TOLERANCE

You know you’re in the Peace Corps when you freely discuss, elaborate, and describe explosive diarrhea symptoms with your volunteer peers without any ounce of shame.

We all got hit with the D-bug in July.

Without giving you the details here has been my experience in a mathematical formula:

No toilet seats + squatting + diarrhea = extremely firm thunder thighs acquired

 

Hola amigos y familia,

 

Thank you shout out to…

 

  1. Carrie, my PC volunteer friend who lent her movie library to all of us. We are forever grateful. I did not know how behind the times I was with movie watching.
  2. Galen, my PC volunteer site mate and buddy who keeps me sane. We got lost going to our training in Turipana, ate pity party ice cream together to re-strategize and think clearly, got back up on our feet, and got to our point of destination in one piece.
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This is Galen and me after finding the right bus to get to Turipana. We both closed our eyes on accident. I think.

3. Helena, my PC volunteer friend, who checks in on me regularly, who laughs so hard about so many things with me, and truly is a gem of a person.

4. Carmen, my Spanish teacher, who is just on the same page as me all the time.

5. My parents back in Texas. Thank you for your love and support.

 

After six months of being in Colombia, it was time for our IN-SERVICE TRAINING in Turipana, Colombia. This was a check-in point with our Peace Corps colleagues, staff, and Colombian counterparts.

The first three days included trainings and events with our counterparts. It was an opportunity to meet other volunteers’ counterparts, learn of their accomplishments, learn new methodologies, and basically, fire a rod in our counterparts’ buttocks to get them motivated when they returned back to school.

Here are my cute counterparts:

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Alicia from Buritaca and Giovanni from Perico Aguao.

 

Giovanni and Alicia are my teammates and I am forever grateful for their genuine compassion for their jobs, cooperativeness to work with me, and friendship with a gringa.

The last three days was for just us volunteers. We shared our struggles and achievements and I learned that we were all in this same boat with the same frustrations but we just were too afraid to be vulnerable and admit. However, we all cracked a little and when person A would say, “I have had difficulty with ABC,” person B would nod furiously in agreement. I also learned how much I missed air conditioning, but also realized how easily I got cold and how I was a master of turning it on and off throughout the night. How something I yearn for like AC could not be fully enjoyed due to adaptation of this fiery heat of a weather…

Additionally in Turipana, we surprised our fellow PC volunteer friend, Jackie, and her new-born grandson. 10 pound baby! We also learned how to document our progresses and accomplishments in the Volunteer Record Form (VRF), which is tedious, but very necessary to record our work here in Colombia.

I felt that my volunteer colleagues and I got closer during our Turipana training. Especially when one-by-one we all fell victim to diarrhea, headache, and vomiting afterwards. Natalie, my PC volunteer friend, calls it the curse of Turipana.

 

DRASTIC MOOD CHANGE. WARNING SAD POINT WARNING!

 

On August 19, 2016, I almost cried while reading out loud in English a story about Ashley and her career aspirations. I was asked to read out loud to articulate proper English pronunciation of a story far above the English skill level for the students. Some days, work as a PC volunteer makes you want to cry because you realize you can’t change the world, you are frustrated, you are tired, or you feel helpless. I was all of the above that day.

In my classes, there is room for improvement such as breaking down material so your students understand and reviewing that material for reinforcement. Unfortunately, as an outsider, I cannot just come in and enforce my own principles or ways of running things just like trying to put a box in a circle. I cannot just do that that because it’s not my classroom and I am solely here to lend a hand. This is a taste of being a diplomat trying to strengthen relations and improve policy through tact, patience, and tolerance. But in my case, I am trying to instill interest in English and support bilingualism through improved teaching methodologies.

I show all these cool pictures of sea turtles and exotic scenery and yes, Colombia, she is beautiful, and I show her off, but life as a PC volunteer is not all rainbows and bluebonnets.

I changed my life 360 degrees. I moved from Texas to Colombia. I spoke English a 100% of the time to now speaking Spanish. I ate all kinds of diverse foods and all the foods I wanted in the States to now eating solely Colombian food. I used to live on my own in my own apartment to now living with a host family. I lived in the popping city of Austin, Texas, to now living in a rural village of 200-300 people.

It is hard.

So after this period of sadness, I went through this phase of “WTF AM I DOING HERE!!?!?!?!?!??!”

I couldn’t sleep one night due to thoughts of “What the heck am I doing here? Am I really doing something useful???” and randomly watched 7 Years in Tibet. I pretended I was Heinrich Harrer in Tibet (played by Brad Pitt) but I am in a movie called, 2 Years in Colombia. There was a part where Henrich says he was regrettable as having been “intolerant as the Chinese” referencing to when the Chinese at the time were invading Tibet in 1950. That part struck me weirdly. It made me question…Am I intolerant? Is it because of my intolerance that I feel like my purpose here is pointless?

