Carrying Colombia Back with You

Posted by Heather Tang in Colombia 10 Dec 2013

Annie Forman is in her last week in Colombia. Although she is excited to go home, she will miss Colombia and hopes to carry Colombia with her when she returns to the U.S. Read on to learn about her thoughts as she wraps up her service and the 50 ways she measures her WorldTeach year…

 

I’m not sure how this happened, but December is here and by this time next week I’ll be in the USA! This is a fun little fact about Colombian Spanish: when you ask someone how long they have been in a place, you literally ask them how much time they carry in the place (Cuánto tiempo llevas acá?). I love that because I do feel like I carry all of my time in Colombia with me. I learn from every experience and I carry it all with me to determine how I should act and react in future situations, which words to use, where to go, and so on. Carrying time – so insightful, Spanish. Anyways, I now carry almost a year in Colombia, and that seems almost impossible to me until I really think about how much I know now that I didn’t know on January 1 and everything that has happened between then and now.

 

carry 2

 

Do you remember that song from RENT called “Seasons of Love” about how you measure a year? If you don’t, listen to it super quick: “Season of Love” Or don’t and just take my word for it that the song asks you how you measure each year of your life – in time, in sunsets, in cups of coffee, etc. And the message of the song is that the way you should really measure your life is in love.

 

I’m so lucky to have the opportunity to live in Colombia and to love what I do, but also so unlucky that what I love doing happens to take me so far away from so many of the people that I love the most. I read an awesome article a couple weeks ago (“The Most Important Question”) that basically says that everyone talks about the good things they want to achieve in life, but what we should really consider is what kind of pain we’re willing to endure, because with every great thing that we want comes a certain type of struggle that we have to be willing to sustain. For example, I want to learn Spanish and experience life in a different culture and see amazing places in South America. These are awesome things that I get to do, but in order to achieve them I had to leave behind everything I knew and loved in the US, consign myself to riding the Spanish struggle bus every day, figure out how to navigate a brand new culture and city and job at the same time, get stared at every time I go outside, etc. But this pain and this struggle are worth it to me. Another cool Spanish phrase that we would translate to “worth it” is vale la pena which literally means “worth the sadness/embarrassment/suffering.” So there you go.

 

carry 1

 

Anyways, back to the RENT song about how to measure a year in your life – in general I think I measure this year in love, pain and gain. And more specifically, I measure this year in these 50 ways:

 

1. People I met

2. New Spanish words and phrases that I learned

3. Bus rides

4. Cups of Colombian coffee

5. Bottles of cheap Colombian beer

6. Skype dates

7. Kilometers I ran at the gym

8. Power outages and water cuts

9. Delightfully inspiring students and impossibly frustrating students

10. Office hours and tutoring sessions

11. Near death experiences

12. All the birthdays of all the members of my Colombian family

13. All the birthdays in the US that I missed, and also all the weddings and new babies and memorial services

14. Words my hilarious 2-year-old host sister learned to say, including “Annie” and “NO!”

15. Curious stares

16. Freezing cold showers

17. Homesick days

18. Free daily newspapers in Spanish that got easier and easier to read

19. Times I wanted to call up my mom so bad to get her advice, but couldn’t

20. Care packages from the US

21. Books I read

22. Movies I saw, dubbed over in Spanish or with Spanish subtitles

23. New songs, songs that made me miss home, hit songs in Colombia

24. Hilarious things my co-worker/Colombia bestie Maria Antonia said

25. Adventures

26. New friendships I made, and friendships that faded

27. Lunches

28. Peanut butter cravings

29. Sick days

30. Times I stayed up late to finish grading stacks of homework and projects

31. Times I laughed out loud or smiled at the ridiculous/endearing things my students wrote or said

32. Sunburns

33. Bad haircuts

34. Hard decisions

35. Stereotypes and misconceptions

36. Protests and strikes

37. Times my world was rocked

38. Times I would have given anything to be in the US just for that one day

39. Times I fell even farther in love with Colombia

40. New dreams

41. Precious time spent with friends and family from home

42. Thursday afternoons

43. Successful Spanish interactions, drastic misunderstandings

44. New cities to explore with new museums and monuments and viewpoints and food and accents

45. Mangos, plaintains, loaves of pan con queso, bowls of ajiaco, mounds of rice, cups of fruit juice

46. Colombian holidays

47. US holidays that I didn’t get to celebrate

48. Reinvented US holidays that I celebrated with Colombians

49. Hilarious Spanish mistakes, hilarious English mistakes

50. Lessons I taught, lessons I learned.

 

I love living in Colombia. Living Colombia is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve loved this year. This year has been the most challenging year of my life in so many ways. I can’t wait to go back to the United States. I can’t wait to carry another year in Colombia. It’s worth it.Vale la pena.

 

-Annie Forman, WorldTeach Colombia 2013

 

 

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