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Hi everyone. I am one year older and celebrated my birthday overseas for the first time. Thank you to those who were a part of making it so memorable.
My neighbors blasted the Colombian vallenato (a song genre here in the coast) version of the birthday song first thing in the morning, I got a free pineapple juice to-go before training, Monica made us a tub of fried rice for dinner, Dylan gave me my fave Trolli worms, and I ended the night with talking to my friends, family, and neighbors with forever lasting cake.
Speaking of cakes..I ended up having four:
My aunt, Eladia made a cake.
Monica’s host mom, Señora Candita, made a cake.
Jackie, my counterpart, made a cake.
Michelle, my other counterpart gave me a cake.
Many calories were consumed and laughs were shared.
Cheers to 24 years of age.
Here’s my log of the moments that made me happy and sad and all those in between.
February 14 – Deep in the Heart of Texas
Did you know that I met a lady who was born in my village but now lives in San Antonio, TX while I was dancing cumbia near the village’s church? Her name is Chiqui and then I learned she turns out to be my host mom’s cousin!!!!!!!!
She was visiting her hometown and celebrated her birthday before going back to San Antonio, and I had the great honor to party with her.
She didn’t have to really hire entertainment because I was THE entertainment for her invitees. Let’s just say that so much of MY version of dancing was involved.
February 27 – Beautiful Ponedera #1
During our three-month training, our group needs to complete a community project and after surveys and meetings, we came together to beautify our village, Ponedera. Our objectives include, encouraging people to throw litter in trash cans rather than throwing it freely in the streets, creating/utilizing resources to make trash cans, and shaping leaders to continue our project for sustainability as we will be in other sites for our two year service.
We created fliers together via arts and crafts and posted them in front of our houses. The guys in our group are pretty artistic and smart. Aaron, one of my counterparts, created a flier emphasizing the presence of “MÚSICA & MERIENDAS – Music and Snacks.” Smart advertisting tactic.
Thank you to my group for your ideas and help.
I am proud to say that our first project was successful. We really did not expect much for our first go-around, but we were humbly surprised. We started with six volunteers and ended with around 20! The Alcaldia – City Hall donated brushes and dust pans for our future projects. We talked about how we should save our trash in our pockets until we found a trash can. We said we should utilize trash cans in the small tiendas- stores or create your own from bags or boxes.
Our next one was this past Saturday and we worked on recruiting leaders to prepare our next and last project with the Peace Corps Trainees and to ultimately, pass off our project to them.
We’re bringing the sexy back in beautifying our environment.
March 5 – More S’mores, Please
I hosted a get together with my counterparts and my family to enjoy s’mores and beer. I couldn’t believe I was near a fire in a country that’s near the equator to cook a marshmellow, but it was all for the companionship and treat that a s’more can bring to anyone. I witnessed my neighbor, Elias, brother Mauricio, and my friend, Dylan hacking away/breaking/sawing at this large piece of wood to start the fire. They used plastic for the fire to kindle and it was pretty amazing. We ate the s’mores so fast and listened to a lot of my old-school songs. My brother loved the s’mores and kept asking when we would do it again next.
Sharing American culture, one marshmellow at a time.
All Catholic Things –
My host mom invited me to an Oración aka Bible study group near our neighborhood. I am trying to memorize the prayer, “Our Father” in Spanish so I can participate in the next Bible study group. We were in a circle and my aunt, Eladia, read out a verse and then we all talked about it. None of the women stared at me blankly or with curiosity and it felt awesome to be part of the group of ladies. I already stick out like a sore thumb with my physical features so it was pretty nice for once to not be stared at like a total stranger. Does this make me a Colombian lady now? Haha.
I forgot to talk to y’all about my Mass experience in Colombia!!! It’s really something else. 🙂 I am Catholic and I went to Mass for the first time in January and I read from their newsletter that “Vida es una fiesta. – Life is a party.” What a great way to see life. I remember when I first went to Mass I tried so hard to hide my laugh inside because for me, church is a place of prayer, holiness, and seriousness, but the music threw me off because it was so loud and it sounded like party music. The kind of music that makes you want to bob your head and bust out and dance. It was different for me because I’ve gone to Mass presented in both Korean and English and the music is not that exciting. Korean Mass music is pretty serious and somber and English Mass music is a little happier and catchy but nothing like Colombian Mass.
Life’s a party. Live it.
February 29 – Pendiente de Ti – Thinking of You
Dinner was sandwiches and I had asked my mom to make just one for me. I underestimated my hunger and after wolfing down my first one I blankly looked around thinking if I should ask for the other one or not in sake of my embarrassment. Mauricio who is my 17 year old brother had a very demanding tone asking my mom why she only made one for me when he had two. Haha. My mom retorted back that I had originally asked for just one and then my mom said to me, “él es pendiente de ti” – he is thinking of you…”
Thank you for caring about me, Mauricio.
March 13 – Long Live Sancocho!
