Hello friends and family back home!
October marks the 9th month that I’ve been in Colombia. In 65 days, I will be in Atlanta with my family and I will get to see some of my closest friends. What’s even better is that one of them is coming back to Colombia with me! I absolutely cannot wait to see everyone.
I can’t believe October is almost halfway over. This month has really shown me what taking a good break can do for a PCV. I was feeling agitated, restless, and just frazzled in general at the beginning of this month. I was taking everything all of my Colombian students and counterparts said too personally, which is always my first sign that I need to recharge. I took some time off, did some serious yoga and journaling, and really thought about my priorities here. Now, I feel calmer and more rooted in what I’d like to accomplish here. I’m ready to face the challenges I’m up against in my small site and make every day a little brighter for someone else.
I think part of the reason I get so wound up here is that I am and always have been so hard on myself. I want to positively impact my Colombian community but I sometimes forget that I’m only one person. I need to remember that I don’t have to be a superhero here. I get so wrapped up in my thoughts about doing a good job that I become absent even when surrounded by others. I can make change just by caring and being kind. Because sometimes that’s all another person really needs. And I do that by showing my kids that I’m here for them, and being a listening ear to my adult students when they feel frustrated about learning English. Being a big sister to Milena is also something I take very seriously, as well as being a support system for my host mom who is a mother figure to so many people that I’ve lost count.
As class starts up again tomorrow, I’m excited to see my kids again and my Colombian teachers that I work with. I’m putting aside the relentless thought that I have to build a library, put WiFi in my town, and do all of the other seemingly impossible tasks I’ve imagined for myself. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on making my community classes as fun as possible and not take anything too seriously. The Colombians that I’ve come to know and be friends with don’t expect perfection from me, I’m the only one who does that. Colombians just want to get to know you and spend time with you, and that’s not asking much. Most of the time, it’s sharing food together and asking them questions about their family. Or looking at a magazine together or watching a movie. Walking along the river and watching the fisherman pull up their nets while the sun sets is as simple as it gets, but it means the world to them.
I don’t have to do it all. I can be a great volunteer just by being myself and being the kind of person that my students need. I can always being a positive presence in their lives, even when I’m feeling worn down and tired. I need to remember to fill my own cup up first before I can try to fill up others. And that’s not selfish, that’s self care. Which is another thing I’ve really come to learn here as well. I can’t compare myself to others especially when I’m miles from home and everything that I know.
Basically, all this rambling just means that October has really taught me a lot of important things in a short amount of time. I can be a good influence in my student’s lives and also take time for myself. I can put myself first so that I can effectively be there for others. I’m hoping to carry these things I keep learning and re-learning about myself with me after my service is over, especially during my really hard moments. I think I just chose to ignore a lot of my feelings before because they were difficult and I didn’t want to acknowledge them, or acknowledge that I’ve been wrong before and made mistakes. Now I’m going over my mistake when I make one here, like if I snap at someone or start to beat myself up about something. I take a step back and figure out why I’m feeling the way I do, and I figure out what to do about it.
Colombia is teaching me so much about myself and other people. How to survive extreme heat when there’s no electricity, what to do when ants invade your food, and how to learn how to love who I am all over again. It’s also teaching me that I’m wrong sometimes, that I can be a jerk who needs to go and have a time out in my room to re-evaluate my grumpiness.
Which usually involves some form of chocolate, Harry Potter, and yoga. In that order. And then I’m ready to be a normal person again.