Dealing With Theft

Learning life lessons is rarely fun. Feeling taken advantage of is not fun either. Now I don’t mean the taxi driver tried to charge me too much, as they frequently do. Unfortunately, I’m trying to deal with the fact that someone stole my much-loved iPhone last Wednesday while I was in Cartagena for Semana Santa (Spring Break). Much of this post may make me sound like a spoiled brat from the USA. It may sound like #firstworldproblems. But I work hard for my belongings and I take good care of them, so I feel the need to complain a bit.

What I’m still shocked about is how they did it without me noticing. My phone was in my small black cross body purse that I take every time I go out. My friends and I were out at a block party-esque thing in Cartagena. I was in one of the bars dancing, as I do so frequently. I went to the bathroom, checked my phone, came back out and danced some more. Maybe around 10 minutes later, I reached into my purse and noticed the flap was open. My phone was gone. Naturally, I freaked. After lots of yelling, tears, frantic searching, talking to cops, and calling my phone repeatedly only to have the thief answer and pretend to the be the “national police” that needed my password in order to unlock the phone (yeah right), I realized it was hopeless.

This may sound ridiculous, considering that it was just a phone, but I literally have felt all the stages of grief as I come to terms with it being gone. (This is in no way trying to lessen the very real stages of grief that come with loss, disease, or major life-altering events; it is simply a connection I have made about my own emotions in this situation.) On WebMD, which we all use to self-diagnose whether we should or not, I was reading about the different stages:

When I first realized it was gone, I went through a denial or shock period. I felt like I was living in a dream world and I kept feeling my purse to see if it really was empty. Then I became angry. When it comes to being a fighter or lover, I tend to be the former, and I swear if I had found the person who took it, I would have given it to them bad and nobody could have stopped me.

Should have tried a version of this message.

Should have tried a version of this message.

The next few days passed in a mixture of bargaining and “depression”. I use the term depression lightly here, not to be confused with the real illness of depression. My bargaining stage was evident and is still evident sometimes in how I’m constantly thinking of the “coulda, shoulda, woulda” scenarios. When we kept calling my phone and they answered, I should have offered them money. I should have used the GPS on the Find My iPhone app IMMEDIATELY. Instead I waited until after they had already tried asking me for the password over the phone and then they turned it off. (That one still kills me. Why didn’t I think of that in the moment??!) I should have been on the street with the others, instead of dancing. But then there’s that hopelessness of the “depression” stage, reminding me that I could be the most careful person in the world (which I typically am), yet it still could have happened. Unfortunately, thefts like this are all too common here. Another teacher had her iPhone stolen right out of her backpack while getting off the bus a few weeks ago as well. Shit happens.

I’ve started to reach the acceptance stage. It is what it is. I’ve got to face it, look into my options for a new phone, eat the cost, and take it as a lesson. Of course, I still have that anger inside me when I think about what kind of person does this….but we’ll just hope I never run into the person that took it, or I may be seeking bail from a Colombian jail. 🙂

On the bright side, I had all the pictures on my phone backed up besides the ones I had taken in the first few days of our trips. The things I didn’t have backed up were all my contacts, including the many people I have met since coming to Colombia, and my notes, which is sad because it had a long-running list of all the words and expressions I’ve learned in Spanish…most especially all the bad ones! Haha.

So people, if you can learn from me in this…remember you’re always vulnerable. Back up your entire phone, tablets, computers, etc. And if something like this happens, know that it sucks. It sucks a lot. But, similar to most things in life, dwelling on it won’t help you get over it. Move on and find the silver lining in your next moment.



Homemade Peanut Butter

I admit it, I’m a peanut butter fanatic. I eat it on crackers, toast, apples, bananas, in smoothies, and by the spoonful. My brothers and sisters and I grew up on giant jars of JIF and whether crunchy or creamy, it’s all delicious to me. Then I started learning about trans fats and hydrogenated oils, so I graduated to what I thought was “better” for me. You know, those falsely advertised “natural” peanut butters. A few years later, I learned how to analyze the ingredient list more closely. Basically if there’s anything beyond peanuts, salt, and a perhaps a bit of oil, then it’s not real peanut butter. (Of course, I never passed up on JIF or anything else if it was the only pb available…I’m not that crazy.)

