So, one part of moving to a new place that can be really challenging is meeting new people and building solid relationships in order to have a support network and to feel less alone. In my first month in Colombia, I began to draft a post about some of the great people I had met thus far...but then I thought, what if they read this? How will they feel about me talking about them to the "world"? (this is a public site after all) And what if someone else reads this post and is upset that I didn't write about them?! ... in the end I nixed the post. Yesterday, nearly 6 months later, one of my good friends here in Bogotá posted this on my Facebook wall:
You know what? I took the time to read your blog just to realize you haven't mentioned your dear co-work/bad-(and, sometimes good)- Spanish-words teacher/ lunch partner/ friend: Me. Thanks a lot, man.So I feel I've now been given the green light to write about some of the people that have graced me with their presence and enriched my Colombian life. This only the short list...if I tried to write about every person who has had a positive impact on my time here in Colombia - the post would be 100 pages long. So for now...drum roll please...my Colombian dream team:
|Halloween party - such style!|
David was a teacher at Gimnasio La Montaña (now he is training with the government to work in international relations). He was the first person to invite me to do something and to get my out of my hotel room (where I lived for my first two weeks in Bogotá). We - David, his wife Sandra, and I - went out for pizza and then met up with others from La Montaña at Hard Rock Café (very gringo!) to see a Red Hot Chilli Pepper cover band. David and Sandra are an incredible pair. They both have traveled quite a bit and are fluent in English, Chinese, and Spanish (their first language). They regularly invite me to meet them to go dancing or have a beer, and Sandra and I are still trying to find an evening where we are both free to go to yoga together. They are up for anything, are super interesting to talk with, and are just about the nicest people you could ever meet. Because they know how challenging it can be to learn a new language (and how easy it can be to avoid practicing), they almost exclusively talk to me in Spanish. David, no matter how much English I speak, only speaks back in Spanish. Sandra will often help me with difficult Spanish translations for my English expressions. It is wonderful.
|At the school holiday party.|
Pacho is the one who pestered me to write this blog. While that might make him seem a bit full of himself, he really is quite humble and caring. Pacho was one of the very first people at the school to introduce himself to me and continues to be an awesome friend. We sit close to each other in the teachers's room and laugh about silly things, when time get stressful (think report card time!). We eat lunch together when our schedules allow it and rather frequently Pacho will give me a ride home (whenever he has a car). This is a HUGE favor, because my bus route can be terribly slow. In the beginning, I needed a tremendous amount of help knowing what was being said, where I needed to be and what I was supposed to do, the phrase "Pacho, explica la Kate..." (explain to Kate...) has become a joke amongst some of the middle school teachers. While we generally speak in English together, Pacho is very patient when I do speak in Spanish and gently corrects my numerous errors in pronunciation, conjugation, and grammar. He also makes errors in English every once in a while, just to make me feel better about myself. :) Pacho can be counted on regularly to grab a beer after school on Fridays and is usually up for doing things when others are looking to get out of the house (unless he's gotten too comfortable on his couch and gets sucked into some professional sports events). I was very worried for a while, because last semester he was a substitute for a teacher who has since returned from maternity leave. Thankfully the powers that be are looking out for my sanity, and the school shifted Pacho's responsibilities to cover another teacher who is now out on sick leave. Hooray! Pacho is a patient and hard-working teacher, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the school will have a permanent position for him next year.
|In la ruta, celebrating Lili's birthday.|
Liliana is in my bus route. She speaks fluent English, spent a large amount of time in the U.S. studying it, and was another person who reached out to me early on when I arrived in Colombia. She would invite me to dinner with friends and also invited me to her birthday with her family. Liliana is a passionate woman and I can always count on her for intellectually stimulating conversation. We don't agree on everything but it is so nice to have someone with who I can ponder themes of religion, education, love, life, etc. For a while I was attending a Bible Study-like group with Liliana. While in the end I decided it was not for me, it was so kind of her to welcome me into a personal part of her life. Liliana not only shared her ideas on the world and her dreams for her future with me but she opened up her family and friends to me as well. My social circle grew quickly because of her. I even got to attend my first Colombian wedding after meeting her niece (the bride) just once! She has wonderful people in her life and many of them have important fixtures in my Colombian life as well.
|In La Calera for lunch.|
Perhaps it is wrong to list the boyfriend fourth, but this is the order in which I met these wonderful people. Liliana introduced me to Juan Carlos during a trip to Suesca. The introduction was not planned - we ended up bumming a ride off of Juan Carlos at the last minute, when Liliana's brother decided to head to Suesca earlier than we could be ready - but the connection was immediate. The entire ride to Suesca, Liliana and her son, Marco (sooo adorable), napped in the back seat, while Juan Carlos and I listened to music, struggled through Spanish conversation, and somehow found ourselves laughing and enjoying ourselves immensely despite the language barrier. The next 48 hours continued in the same fashion. We drank and laughed, we took turns riding a bike because neither of us were in good enough shape to go the whole way, and bonded over a love for empanadas. Juan Carlos continues to be a wonderful friend in adventure - he is extremely patient (with both my Spanish and my crazy I'm-a-gemini-and-so-I-have-a-right-to-change-my-mind-regularly antics), is always up for adventure, is willing to let me learn to drive a stick-shift using his car (again, despite me screaming in frustration both at the car and at him), and is just one of the most selfless people I have ever me. He makes delicious arepas, has a very large family with which he is very good about staying connected, and has a killer sense of humor (despite the fact that I can only truly appreciate about 60% of the jokes... the rest go over my head because of the Spanish). He is an architect and works very hard but his schedule is also flexible which has allowed us to see Los Nevados and plan a few more trips here and there in the months and weeks to come. As you all know, I am extremely independent but Juan Carlos has somehow been able to carve out a spot in my life, just the right size, that gives me the alone time that I need but also makes me soooooo appreciative that he is in my life.
These are the people that I can regularly count on for support and fun.... the network is growing and there are other people that I regularly work with and talk with...so perhaps, they too will earn some space on this blog....I definitely still need to share about the folks with whom I live, the gringos that I've been getting to know better and are helping me to stay sane, the curriculum committee that is keeping my brain challenged, and the folks with whom I work (although that could be a little bit trickier) .... stay tuned...