Change.

We all know change is hard. And scary. But wow, is it so necessary. I’ve mentioned before how ill I was the night before moving to Colombia, full of fear and anxiety about the unknown to come. But not for one moment have I regretted that decision to stand at the precipice and step off. Of course hindsight is twenty-twenty as the saying goes, and I can only recognize afterward how great that decision has turned out for me. But it makes one wonder, how many missed opportunities have there been in my life, opportunities that could have altered my life even further and I’ll simply never know? It can drive a person mad thinking of all those what-ifs, so I try hard not to fixate on them. Living in the here and now is what we must do, but without being afraid of further change whether it turns out positively or negatively, which brings me to my point…

Last school year was the hardest period of my life for many reasons. I experienced the depths of depression and anxiety and now have an inkling of how challenging it is for people who struggle with mental health issues all their lives. Fortunately for me, it was a temporary darkness. How did I get out of it? I made a change. A change that maybe wasn’t so big in comparison to a continent move, but it was enough of a change to kick me out of my funk and put things into perspective. The mental and emotional struggles aren’t gone and I doubt they’ll ever fully leave, but it’s loads better. I’m glad I took that step, even though I was scared and couldn’t see outside of my tunnel vision at the moment. But this has been the best reminder to continue stepping outside of my comfort zone, taking risks, and maintaining an open mind. I see people around me scared to do so, and I wish it for them…I wish it so hard, that they would approach the cliffside and throw themselves off into the unknown. However else can we move forward in our lives?

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27 Perks of Living and Teaching in Colombia

After my last post about the lessons I’ve learned in my first two months here, I realized some of them came across as negative when, in reality, they are the things I am learning to laugh at. Since there are so many wonderful perks of living in this country, I decided to highlight some.

1. I get to practice my Spanish day in and day out! Yes, people always immediately recognize me as a “gringa” as soon as I open my mouth, but it’s a really good feeling when you participate in an IEP meeting fully in Spanish and contribute and understand 99% of it!

2. There are little shops everywhere to get your fresh fruits and vegetables, basic groceries, drinks, and so on. Great for stopping by when you just need a couple things and don’t want to go to one of the big supermarkets.

3. As already mentioned, alcohol and any other goods can be delivered right to your door just by calling the corner shop.

4. You get to walk everywhere! Some people may hate this, but I really missed being within walking distance of everything when I lived in Indy.

5. People actually work out hard here and sweat as much as, if not more, than I do. Yes, the girls are wearing cutesy coordinated outfits, but usually they are actually doing something productive.

6. Exercise classes are way more fun in Spanish! Also, instead of random Zumba classes, I have the options of rumba, salsa, urbana, danzika, and more. I couldn’t be more happy.

7. Everyone is a good dancer and most people love to dance! No matter where you are, a small party, bar, or social gathering at school, there are always bound to be people dancing.

8. Certain things are cheaper here….produce, certain services, phone bills, medicines, and so on. Of course, other things like clothes, electronics, cereal, and hair products are more expensive.

9. Beauty treatments are readily available and cheaper than in the states. I’ve been seriously considering a keratin treatment on my hair, but that means I would potentially be sacrificing my curls for good…definitely for at least 3 months. But with this humidity, it may be worth it!

10. You can buy single cans of beer from nearly any corner store.

11. They have awesome juices that they make from all the different fruits. I’ve attempted them at home and don’t do the greatest job, but you can get them freshly made at several different places for cheap.

12. The weather is beautiful….year round!!! It still hasn’t sunk in that I will still be going to the pool come January. Especially after the polar vortex this past winter. Am I starting to miss a bit of fall weather and pumpkin spice lattes? Yes. But sunny weather day in, day out, really helps put you in a good mood!

13. I complained about it being difficult to get a regular iced coffee, but I didn’t mention that those granizados (blended iced coffee) are really quite delicious…

14. Most people are incredibly welcoming! Isn’t it always so in countries where they kiss each other on the cheek when they first meet you??