My time in Spain was hard because peanut butter was nowhere to be found. I actually wrote a post called “Bye, Bye giant jar of JIF…” about trying to bring back a huge jar of JIF (before my natural days) to Spain and somehow being clueless and leaving it in my carryon. #newbietraveler

When I got to Colombia, I quickly found jars of Peter Pan pb at one of the supermarkets. But at 15 mil each, they were setting me back the equivalent of $8 each jar. No way could I keep that up. So I started looking up recipes…turns out peanut butter is one of THE EASIEST things to make from scratch….and then you get to control how much of everything goes in!

The best part about this recipe is that there are no real measurements. You keep perfecting it until you figure out how you like your pb the best…sweeter, saltier, crunchier, smoother, so on and so forth. I’ve been using my blender and it comes out smooth enough for my liking, but a food processer would be a bit easier. The only downside? Clean up.

What you need:

  • Shelled peanuts, preferably unsalted
  • Oil (you can use any kind, but I’d recommend a lighter-flavored one such as sunflower seed oil, light olive oil, or canola oil. I use a sunflower seed/olive oil blend.)
  • Salt (optional)
  • Honey (optional)

Peanuts, honey, salt, and oil!


1. Pour some of the peanuts into a fry pan over medium heat.*** Let them toast for 4-8 minutes while stirring frequently. (Burned peanuts do not make delicious pb…I’ve learned from experience.)

Toasting the peanuts on the stove. You could probably also do this in the oven, but I've never tried since I can't figure out how to light ours. :)

Toasting the peanuts on the stove. You could probably also do this in the oven, but I’ve never tried since I can’t figure out how to light ours. 🙂

2. Immediately put into a blender or food processor while the peanuts are still hot. COVER the blender. (Again, lesson learned.)

3. Start the blender on low and let the peanuts grind for about 30 seconds. Turn it up higher bit by bit until you notice all the peanuts are getting ground into a powdery substance that gets stuck to the sides. This may take 1-2 minutes.

This is just as I'm starting to grind them.

This is just as I’m starting to grind them.

You can see it's very powdery at this point.

You can see it’s very powdery at this point.

4. Time to add the other ingredients! I start with about 1-2 tablespoons of oil, depending on how much I’m making, as well as some sprinkles of salt and maybe a tablespoon of honey. (Makes it like honey roasted peanut butter!) Pour all this directly into the blender. Turn it back on low and then increase to high for another couple minutes. You will need to stop every 30 seconds or so to shake the blender and move the mixture back toward the center and the blades.

The ingredients are pooled in the middle as you can see.

The ingredients are pooled in the middle as you can see.

5. Add more oil tablespoon by tablespoon, blending in between on high until it reaches the creaminess you would like. You may want to taste it every time to see if you need more salt or honey….and just so you can enjoy the deliciousness.

You can see it's very thick. I like mine with a bit of crunchiness, but I've also added more oil on occasions and it gets it much creamier.

You can see it’s very thick. I like mine with a bit of crunchiness, but I’ve also added more oil on occasions and it gets it much creamier.

6. Use a spatula to scrape into a container and enjoy right away however you like it!

**Heating the peanuts is not absolutely necessary, but it draws out the oils in the peanuts which definitely makes the peanut butter smoother and easier to grind up in the blender.

Clean Up Tip:

As I mentioned, I feel the worst part is having to clean up all the remnants of peanut butter left in the bottom of the blender. I recommend making a smoothie immediately after with whatever peanut butter is left over in the blender, 1 tablespoon chia seeds, a frozen banana, a tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, some natural yogurt, and a bit of milk. Then the blender will be easier to clean AND you get a delicious treat! 🙂

YUM. (Yes, this is a reused cottage cheese container that I broke down and bought when I was having a craving...I may or may not have spent the equivalent of $6 on it!)

YUM. (Yes, this is a reused cottage cheese container that I broke down and bought when I was having a craving…I may or may not have spent the equivalent of $6 on it!)

The whole process takes less than 10 minutes now that I’ve done it so many times. I typically make enough fresh peanut butter to last a week…you can’t beat that!

So what are you waiting for? Try it out! Put less preservatives into your body, control the oil and salt, and enjoy some freshly made peanut butter. Let me know how it goes!

101 Things to Love About Colombia

I’m cheating by stealing an article from another blog again, but it matched perfectly on so many levels that I had to share! People have asked me why I like living here. Oftentimes it’s hard to put into words because it’s not any one thing….it’s all the little things that add up. 

Without further ado…enjoy!

What I’m learning in my 20s….

Saw somebody else share this via a blog I follow, and it just seems so accurate that I had to share it, too! As I quickly approach 26 in a matter of a few weeks, it’s incredible how much my viewpoints and feelings on certain matters have changed. Some are a bit silly, but still so accurate. 

