Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you!
I hope this Advent season finds you and yours well. I know that for me, I’m feeling very “advent-y” because I’m also in a period of waiting. Like Mary, I have an idea of what’s coming next (for her, having a baby, for me, living in Bogota), and even though I’m pretty sure my near future is more nailed down than hers (I highly doubt I’ll have to flee to a neighboring country because of state violence), the future always has an element of indeterminacy, doesn’t it? You can plan and plan and plan, but if you don’t give allowances for the unknown-unknowns… well, they’ll still happen! As they say in the military, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.”
So what’s been going on in my life so far? Well, as you may know, I finished out my contract to teach English in a public high school (in Manizales) – success! – and so I flew back to Bogota (thanks, government of Colombia!) and then traveled around the south of Colombia near the Ecuadorian border. I am not going to renew my contract as I have already accepted a contract for 2018 teaching business English through Bogota Business English, but I was able to take some photos of my classes and say goodbye in a nice and fun manner.
Because I had a free flight to Bogota, I said hello to some friends there for a couple days and then traveled in the south toward the border of Ecuador. Though I had been in this area to San Augustin and El Desierto de Tatacoa (the Tatacoa desert), those were the only places in the south I had done, and I decided to spend about 2 weeks exploring other places in the area that I had missed.
I was in Pasto 3 days, Mocoa 3 days (including doing ayahuasca, the indigenous hallucinogenic drug), Popayan 2 days, Cali 2 days, and Ipiales 1 day. These places were gorgeous, lush, and full of hikes!
I got to take a selfie with a cardboard cut-out of Pope Francis by one of the prettiest churches I’ve seen in Colombia in Ipiales.
I spent one day exploring the city and two days doing hiking trails around Pasto with a cool guy named Ethan (we almost saw lakes those days but never quite made it lol).
Later, Ethan and I explored lots of waterfalls and hikes in Mocoa with its jungle and waterfalls!
Then we split off while he went to the Desert (which I’d already done and I explored the colonial and beautiful Popayan downtown by myself (including some great Mexican food)!
My last few days, I explored Cali two days with a cool American guy named Rhyne, and even made it back in time to Bogota to say hello to my new company and coworkers before I flew back!
I’m feeling more and more ready to go back to Bogota for my job. Now that I’m older, almost 30!, I’ve found myself focusing on fewer things and trying to develop mastery over them. For instance, this past year in Manizales, I was trying to get really good at Spanish, learn Muay Thai, learn linear algebra, and learn salsa. I wanted to have people over for dinners and go on dates with Colombians and travel.
Unfortunately, it turns out that one cannot do all of those things and maintain 24 teaching hours a week! In the beginning, I just wore myself down because I woke up at 4:30am and didn’t take naps. After about a month, I realized I was too busy and tired and stressed and decided to drop something – in my case, I dropped salsa dance lessons (3x/week and staying out too late). I started doing way more Spanish and even bumped up naps to every day lol!
We all go through problems in life and the goal, at least to me, is to learn from them quickly so you don’t have to keep repeating the “lesson” over and over again!
For 2018, in Bogota, I’m excited to stay somewhere a whole year and develop some roots! I know a year isn’t super long, but it’s way long in comparison to my life since August of 2016 when I first started traveling! I’m excited to focus on getting really good at Spanish, salsa dancing (yes, that means private lessons), and, dare I say, more math! (we’re moving on to Calculus 3 this next semester).
That’s it. Just 3 additional hobbies. Totally doable! 🙂 I expect to be doing about 20 teaching hours a week with Bogota Business English, my company, and I naturally will want to save some time for social gatherings and naps and even maybe my additional job teaching English on the side through VIPkid (which teaches kids in China). It pays well and I hope to get just a few hours a week doing that so I can save again!
It’s exciting to have a vision for a new life ahead of me – one where I feel that I’m working on mastery (of a few things, self-chosen by me), and even make some money to start saving. To me, that’s what defines a mature young adult: developing yourself and preparing for your next future(s). For example, I’m preparing myself for traveling more of South America (getting really good at Spanish!) and teaching English in Japan (getting more teaching experience)! It’s perfect!
Now that I’m back in the states, I feel pretty good. I don’t feel reverse culture shock yet, though I do miss the comfort of my own kitchen. It’s nice to have frozen pizzas when I’m rushed for time since I was without an oven for a year and a half (and a clothes dryer, and a dishwasher, and mostly without a microwave), and yeah, life is different. Still, so far, I don’t feel uncomfortable or weirded out by life in America. I’ve also spent most of my time back here with my grandmas! It’s been wonderful!
I’m enjoying doing some work on the side with VIPkid teaching English, though I recently had 5 out of 6 no-shows so I’m really being paid half-wage for “being available” as compared to teaching…I’d prefer to teach! Still, it’s nice to earn some money so I can feel more free to spend money on eating out, movies, or Uber rides hahaha.
I’ve also decided to write a book with a friend of mine on some of our “interesting topics” since we both have weird thoughts and are both open-minded philosophy majors. I’m sure we’ll publish it, just to say that we are published authors, even if it’s only good enough for the claim “self-published”. 🙂 So that’s another fun thing to fill my time.
The last thing I’ll mention is that recently I’ve really enjoyed experiencing hospitality. When I stayed with my Grandmas (and aunts/uncles), they all went out of their way to ensure I was comfortable, warm at night, had all my bathroom toiletries, enjoyed the food, and especially that I had a good time. I was treated more than just “make yourself at home”, because I was an honored guest. They went out of their way to prepare for me with my favorite berries, my favorite salty snack, red wine, and ribs! I am sure that I’ve experienced this kind of hospitality before, and my parents have also done this for me, but I think it finally hit me this time. Hospitality is about going out of your way to welcome someone into your home and bless them while they are with you. It’s applying the virtues of generosity and kindness in a focused and extravagant way specifically toward people who enter your “space”. It’s easy to be nice and kind, but to anticipate people’s desires ahead of time, and to reflect on how to bring joy and happiness to your guests… what a treat it is to experience this! What a blessing!
I was reflecting on this for my life in Bogota. If I were to have an apartestudio (a bit more expensive, but it would be nice to have my own place), I would want to be able to have guests over, like cool homeless people I meet who may just want to take a shower – or have guests over through offering a free place through Couchsurfing. I love having people over and showing hospitality because it’s fun to just bless people, but also because hospitality is one of the oldest virtues. In every ancient culture, it seems to me, hospitality seems prized over any general “kindness” creed and, honestly, over perhaps any other virtue. One might even argue that hospitality was the premier virtue, the ideal embodiment of other virtues (kindness, generosity, patience, respect). I would not be averse to such a claim. And seeing it through my grandmas and aunts and uncles has only impressed upon me the beauty and importance of it.