December 31, 2012. A year ago, I was saying goodbye to some of my oldest friends in Washington, DC just a few days before I would leave for a year in Colombia. I was slightly apprehensive but mostly just antsy and ready for my next “adventure.”
(Are they still adventures if they’re totally recurring and last up to 365 days? Is banging my head against a whiteboard because no one wants to learn the present perfect tense an adventure? Is working 40-hr weeks plus 2-3 hours a day of lesson planning and grading? I know, like, paragliding and climbing mountains counts, but it’s not like I was doing that ALL the time.)
Now, I’m sitting in a friend’s borrowed apartment in the capital city of 8 million people where I can go…certainly not everywhere, but a lot of places, confidently and securely. Half the things surrounding me seem to be remnants of life in Colombia: a stack of unused index cards, a receipt from my new cedula application, a few stray pesos, my Restrepo leather jacket and an alpaca blanket from Ecuador draped over my shoulders.
Upon coming to Colombia, really just upon applying to WorldTeach last August, I had no idea or expectation where it would take me. I wanted to get back to Latin America – I craved the chaos, the challenge and the vibrance. I wanted to give a hand at teaching, because I’ve always loved school, so maybe I would love being on the other side. Hey, it’s not like I had a clearer life plan in mind. I knew I would make friends and travel…but I couldn’t have hoped for better friends or more incredible travel experiences. I came for cultural immersion, and managed to create a home for myself without sacrificing the experience or my own background. I kinda learned to teach, and I learned that while it’s fun, it’s not my career. I had to work really, really hard at it, and felt like the efforts were sucking my energy and never yielded a satisfying enough result. I loved my year, and I’m so glad I did it. I gained so many skills and experiences and I really loved my students. Just, no more teaching. For now.
Like I mentioned a few months back, after a short time here, I wanted to stay in Colombia. I was comfortable without being bored, I knew enough but had plenty left to learn and to see, I had met people but didn’t know them as well as I wanted to. I wasn’t done here, and there was no reason for me to be done – no job or schooling to go back to, no relationship or mortgage.
Then, the seasonless skies opened up and the absolute perfect job for my background, passions, skills and current life situation appeared. And now, it’s mine. In two days, 43 new WorldTeach volunteer teachers are touching down at El Dorado’s sparkly new international terminal, where I’ll be meeting them as a member of the Field Staff. Logistics, counseling, liaising, problem-solving and support are my new best friends and I could not be more content with the challenge of the year ahead.
Sadly, Bogotá is not part of my new employment package. I had envisioned myself living here another year in the perfect Chapinero apartment with Natalie and colorful floor mats and Raquirá ceramics and potluck dinners. Instead, I’m relocating to the loud, vivid, oppressively hot Caribbean coast to oversee our volunteers based in Barranquilla and Isla Baru. What’s another change of address at this point, anyway?