t describe. I miss the light.

Italy 2008I suppose that sums it up, really. I miss the light. The lightness of the air, of the attitude, of the pace. The feeling of freedom in living a world that is completely your own and completely foreign all at once.

I tend to look back on past experiences with rose colored glasses. One of the programs I worked with abroad was not very well run or organized. It was difficult work. The days were sweltering, the hours were long and the administration was lacking. And my co-workers and I complained extensively. And yet, two years later I went back, swearing that it was the greatest program ever. One of my co-workers that year asked how I could ever come back. (Granted, the first year I did it was objectively better than the second year.) A friend of mine did the same program years later and thought I was a crazy person for sending her there.Ecuador 2009

So, maybe life abroad isn’t so miraculous. Maybe what I miss is actually just warm weather and beaches and sunshine. In which case, I should move to southern California or Florida and I can enjoy the same luxuries (sort of). Maybe I miss being a foreigner. Maybe I just miss the feeling of being on an adventure.

I don’t long for it in the lustful way I used to. I’m okay with the fact that my next big adventure will probably be a six hour drive to Maryland to see my family. I know that this is where I need to be. Where I’m supposed to be. Right now. I honor that sentiment that wherever I am in my life, in my maturity, in my relationships, in location, is where I am meant to be at this very moment.

But sometimes when the light falls a certain way or the street has a certain scent or the radio plays a certain song, I am transported in my heart to those moments abroad and long for the time in my life when I will see those places (or at least places like them) again.

Colombia 2010

Hump Day

For the first time since February I can celebrate Hump Day and I am certainly making the most of it. It´s amazing how wonderful it feels to only have a five day workweek. I still hate the split schedule that I work through the week, but it´s much more tolerable when I know I have all of Saturday to myself.

During the week I work from 7am-10:15am and then have almost a 6 hour siesta before returning to teach from 4pm-8pm. I hate this schedule. I would almost rather work straight from 7am-8pm. That would suck, but at least I wouldn´t have that huge break with the knowledge that I still have to return to work. I have also been teaching two children´s classes on Saturday mornings from 8am-1:30pm. But as of 1:30 last Saturday, I am officially finished with Saturday courses. I actually loved teaching those classes and quite enjoyed the extra money, but it just wasn´t worth losing my weekend.

It couldn´t have arrived at a better time either since Lanre began his vacation this week. And since my birthday is Friday, we will have all of Friday night and all day Saturday to celebrate! Hopefully it will be a really upbeat, exciting celebration. I suppose 24 is not that exciting of an age, but I am still excited to willingly be the center of attention for a day. And Lanre promises that he has quite an exciting plan for the both of us on both Friday and Saturday. I wrote a quite long list of things I wanted for my birthday which I may post later. For now I´m off to lunch with a lovely Colombian lady. And for all you 9-5ers, Happy Hump Day!

I am a Hypocrite

I was always that girl that sneered at couples kissing in public. Generally, I have never been a fan of PDAs. I mean, a couple walking through the park hand in hand, sweet. But a couple having sex on park land, not so sweet. And I have always assumed that is a couple needs to be all over each other in public that they much be lacking something in private. I totally judged these couples. Openly. And today I come to the world to willingly admit my indiscretion: I am a hypocrite.

Yes, it´s true. I proudly stand up and wait to have all of those openly, accusational words be shoved back into my face. But I´m aware of my actions and I can take it. Because, ya know, I am totally okay with being a hypocrite in this one case. I like kissing my boyfriend. And if I want to kiss him then I´m going to kiss him. And sometimes we are in public. We don´t plan on straddling him on a park bench, but a peck here or there never hurt anyone. We usually hold hands or have our arms around each other when we´re out and about and sometimes we snuggle a bit on the bus. And we like it. It´s us. So we´re okay with it even if someone else is not.

I have a plethora of excuses I could spew out to the world at large. First of all, we´re in Latin America where our small shows of affection pale in comparison to most young lovers here. And we are, after all, young lovers. Still in the honeymoon phase of our relationship, if you will. Not to mention that we aren´t usually with groups of people, it´s usually just us. And when it´s just us, well…I don´t really care about you. But, honestly, none of those excuses or their existence matter to me. I´m good at coming up with excuses, but even if I didn´t have any of those, I´d still do it. We´re in love. All the time. We show it when we feel it. And not because we lack any bit of affection in our private time.

