Good afternoon from Medellin! I now have wifi again!
Medellin is located fairly centrally in the country, though a bit northwest of Bogota. It’s also pretty close to coffee country! 🙂 I already did my two week-stint on a coffee farm that was closer to Cali (south of me) but in higher elevation, so you can see a previous post about that information.
What I did recently, though, is celebrate Christmas with gringos at the hostel in Medellin, buy a new phone (omg it’s so great), spend a week with a lovely family (trying to do a resource-based economy… more on this later), and four French people also volunteering on the same farm, and having a great time in general.
I’ll preface this by saying that celebrating Christmas is not the same without my family. I love Christmas! I love the songs/hymns, and last year my parents helped me plan a nice time doing Christmas carols with my Mom playing the piano. I love the Scripture surrounding Advent and the appearance of the Christ-child. I love our regular rituals, like seeing Christmas lights and opening one present for Christmas Eve, finding clementines and Ritz crackers (for me at least) on Christmas with our presents, and seeing my family get their presents. I also love seeing my Nai Nai, since she’s one of my favorite people in the entire world, and we always go to her house with all these other non-family members (lol) to celebrate with rice and ham and other Asian dishes. Yes!
Anyway, so this year for Christmas was hard because I was away from my family. Also, the hostel didn’t have wifi for most of Christmas Eve (meaning I couldn’t call my parents or friends) and also barely functioned for Christmas Day (only in the morning for a 20 min phone call with Mom). Nonetheless, I was pleased with how it all worked out. We had a potluck with other gringos, but it definitely wasn’t the same. I was, however, able to have a good phone call with my Mom, which lifted my spirits, but my Dad was in China for a flight so we couldn’t talk, and my brother was working.
Still, I feel like I got them really good presents, and I hope that they enjoy the presents as much as I enjoyed giving them.
As for me, the only thing I got this year was Amazon gift cards. Not a bad gift, really, since I wanted earbuds and kindle books (I bought Tony Robbins’ Awake the Giant Within, Sapiens – a brief history of humankind, and Control of Nature by John McPhee). I’ll probably buy one more, but I’m not quite sure which one to get yet. I’m thinking about Zizek’s book that’s called, I think, The End of History. There’s a line in the intro where he says that truly great philosophers are the ones where you stop trying to understand what they say and you try to figure out who you are in light of what they say. For instance, instead of spending more time to figure out what Marx said about his world then, try to figure out what Marx would say about us and our position in history now. I love that line, and I’m taking time to dwell on it. You ever have lines or quotes or stories that just stick with you, and you don’t really get it (for whatever reason, the quote/sentiment hasn’t like settled deep in your soul), but you can tell that something’s happening deep within and you’re just kind of waiting for it to happen and for the breakthrough to occur? Well, anyway, that’s how I feel.
Speaking of that exact thing, here’s a story about one of my most important breakthroughs of my life. I was listening to a podcast, and one of the lines in the podcast talked about the guy saying he had to go through some really deep self-work about what self-limiting narratives he had believed and ways to find new, empowering narratives. Well, this has been hovering within my soul but never really plumbing to my depths and securing itself to my depth. (here’s my river!)
Just a few days ago, I was hanging out by the river on this farm, just walking along and listening to the water go by. (the main photo is also that same river.) I was reflecting on why I acted so scared earlier that day for lunch, where I was just thinking to myself constantly “don’t fuck this up, don’t fuck this up.”
As context, I was asked to make lunch, and I wasn’t sure if the person who asked me actually liked me. It seemed a little bit like they didn’t? So I was responding to that nervously, and my mind was racing as I tried to make sure that everything worked out perfectly, where all the food would be ready to serve at the same time, etc. I spent a lot of work on that meal, and it all worked out fine. But I was super awkward and nervous the entire time, so I was reflecting on this experience.