15. You need small denominations for your taxi rides, but that’s only because they’re so cheap! To go into the actual center of Bucaramanga (about a 15-20 minute taxi ride depending on traffic) is only about 8,000 pesos, or $4. Split that amongst 3 or 4 people and it’s dirt cheap.

16. The scenery! Even though I live in the city and don’t have nature immediately available, it’s always a good feeling to be walking home and looking up at the mountains around you. I can’t wait to visit the coffee region of Colombia over our fall break because it’s in the Andean region and supposedly even more gorgeous!

17. Teaching has way less pressure and stress than in the states. Most of the pressure I have is what I naturally put onto myself.

18. I have a great bilingual assistant in my classroom…never did I realize how many little extra things I’ve had to do and deal with until I’ve had her and she’s taken care of them.

19. I have so much prep time!! Even on my busiest day, Thursday, I have a morning prep from 9:45-10:30am when Spanish is in my room and another in the afternoon from 12:45-1:30pm when they are at Music.. I only have recess duty 3 days a week (really only 3 recesses out of 10 total recesses in the week). And I have a full lunch break. I still tend to scarf down my food because it’s what I’m so accustomed to, and I’m struggling to make the most productive use of my preps at the moment, but I wouldn’t trade the time for the world. (GB friends, don’t get jealous…you’re more than welcome to move to Colombia and teach here, too!)

20. Administration and parents (for the most part) fully respect you, your position, and your expertise. I’m given quite a bit of freedom to adapt my instruction for how I see fit and parents are asking my recommendations on extra tutoring for their children. Yes, more involved parents has definitely come at a cost that may drive me a bit crazy from time to time, but it’s well worth it.

21. (edited) I don’t know how I forgot to mention this the first time around, but Colombia has the second most number of national holidays, I’m pretty sure. This, coupled with the American holidays we also get off, means we have a 3 day weekend, or puente, as they call it at least once a month. Plus almost a week fall break, week at spring break, and 3 and a half weeks at Christmas. Yet, we still start at the beginning of August and get out by the second week of June. God knows we teachers need those breaks probably more than the kids!

22. CHIVAS. Enough said.

23. Consistent sunrise and sunset. This has helped me to be okay with getting up in the 5ams. When you’re walking to school at 6:15am, it doesn’t feel like when I was driving to those horrid 7:20am meetings where I felt like a zombie. Having full sun really helps! Of course, this means I’m ready to be asleep by 8pm.

24. Living in South America means it’ll be way easier for me to travel throughout the continent. While I’ve decided to come home this Christmas since most other expat teachers are also going home, I’m looking forward to exploring some other countries next summer! (I’ll be home Friday, December 19 to Wednesday, January 7. I want to see as many people as I can! You can still iMessage me if you have my email in my contact, or contact me via FB/email since my US phone number doesn’t exist anymore.)

25. Condiments come in squeezable bags instead of jars. At first I thought this peculiar, but now I’ve realized how convenient it is! They are smaller and you don’t need a knife to spread it.

26. Yes, all sorts of bugs in our home and around is terrifying, but on the flipside, I’m becoming less of a baby in dealing with them (until we have dead geckos or cockroaches…then my roommate is the brave one). I figure by the time I return to the states someday, little spiders won’t scare me anymore.

27. Frozen yogurt is everywhere! I’m obviously in heaven and may or may not get it on the way home from the gym 2-3 times a week. My favorite part is that they have plain or chocolate yogurt, but you choose a frozen fruit or two to blend into the frozen yogurt as it comes out of the machine. I try new combinations nearly every time I go.

Coming up with these 27 things was quite easy, and I know I could come up with more if I tried. Colombia is really an incredible country that is changing for the better more and more as time passes. I’m very fortunate to live in a city where I have many creature comforts of home, beautiful weather, safety, and a supportive school community. Obviously I’m still adjusting and go through periods of up and down, but I honestly don’t know if it could get much better! 🙂