A year ago today I arrived in Colombia to begin my journey with Peace Corps. Correction: a year ago today I left Wisconsin to get to Miami; what follows is just as true!
I was calmer than I had expected to be, only nervous about what my host family would be like.
I sweat a lot, the 100 degree shift from January in Wisconsin to January on the Caribbean coast not sitting well with my body. But neither did the air conditioner in the hotel, set to 16 – which in Fahrenheit is 61.
I clogged the public toilet in the hotel because I didn’t realize that the plumbing system isn’t built to handle paper, so all toilet paper is thrown in garbage cans.
I weighed in at my heaviest thanks to the process of grief combined with spending all my time with my manfriend eating Minneapolis and snuggling on the couch watching Narcos and Anthony Bourdain episodes about Colombia.
I thought this airy sweater with its holes and sheer panel in back would be great for Colombia, and I wore it with a cami underneath because I assumed that Colombian women dressed modestly.
I wore my part on the right side of my face, because up until then I didn’t commonly kiss people’s right cheeks.
I spoke enough Spanish to have basic introductory conversations. No one was mistaking me for an Argentine tourist.
I had fresh skin that hadn’t been bit by a mosquito for at least four months.
I had never meditated.
I had never played rugby.
I had never been on a bus with a chicken. Or a bus with doors hanging wide open while it flies down the highway.
Although I knew of some of the challenges that teachers and students face in public schools here, I didn’t understand them.
Although I knew Colombia was the world’s happiest country, I didn’t understand what that meant.