What I realized is that a large part of my self-understanding, my “narrative” as it were, is grounded on experiences that I had when I was younger. For instance, when I moved from home school to private school, and where most everyone knew each other from other schools, I had a hard time adjusting. I just didn’t know how to talk to people that I’d never met, and especially when they were already friends. This was tough because I became known for being awkward and weird, and I just couldn’t break free from this “expectation” during my entire Jr high and high school experiences because of another part of my childhood where I tried to fit into people’s expectations as a way of trying to maintain peace in the house. We didn’t have much peace due to my brother and mother fighting constantly, and because outbursts of anger and yelling unnerve me so much, I would escape into playing in the dirt outside the house or retreat into new worlds in books (or my psyche). So whereas it might not have been as bad with either of those experiences on their own, the conjoining of the expectations of awkwardness and the tendency to fit into others’ expectations made my life so much more difficult.
Anyway, along by the river, I went through various memories of my childhood that reinforced this narrative of weakness (the one picked last in sports), social awkwardness, and frustration at being stifled in my potential. I’m sure there were probably other feelings but this is enough for a blog post. And I went within those experiences, trying to re-live them. Part of this was to find specific and particular instances that encapsulated feelings of weakness, social exclusion, incompetence, or being stifled in my search to find new interpretations of those experiences, either of people not being as mean as I thought they were (in other words, it wasn’t about me), or of me not being as weak as I thought.
The second half of my journey was going through memories of joy and success and strength, like memories in Boy Scouts, positive memories of high school, or buying my car. These moments of grace were also moments of gratitude, of strength, of integration, and of peace. And by re-living these moments, I was able to find a new narrative of strength in the same time period that I had often viewed as being a period of weakness or incompetence. In this time of reflection, I went through the arduous work of self-construction, of giving myself a new identity, a new past. I found myself within a new story – a story that I created and found… with newfound power and self-determination.
I have specific examples of both weakness (which fed into the old narrative) and strength, competence, and sociability (which I now use to feed into the new narrative) but suffice to say, it’s going to be a journey. I’m grateful that I had this breakthrough at the river because now when I find myself reverting back to this weak, scared, don’t-step-on-eggshells personae (and it’s largely an unconscious regression), I can recognize it and then pull myself out of it. At least, that’s the hope!
I’m going back to the farm today. I’m feeling kind of distant from gringos for the past few days. After thinking about it, I can’t decide if it’s just me not having chemistry with others, or if I’m just in a funk and we could have chemistry if I wasn’t in a funk. But anyway, it doesn’t really matter. I just want to talk Spanish and talk with more locals and have some good conversations. And yet they’re all doing the tourist things (which I’ve already done) and barely functioning in Spanish.
We’re all on different travels and we all have different motivations for being here and what we want to get out of the trip – and I get that. But sometimes it’s encouraging to be with someone on your journey with you and I’m just alone. I was dealt another blow by a guy who I had really good chemistry with and who has since returned to his family and mates in Australia. I was hoping to meet him in Patagonia but I guess that’s not going to work out now. He did, however, say that after his girlfriend left, he didn’t have much chemistry with other gringos while traveling either and that encouraged me a bit. It reminded me that I’m not alone, though it’s a little weird since it’s being similar in our dissimilarity (with others).
After this week, I should have 2 weeks on a chocolate farm (to learn the process of making chocolate), with only about 25 hours a week of expected work, and then go on to Patagonia. It will be a beautiful experience, but I’m a little nervous because I’m woefully unprepared. I don’t have a tent (camping is the most common, and inexpensive, way of experiencing the area), and I don’t have any partner to help cut costs, so it’s going to be quite a bit more expensive than I really want. Their busy (read expensive) season is now until March, which is exactly the time I’ll be there! LOL. But it’s my second “really important” part of my trip (besides Galapagos), so I’m still very excited about it. And besides, it’s their most expensive season because it’s the best season to visit! So yay! If you’re wanting to come see me, then let me know and we can try to plan something!