Exactly one year ago I arrived home from Colombia. It’s hard to believe.
It feels like it’s been far longer. So much has happened … I have a new job, my own apartment, a car; I’m aunt to a couple more adorable kids; I traveled to Cuba; I am deeply committed to a church family.
And yet, the time has simply flown by. On July 2, 2010, I celebrated the graduation of six of my students. I can remember that evening like it was yesterday … hugging all of my friends goodbye and weeping as I walked up the mountain to my room for the last time, feeling that cool evening breeze and staring up at the wide starry sky. A few hours later, I was gone.
I miss it all.
I miss los estudiantes … my Grade 10 class graduated this weekend, and I had a lump in my throat as I looked at pictures of them in their caps and gowns. Only recently have I been able to look at their Facebook photos without tearing up. I miss my fellow profesores … their passion for the job and their love for the kids. I miss the church … their enthusiasm and warm welcome. I miss my amigos … the people who made the experience so much more than just a year of teaching.
Though I will probably never go back for the same reason, I desperately hope to visit again soon. Te quiero mucho, Cali!
New President Juan Manual Santos is being tested already.
A car bomb blew up in the Colombian capital today, outside one of the major radio stations, though so far it looks like there were no deaths. After Alvaro Uribe’s hard stance against the guerrillas, it makes sense that the outlaws want to see how Santos reacts to attacks like these.
On Saturday, Juan Manuel Santos was sworn in as Colombia’s next president.
He has a lot of work ahead of him – including a struggling economy and growing debt – and big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, was extremely popular for his policies to crack down on the drug trafficking and guerrilla warfare. Here are a couple of articles on the phenomenal accomplishments Uribe had in the last eight years:
- How President Alvaro Uribe changed Colombia (BBC)
- Next challenge for Colombia’s Uribe: leave quietly (Reuters)
As for Santos, he has big plans and high expectations. Most of the people I got to know while in Colombia are fans of the former defense minister, and hopeful that he will both continue Uribe’s campaign against the FARC and do more to improve the nation’s economy. Already he has made plans to meet with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez in an attempt to repair the rift between Uribe and Chavez.
I will definitely be watching this presidency closely.
It’s been over a month since I arrived home from Colombia. I believe I have fully adjusted to life back in Canada, but in some ways I don’t want to. I want to be sure all that I learned and experienced in South America translate into a new perspective and lifestyle here. And while I am falling in love all over again with the cities I have called home and the people in them, I will always have a place for Cali in my heart. And yes, I still hugely miss all my incredible friends there.
But for now, it’s all about Cornwall. Tomorrow I start work as a reporter for the daily newspaper. I’m nervous and excited and all the rest rolled into one. I’m stoked to get back into writing and interviewing; the nervousness is primarily for the different pace and approach at a daily.
Tomorrow, day one of work. In eight days, my car arrives on the train from Edmonton. Anytime after that, I move into an apartment some lovely people I know have offered to me for the next couple months. I am ridiculously blessed.
Today is Colombia’s Independence Day. I’m a little bummed I’m not in Cali to experience such a huge holiday, but a few days ago I tried to recreate some of my South American experiences for my family.
For starters, I made breakfast …
… complete with agua panella.
I played Spanish music all day, showed a slide show of pictures from Cali, and gave out all the random gifts I bought for my family. They included Colombian traditional hats for a couple of my nephews, a hammock made in the colours of the flag, Colombian coffee, some Peruvian mugs and other awesomeness. Oh, and salt – seriously, this stuff will change your life.
And I made dinner …
I have been home from Colombia for exactly two weeks. I have adjusted … I am loving all this time with my family. Yet, Colombia calls to me. As a friend put it, I have the “Cali bug.” The South American country will always be a little piece of home for me.
I’m still processing all the things I’ve learned in my year down south; missing all the people I came to know and love; analyzing the differences in culture and attitudes; wishing for fresh pineapple and oranges; figuring out what to do with the rest of my life. (Note: I have an interview on Tuesday – woo!)
So, in honour of my year away from all of these fabulous family members, I am having Colombian Day today. I am making arepa and eggs, Emilse-style, for breakfast. For supper it will be arroz con frijoles, platano y carne. For you non-Spanish speakers, that’s rice with beans, fried plantain and beef filets. It’s going to be delicious. I’ll probably be speaking some Spanish, showing my fabulous elective’s class video, and playing music from South America, just to add to the environment. It should be good times.
I’m home. I made it.
After a ridiculously long day of flights, turbulence, airports and cramped legs, I arrived in Ottawa last night. Today was spent mostly with my family – at least the members that live nearby. It was great to catch up with them all, and it feels good to be back.
And yet … oh, how I miss Colombia. It was difficult to leave Canada last August not knowing what I was getting myself into; it was more difficult to leave Colombia yesterday knowing what I was leaving behind. I even unthinkingly called Cali “home” in a conversation today. I guess that says just how much I enjoyed the last year. This next week or two is going to be interesting as I adjust to a new normal all over again and figure out what I’m going to do in this chapter of my life.
Today is my last day in Cali, Colombia. Tomorrow morning I’ll begin my 12+-hour journey to Cornwall, Canada. My heart is hurting a little today, not going to lie. And it is because of so many incredible people that I’ve had the privilege to meet and call friends during my time in South America. Here are a couple pictures …
And then there are my students …
Tonight is Grade 11’s graduation … and the majority of my goodbyes. Tomorrow morning, bright (actually, dark) and early I’ll be heading to the airport. It’s so hard to believe this year is over …
I only have seven days remaining of my time here in Colombia. I remember counting down until I would get on a plane to come here, and already I am ticking off the days until I get on a plane to fly back to Canada.
Seven days … One more young adult Bible study, one more church service, one more week. I’m going to watch my grade 11 students receive their high school diploma on Friday night and then say goodbye. I can’t believe it’s almost over …
Today Colombians voted in a run-off election to determine the next president of the country. Juan Manuel Santos, former defense minister, won by a huge majority. He is viewed as the candidate who will carry on the work Alvaro Uribe – “a father to Colombia”, as one person called him – has done over the last eight years. That work includes fighting back against the FARC, improving education and the economy. It’s a tough job – even election day had it’s share of violence.
About 90 per cent of the people I have talked to prefer Santos far more than his rival Mockus, a two-term mayor and science teacher, believing that the now-president-elect will be much stronger in his decisions and work to root out the guerrillas.
I’m not Colombian (though I was feeling chilly in 20C weather this morning), but from what I’ve heard and seen, I’m pretty pumped about these results. I know I will be following Colombia’s progress closely in the years to come. This country is a part of me now, and I want to see it become everything it can be.