Happy New Year!

Photo: My mom and I in Medellin!

So sorry I haven’t written in a while! Happy 2017 to all!

My fellow assistants and I  are supposed to begin tutorials again at the university this week, but we’re still waiting on our schedules. I’m looking forward to this new semester and working with new classes (I’ll be working Mon-Thurs, instead of Wed-Sat).

Our holiday break began mid-December, so I was able to get a lot of rest and travel a bit. In December, I went to San Andres for about a week, and spent a lot of time in Medellin. Last week was particularly great because my mom came to visit me, and I showed her all of my favorite parts of Medellin. I love that city because it’s warm, people are friendly, and there are tons of trees. My mom says the whole city is a botanical garden, and I agree. Many people ask me if I like Bogota and the truth is I prefer Medellin because of its culture and weather, but Bogota isn’t totally bad. To be honest, I just get depressed by the clouds and the occasional rain.

I can’t tell you how excited I am for this New Year! As you can tell by my last post, Trump’s election has put quite a downcast on 2017 for a lot of people, but I’m interested to see how people will unite against any potentially harmful policies. I have some faith that people will stand up and organize. I ran in the New Year home alone, but I was super happy watching my live countdown shows because they get me into the spirit of welcoming a new year. New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays to celebrate and each new year represents new opportunities. I feel refreshed, and I’m looking for work in Colombia for after my grant. In February, I’ll start a cooking class at my university and a First Aid course at the Colombian Red Cross. I plan on doing a CPR course afterwards as well. Now that I’m halfway through my grant, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish this semester at UCMC and what plans I have for my social project. I’ll probably start rehearsals for my second dance piece with ConCuerpos in February (people are still traveling, etc). Also, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my experience here as a Fulbrighter and what it’s like to live and work in Bogota.

Here are some of those thoughts/experiences, etc…:

-Every region of Colombia has it’s own culture, climate, and way of life. I don’t feel bad about liking Medellin more than Bogota because there’s a lot to experience in every region and there’s space for everyone’s preferences, whether you prefer the countryside or a huge city. I have friends who love Bogota and that’s cool. With our stipend, you can travel a good deal (well, that’s if you try to make most of your meals at home!).

-Culture shock and adjustment is real no matter how much you’ve traveled, and I’m learning how to deal with the ups and downs. When I get homesick, I know that it will pass with time. Maybe days or weeks, but it’ll pass. I try to see my friends and not stay home as much during those periods.

-Sometimes I read about a foreigner’s concerns on safety here in Colombian cities, and I think it’s all about being city smart. I come from NYC so I have this engrained in me, but I do not take out or walk around with my phone and wallet. The reality is that a few Fulbrighters have unfortunately had their phones stolen, so take heed! While we may want to “do as the locals do”, the fact of the matter is we stand out as foreigners. It’s best to keep your stuff hidden or in your bag with your bag in front of you, especially on Transmilenio (the major bus system in Bogota). If you need to check something on your phone, do it quickly, in an area with few people. When I do, I step to the side somewhere and I keep vigilant of who’s around me. That’s the city life.

-I’ve dealt with several ignorant comments, especially about race or my background. A few taxi drivers seem surprised that I come from the US because they “picture Americans as being blonde and blue eyed” and they’ll let you know it! Time and time again I hear that line and I try to educate as best as I can. I also deal with machista crap, where I have felt that I was being talked down to by a man. It usually happens when they’re trying to tell me to do something (what I assume they believe is a suggestion) and I just want to scream “don’t tell me what to do $#%hole”. I remember coming back from Medellin and this man told this woman with a baby to get inside because it was windy and rainy. The first time he said it, she ignored him. Then he did it again, this time grabbing the baby’s hoodie and pulling it further down her face. The woman just nodded yes and went inside. We were there for a while, so I know that that man was not with her. She had been waiting with her partner. I’m trying to not let it all get to me because this stuff really irks me. I understand that this is another culture. I am not in NYC and even that city has its share of issues in regards to discrimination, so I am trying to stay positive by telling myself that I am doing the best I can in a culture that in the grand schemes of things is still new to me. Yes, I can get around, but I don’t know ALL there is to know about Colombian society here, and so on and so on. I am a foreigner, and I’m doing what I can to keep learning about life here and trying to deal with some of the crap I experience/witness.

-Finally, now that I am months away from returning home, I’d like to see how I can make the most out of my time here. What would I like to do that would bring me joy? Can I take more photos? I brought some arts supplies, but haven’t had the time to paint. Can I work out (as much as I hate it)? Where will my next dance piece be? What do I want my last few months to look like? Lots of ideas for 2017 because I’m ready for it.

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