Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Difficult Questions

I love visiting family and friends and cherish the time I have with folks, but going back home for those few weeks is also tough emotionally.  There are lots of questions asked but lots of unspoken feelings and questions as well.

The doozies:
When are you coming back home?  
Why aren't you working in education HERE, in the U.S.?!  Your own country needs you.
Why Bogotá?!

I know the questions come from a good place.  It's nice to know that I'm missed, that people worry about me and that people think my presence in the U.S. would make a difference.  I also know that for some people the questions are more emotionally charged than actually coming from a logical place.  But the questions are also sometimes hard to handle.  For a few reasons:  1.  I don't know.  2. I don't have a good answer/ the right answer.  3. I feel guilty.  4. I feel attacked/judged/misunderstood/etc.  Still, the questions force me to take some time to reflect and find some answers for myself... here's what I know right now.

I know that I don't know when I'm returning "home".  
Truthfully, I'm not sure where home would be first of all.  And secondly, I'm not sure where my life is going to take me.   Certainly, the house where I grew up will always be considered home and I can always refer to it as home and people understand.  Still, when people ask me about returning "home", I'm quite certain they don't mean "when are you, as a 29-year-old going to go back to living with your parents?".   The question seems to mean when will I return to the States.  That's confusing.  The U.S. is huge.  For me there is not a huge difference between being in Colombia and being in California, or Texas for that matter.  It's a flight away - a 4 hour flight versus a 6 hour flight really doesn't seem like a me.  

Additionally, if I did return to the United States.  I'm not sure where I'd want to be.  Anywhere I went, I'd have to start fresh.  Yes, there are a handful of cities where I have some good friends - Houston, New York City, Washington, DC...but I'd still have to build a life in this new location and I've done that quite a bit.  I'm actually quite good at it, but frankly, I'm tired of moving so much and would like to just stay put until an opportunity arises that really screams "this is the move you've been waiting for!"

My commitment to education is to a global community, not the U.S.
This is not a very patriotic statement, I understand.  It may even be offensive to some.  Still, I'm fascinated by this shrinking world and all that people can offer each other, if we are just willing to cross borders into different languages, cultures, and understandings about the world in which we live.  I believe education has the power to change a person's life and was motivated to work in education through my time as a tutor in D.C..  My passion grew with my experiences in New Orleans, Houston, Uganda, and South Africa.  My dedication and sense of purpose was developed at Harvard.  And now, in Colombia, I continue to learn about the power of education and find new ways to use my skills to make a difference.  The amount of work to be done is overwhelming and the answers are not going to be found in one place.  I am one small player in this fight to ensure that all children have a quality education in this world.  And I do what I can, where I see a role for me.  I should probably also mention that I do continue to contribute to education reform in the U.S. from over here in Colombia.  I work part time as a consultant and take on work here and there, again, when I see a space that could benefit from what I have to offer.  

Life in Bogotá is simpler.
For sure I make jokes about some of the struggles I've had living in Colombia but at the end of the day, the simplicity of life here makes me a better person, a saner person, a healthier person - a happier person.  I don't have a car and public transportation here is not great.  But I walk...a lot.  I get out of my apartment and into the sunlight.  Sometimes I get caught in downpours, with not a taxi to be found, but when I arrive to my apartment soaking wet - the pleasure I get from that hot shower, those comfy pajamas and that cup of tea are unmeasurable.  Healthcare can sometimes be confusing and frustrating but I've been humbled by the process of navigating a system in what sometimes feels like broken-Spanish and seeing how the majority of the world lives.  I could also choose to pay a bit more to avoid the lines and the chaos, but to see what I've afforded to avoid my whole life has taught me something.  I have more free time.  I work a full-time job which does not require I bring work home.  I have time to explore new hobbies, to travel, to take on additional work (if I so please...which I sometimes do), to plan a Thanksgiving dinner for 20 people, to enjoy an empanada and beer after work with a friend, to date, to exercise, to meditate, to just be.  Finally, every day I am learning.  My Spanish will never be perfect, but it gets closer and closer with each day that passes.  It is so exciting to learn a new phrase and than put it into use immediately.  It is so rewarding to go to dinner with a friend's family and realize at the end of the night that I was able to follow the entire night's conversation and contribute to it.  Bogotá might not be where I settle down permanently but for now life is good here.  I am happy.  

The distance doesn't have to feel so great.
I love my family and friends and cherish the moments I have when we are together.  Traveling makes maintaining these relationships a bit more challenging but it is also because of traveling and taking risks that many of these amazing friendships came to be.  This year my new year's resolution is to be better with my finances so that the distance does not impact these relationships as much.  I don't want to miss out on my best friend's wedding (and would really like to see her second wedding in Macedonia!), missing my grandmother's funeral was terrible, and if Mom, Dad and Bubba decide they want to vacation as a family in some crazy locale, I want to be sure I can swing it.    Still, I plan to make it happen while living here, in my comfortable life in Bogotá.  At least until, something pulls me in another direction.

Home for the Holidays

I've just returned to Bogotá after two weeks back in the northeast (USA).  It was a whirlwind of a trip but I fit in a lot.  It was a great balance of family time and friend time and down time.  There was also lots of snow, which I was hoping for but is never a guarantee.

These visits back home are never long enough but they always remind me of just how lucky I am to have such a loving bunch of people in my life.  The visit home was rejuvenating.  Quality time with family and catch-up time with friends from childhood, college, and work.

Thanks to everyone who squeezed in time to see me during the craziness of the holidays.  I am totally blessed.

Some highlights:

Family Time

Great time with aunts, uncles, and cousins.  So much delicious food!
Visiting favorite places - had to get my chocolate shake from Orbakers.

Walk down memory lane, in Joy.
Keeping with traditions, we attended the candlelight service and
then woke up to stockings, gifts and a delicious breakfast.

No visit home would feel quite right without Krochko QT.
Dinner with mom and dad before I left.  

Catching up with friends

1.  My best childhood friend is getting married (twice!) and I'm going to be in her wedding in June.  Very excited and so great catching up with her.

2. Jule and Sophia in town for a very brief visit.
Sophia came a bit earlier, so we had some time to hang with my family.

Continued catching up with cocktails and dinner. 
Then headed to a townie bar for some entertainment...
....which we dominated.
I feel both proud and embarrassed of this.
3.  JCI Reunion with guest star, KA

Catching up over drinks...

...and brunches...
...and dinners.
Celebrating the New Year
...with this view.
Love my time with these ladies and
really hoping for a reunion in Bogotá this July!