So, to all those prying eyes when we´re on the bus – as though they have any right to judge us – I don´t apologize to you. And if you´re expecting one, I can give you a few other choice words instead. However, for some of those couples that I once criticized (I say some because there were definitely those that deserved my criticism and every ounce of disdain), I apologize. Sincerely. Who am I to judge your love for each other and how you display it? For I am but a lowly hypocrite.

Seven Days a Week of Rice

I have been a little stumped by what I should blog about. My life is currently in a state of flux and until things are finalized, I don´t really want to publish it for the world to read. So, for now, I thought I´d write about something near and dear to my heart – food.

It´s no secret that I love food. All kinds of food. Mexican, Thai, Italian, Greek, Japanese, Vegeterian, Vegan, Arabian. I love sushi and sandwiches (I really love sandwiches) and can kill a plate of shrimp pad thai. I miss hummus and turkey (which is impossible to find here and when you do, it´s like turkey ham and super expensive). I´m an adventurous eater and I´ll try most things once. I even tried the Mondongo Soup that Cartagena is known for. It´s basically very salty cow intestine bits floating around. It was not my cup of tea. But then, I just don´t really love Colombian food.

The traditional lunch is called a corriente. It´s their biggest meal of the day – and it´s big. It begins with a bowl of soup. I don´t know why everyone eats soup in a tropical climate, but they do. (They did on the tropical coast of Ecuador too.) The soup is usually in some type of meat broth and has big bones from whatever animal they cooked to produce the broth along with potatoes, sometimes corn, and yucca (a traditional vegetable here that has a starchy, potato-like texture). Then you get a plate with some cut of meat, usually beans, plantains, a small salad, and ALWAYS rice. It doesn´t sound so bad, right? And it´s not. In fact, when it´s lentil soup and pollo pechuga (boneless, skinless, chicken breast), it´s delicious! Or it is to eat once a week or so. And now that I only eat it rarely, I really like it. But when I first arrived, I was eating it like a Colombian – daily. And that was absolutely dismal.

While I am a creature of habit, I do enjoy food variety. Even at home my mother was always very conscious of mixing up our meals so we weren´t eating the same things all the time. And here in Cartagena, despite it´s (constantly debated) population size of something over one million people, food variety is hard to find. The people eat this corriente daily. And they eat rice at least once a day – often twice. It´s interesting though. When I was doing a Unit on food all the students told me that they loved Red Dragon (Chinese) or Crepes and Waffles. Why? Because it`s something different. Something they don´t eat everyday. Which begs the question – Why not incorporate more food variety into their everyday lives?

This lack of food variety has driven me to extreme measures. I cook. Like, really cook. And I used to be one of the least domestic women on the planet. And now I can make my own spaghetti sauce. And while a year ago this statement would have meant opening a jar of ragu and heating it on the stove, now it means dicing fresh tomatoes and simmering them over low heat with olive oil, onions, a bell pepper and garlic. This is what Cartagena has done to me! Disastrous, really.

Drought Stricken Cartagena

In fairness, we are not actually experiencing a drought. On the contrary, we`re in the rainy season and it rains, at least for a little while, almost every day. But today, apparently, there is a drought.

You see, it´s not uncommon for our water to stop working for part of a day, an hour, fifteen minutes, even just a few seconds. More than once I have been standing soapily in the shower waiting for the water to return. Luckily I´ve only ever had to wait a few minutes while in the shower, but we´ve had it out for almost an entire day before. And we know when the water was off and came back on because the shower kind of punches you in the face with the water from the pressure buildup.

So this morning at 6 AM when I had no water to brush my teeth, I didn´t think much of it. I used water from the fridge and figured I´d shower after my first class. Only when I arrived to school did I discover that I would not be showering after class or at all today. Apparently the entire city of Cartagena is without water for the next 24 hours. Which, according to the locals, will probably be more like 48 hours.

Awesome.

Apparently the water company has to perform routine maintenance. Their last routine maintenance (prior to my coming to Cartagena) lasted for three days. In three days time I will definitely be the smelliest kid in all of Tacarigua (my neighborhood). Thank God for the Summer´s Eve that Santa so kindly stuffed into my stocking for Christmas.