20-somethings in the middle of this ride we call life, would you agree?

I heart.

As teachers, we have some of the most peculiar and most wonderful things happen to us, often in the same hour. I’ve had students poop down their pants and leave it for us to find on the floor. I’ve had more kisses and hugs than I can count, and not always in the most appropriate of places. I’ve had chairs thrown at me. I’ve had “I love you” and “I hate you” notes from the same child within 5 minutes. I’ve had insect attacks in our classroom. I’ve had tricks played on me and I’ve played tricks on kids. We’ve had laughter, tears, pain, and anger. But most of all, we’ve learned and grown together.

There are times when I feel like I nailed it…you know, said exactly the right thing at the right moment. Man, those moments feel good. There are other times when I screwed it up. I reacted without thinking first, let my impatience show, or simply said the wrong thing. How I wish I could go back and fix those moments. But then along comes an instance when I realize how rewarding this job is and how it is worth all the time, energy, stress, frustration, and regrettable moments.

One day this week, we were at closing circle and sharing the best part of our day. Students are not required to share, but since we’ve started it, it’s been amazing hearing what they enjoyed the most and really reaffirms my decision to be a teacher. Even if 40-50% of the time, they say recess! J One of my more difficult children raised his hand and in his broken English where he repeats “I me” a lot, he went on to say that he hearts his school…he hearts his friends….he just hearts everyone and everything. It was not related to a best part of the day at all, and I started to redirect him, but then realized how impassioned he was and just let him talk. As he continued to go on, I gave our “me too” silent signal and so did many other students. It just warmed my heart. It made me smile. It made me laugh. Especially since he literally said “I heart _____” rather than “I love”. And If I’m being honest, I got a little teary-eyed.

As I went home that afternoon with emotions still running high and thinking about what it is that “I heart”, I couldn’t help but reflect on my experience thus far in relation to the culture shock continuum I posted 7 months ago.


At about 6 months, you finally get to the At Home phase. I’ve definitely felt all of the above emotions, though it hasn’t been such a smooth down and back up…rather, it’s more of constant ups and downs like a roller coaster, but I feel that it’s typically been higher than lower. I can’t explain where I am right now because it’s not on the continuum. I feel at home here, but what’s more is that I feel HAPPY. Even when I was “at home” in Indianapolis, I didn’t feel happy. Working 60-80 hours a week and having zero time to take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially doesn’t allow room for happiness. Now I’m only occasionally taking work home or doing it on the weekends (except this weekend because I’m behind). I go to the gym. I go to salsa classes. I go to tumbling classes. I watch a TV show when my internet is working. I practice a new language. I cook. I go to the pool sometimes. I read books, though fitting in time for adult books is still hard. I travel to new places (Bogota last weekend. The coast for Spring Break is booked. Hopefully Peru and Bolivia this summer.) I spend time with friends. I do things on the weekend. All of this was unimaginable for me when I was home. Is this what makes me happy? Activities? Time to do what I enjoy? I don’t know…probably.

People say to me, “Oh, you’re living the dream.” Not quite. Remember that most people only post the positive things, myself included. Shit still hits the fan here. Work is still stressful. Drama still exists. Miscommunications happen frequently. I’ve cried, yelled, and felt crazy. Problems of all sorts still occur. But let me be cliché for a moment…what I’ve come to learn is that it truly IS how you respond to the situation. It’s all about your mindset. A few quotes that echo what I’m trying to say… (Click on photos for sources.)

And my favorite, which used to be my phone background as a reminder to keep growing, keep taking chances, keep challenging myself…

So many people get stuck where they are because they’re AFRAID. Stepping outside your comfort zone is terrifying. Believe me, I know. The night before I left for Colombia, I was physically ill and couldn’t sleep. The unknown is scary. But you know what’s scarier, at least in my opinion? Settling for a life without ever trying to figure out what really challenges you and what fills your heart. Living your entire life with a “what if”.

Now, I’m not saying traveling and living internationally is for everyone. Not at all. Even for me, this is what makes me happy at the moment, but come 3 years, I might be singing a different tune. What I’m trying to say is that you need to be responsive to what you are feeling at this point in your life and not try to sweep it under the rug. If you feel a yearning, check it out. Big or small. Go for it. You’ll never know how it turns out until you TRY. Figure out what it is that you “heart.” And really, can the result be so much worse than living a life full of “what ifs”?