Then, my counterpart Alicia invited me to a place up in the mountains in a village called, San Rafael. She told me how she could empathize with me as she noted that I must be struggling to understand Colombia. The coast of Colombia is different. The lifestyle and mentality are different. Alicia comes from the interior, the capital of Colombia, Bogota, and it’s completely different there, too: the lifestyle and mentality. So, she feels me. She added that she has a Master’s in Tolerance and I am still in school to obtain that kind of degree. The word tolerance has been circling around me lately and visiting San Rafael made me experience some kind of ENLIGHTENMENT. It was a place where I closed my mouth and listened to nature for the first time. It was a place where I shut off my talkative brain. We are always thinking and our minds are so loud, and I am happy to say that San Rafael shut me up.

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San Rafael.
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La Piscinita in San Rafael. The depth was unknown and I dare not try to reach the bottom.

 

So, after my ENLIGHTENMENT, I jotted down some notes to be wise as the Dalai Lama and to share with you. These tips are applicable to everyone and anyone. Maybe except 6 if you are living in a developed world…

TIPS TO SURVIVE ANGELL KIM STYLE:

  1. When you are sad, write a grocery list, then categorize that list by aisles, then re-write it in a colored marker. Finalize it with a sticker.
  2. Bring a sweat towel at all times. I enjoy whipping that out when there is a waterfall on my face.
  3. Pack snacks every time. The hangry-ness of Angell Kim is even scarier here. Friends, BEWARE!
  4. When you are craving Korean food, improvise and go to a Chinese restaurant in the city.
  5. When you can’t sleep, watch movies until you’re sleepy, but beware, you may suffer lack of sleep the next day, but try to solve today’s problems today and tomorrow’s problems tomorrow.
  6. Back-up charge everything because the power will go out sometime.
  7. Have a back-up emergency cash fund in a drawer. The nearest ATM machine is in the city and the realization of a back-up emergency cash fund when you are in panic poverty mode, makes you get on your knees and pray Thank you God for His back-up support.
  8. Helping to change and improve something takes time. Remember, not everyone’s buttocks are on fire like mine. So, you have to dim your own butt fire to be in sync with the other butt fires. However, you can’t be complacent, don’t just trot along with the same butt fire level and speed forever. You have to still maintain rigor and passion to help, improve, and focus on your goal(s). This is an art I have yet to master. Unfortunately right now, my butt’s been really burnt out and I need to try to dim the fire.
  9. Write and log all accomplishments and activities that you’ve done in your life, in your job, in your Peace Corps Volunteer service. The PC Volunteer Report Form  will sure teach you a lesson. The VRF is like the Matryoshka doll or Russian doll. When you open one doll, there’s another mini one, and when you open that one, there is another one. The VRF has many buttons with many other mini buttons. This advice is pretty applicable for the working man and woman for any career. Keep track of your awesomeness. It will come in handy.doll.jpg
  10. For the OCD American, carry on hand soap is amazing or…a bar of soap. Different form, but same ability to give you clean hands.
  11. Cut your nails so you don’t collect scum under them or scratch your mosquito bites to death.
  12. TO BE CONTINUED…

Things that I realized that make me OH SO HAPPY and helped me get back to my healthy level of happiness:

  1. Running water, showers, and my Korean bath scrub. I am so filthy here and that scrub thing makes me feel 100% clean.
  2. Clean clothes and clean plentiful underwear.
  3. When someone can relate to me.
  4. The screaming children who yell, “llego la luz!! – the lights are back!” and my fan slowly recovers back from its slumber.
  5. The books my English high school teacher, Wendi, had sent me.

 

So, I didn’t really answer the question of why I am truly here, but I am not here for no purpose, that is for sure.

I know for a fact that I am here to help. I am here to help myself to be able to help others. I am here for a new learning experience. I am here to be a better person. I am here to learn if I fall down 8 times, I know how to get back up 9 times. I am here to become more tolerant.

I think we all are here on this Earth to be more of a kinder person, but I am only a 20-something year old who’s just hit a bumpy road on the road called LIFE.

So, we keep trekking…

 

TO END ON A GOOD NOTE WITH A SHOUT OUT FULL OF LOVE:

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Made seaweed soup (미역국) a thousand miles away for my momma Kim’s 50th birthday. I miss you very much. It is Korean tradition to make seaweed soup to celebrate one’s birthday.
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Alicia and my 4th grade class. These kids are so rowdy, but I love them.

 

 

Thank you for reading the highs and lows of Angell Kim.

 

*Google credit to 7 Years in Tibet featured photo and Russian doll photos

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