Colombia has without a doubt become my home over the last two years. When we think of home, or being away from home, one of the first things we think of are the things we are going to miss! There are MANY things I will miss from my home here on the coast, but here are a few that I will miss the MOST!
-Tropical/Exotic Fruit. Colombia brought my fruit game to a whole new level. Some of my favorites were lulo, maracuya, tomate de arbol, guayaba, corozo, mamones, and my beloved uchuvas! There were also a few fruits that I did not care for like nispero (okay when blended into juice, but as a fruit it tastes like pumpkin pie and fails in my book), and granadillo (a hard shell full of giant snot covered seeds).
-Alegria. Colombia was recently voted one of the happiest countries in the world and I am not surprised in the least. Despite any hardship they may have faced in the past or are currently facing, Colombians definitely know how to love life. It doesn’t matter if it is Monday morning at work, Sunday after church, or a Friday night; people are in a never ending good mood. Whether they are celebrating a birthday, gozar-ing Carnival, or simply sitting around drinking cervesas in plastic chairs—life is good.
-Costeño time. If I am organizing a meeting at school and I say that it will begin at 3:00pm, someone will invariably ask, “Gringo time or Costeño time?” Gringo time means that we will start right on time, and you should arrive a few minutes before said time. Costeño time means that we will NOT be starting on time and it is perfectly acceptable to show up 30-45 minutes (or more) late. It is a slower pace of life here and that’s just fine, don’t worry—be happy!
-Music. You will rarely be anywhere that there is not music blasting out of giant speakers, but if by some random accident you find yourself in this music-less predicament, a Colombian will waste no time in whipping out their phone to play some! My two favorite genres of music that were born here on the coast are Vallenato and Champeta. I have all of my favorites loaded onto my ipod, so this is a part of Colombia I will definitely be bringing back home with me!
-Beach life. I am surrounded by multiple beautiful beaches and happen to live in a climate that provides year round perfect beach weather! My favorite beaches are Taganga (a small fishing town over the mountain with a little beach and a very hippy-ish crowd), Rodadero (a fancy touristy part of town with lots of hotels and condos), and Bahia Concha (a bit of a trek to get to but worth it for the solitude and beautiful view). I also live about eight blocks from the bahia which is not great for swimming but provides beautiful views and a nice place for an early morning or sunset stroll!
-Street Vendors. Whether you are hanging your head out the window of a bus to buy a paleta, stopping on the corner to grab a bolsa de agua, or wandering down the crowded quinta jammed full of vendors selling everything from nail polish to meat on a stick… it doesn’t matter what you want….there is definitely a street vendor who is selling it.
-Futbol. I have never seen anyone as passionate about anything as Colombians are about soccer. I have watched countless games at tiendas, sub-15 and sub-20 games with my abuelo in Bayunca, and World Cup games in Bogota and Santa Marta. I learned how soccer actually works, got my own Colombia jersey, and developed an unrequited love for James Rodriquez. I am sure I will continue to follow Colombian soccer back home, but I will really miss being surrounded by the passion and excitement of watching a game with a room full of Colombians.
-Challenge/Adventure. When I arrived to Colombia two years ago I spoke virtually no Spanish, had never been to South America, and was three thousand miles from everything that I knew. Every day provided a new challenge and even the smallest tasks felt like little adventures. While most things have become routine for me now, there are still random and crazy things constantly happening that challenge me to be flexible and maintain my sense of humor. I will miss the randomness and excitement that comes with living abroad and experiencing new things each and every day, and I am thankful for the wonderful (and often hilarious) memories that I have made these past two years.
-People. My fellow Peace Corps Volunteers, Peace Corps staff, Colombian friends, host family, co-teachers, colleagues, students, the porteros, the fruit man on the corner, the lady at the tienda, and every other random Colombian I have had the pleasure of interacting with over the last two years. I came here with the expectation that I would be teaching English and teaching methodologies. I had no idea the profound impact the people I lived and worked with would have on me. In my ‘Commitment to Service’ at the beginning of my two years, my closing statement was, “I promise to do my best to learn the language, take part in a cultural exchange, keep smiling, and get busy working alongside strangers who will become family, in a country that has already begun to steal my heart away.” If I thought a part of my heart belonged to Colombia then, after a mere three months, the love I feel for this country and the people I met here today is indescribable. These people have made my Peace Corps service a life changing experience and I will be forever grateful to them.
That’s it for part I of this post, but be on the lookout for part II coming soon featuring the things I am looking forward to back home!
Until next time…..paz y amor.