My mom’s friend, Clara, invited me to to a ranch to make and enjoy sancocho. Sancocho is a traditional soup/stew made in a massive pot to share amongst family. It is made in different variations throughout Latin America, but we made ours with plantains, cilantro, beef, yuca (yuca is like a potato but is stringy), carrots, and garlic.
We brought all the necessary items, stopped by the tiendas – small shops for last minute items and drinks, then walked over the river and through the savannas. Our group included, Clara and her children, Ofelia, Chan, and Maye, their friends, Janer, Darlien, Jose and Eddy, and JoMaira (Jose and Eddy’s mother) and me. We brought Janer’s bird and Jose’s dog, Lulu, along with us. My friends, Janer and Chan carried the huge pot of water over the river and in the process, both fell into the water. Haha. Thankfully, our pot of water was safe. Then, we continued our journey. We walked through openings in barbed wire fences, passed some trees and in the process, collected some guayabas, climbed up some hills, and finally reached a little hut-like ranch.
The sun was so intense. The sun in Colombia in general is so intense. When I first came here, I was bewildered when I saw people wearing winter-like clothing. However, I learned that the long sleeves and jackets are for sun protection. I have now caught on with the trend to prevent turning into a burnt toast..but I still can’t do the long pants/jeans thing…
When we arrived to the ranch, we started up the fire. It genuinely amazes me how the fire is started so quickly and so easily. Back in the States whenever I wanted to do a grill, we needed to always buy coal, that liquid thing that kindles the fire and keeps it going (can’t remember the name???) but all you really need is wood, matches, and plastic for fire kindling!!!!!!!!
We started the fire up and waited for it to boil. Then, we put in some meat, and one by one the other ingredients. We topped it off with cilantro. During this preparation, I even squeezed in a sweaty nap and woke up groggy and starving.
As a side note.. I have to let you know that the heat really curbs my appetite. I am known back in the States and at home to be 밥통 JR. – rice cooker junior (my dad is 밥통 SR – rice cooker senior because we love rice. We eat too much rice for our health) and a fatty because I just eat a ton and am always hungry and get hangry (hungry + angry due to lack of hunger) a lot. Anyway, I am neither a rice cooker junior or fatty here because I am just not hungry. On top of the lack of hunger, I definitely never want to eat piping hot soup for any kind of meal…but this day’s visit to the ranch made me so excited for hot soup!
At this point, the soup was ready. We trekked a little ways away to a big tree to eat under. Chan ripped off these huge leaves from a banana tree as a table for our food. Jose drained the chunks of food from the soup and placed them on top of the banana tree leaves. We poured bowls of soup and shared rice amongst ourselves. Then, we all wolfed down all the food. Chan stood up eating saying that he can eat more with a straight posture. I laughed so hard. Now, that is a true saying of a fatty. We all had a food baby and afterwards, climbed up trees surprisingly with our impregnated selves.
It was a really fun day and a touching experience for me because it reminded me of when my family and I would go camping and would party it up with tons of food and shared funny conversations together.
It was a good, good day.
Sad Corner –
I had a moment of disappointment one night when having dinner at Clara’s. Clara’s children are physically dark-skinned but her family is not of Afro-descendents. The topic of the States came up and Clara mentioned how in the States people shoot black people. Then, Chan, Clara’s son said he wouldn’t come because of that problem. I felt like I got punched in the stomach because it was hard to hear my country being depicted as this. Guns and racism have been a real issue in the States and at that moment, I realized the power of media and that other countries were watching our painful problems. I replied to them that there is a problem with guns, disrimination, and racism in the States, but our country is not made up of guns, discrimination, or racism. I added an example that this problem in the States was simliar to Europe with discrimination and racism towards migrants. It’s an issue that a country can have, but it’s not what a country represents. This moment made me realize I need to get my Spanish to the level where I can best express and defend myself and the United States. It was frustrating and disappointing to go through this, but I believe my very presence is a positive representation of the United States to other peoples of the world.
But to end this on a ligther note, I eventually convinced Chan to come to the States saying there is a plethora of food and even, Colombian food. 🙂
Funny Moments –
*I am not sure what my body is doing, but I feel that my body heat goes to my hands. My hands are always so hot. Like ridiculously hot. I touched mamicita, my grandma, and told her to feel how hot my hands were. I cannot really understand mamicita because her voice is so soft and she mumbles a lot but I believe she said something along the lines of…people with hot hands will have love in their love forever. Maybe I made that saying up, but I don’t know…mamicita’s wise and I’ll take her word for it.
* So, I think my Spanish is understandable, I get the message across, and I pronunciate well…but at times my mom asks me to repeat things and then my little brother, Ivan, translates furiously for me. Haha. It is just so funny because the conversation goes something like this…
Angell : *At turtle pace with pauses and head scratching here and there* “Voy a biblioteca para reunirse mis compañeros por nuestros proyectos. Entonces voy a ir a casa de Jackie para ir tarea. Voy a regresar a las 7 pm.” – I am going to the library to meet my counterparts for our projects. Then, I will go to Jackie’s house to do homework. I will return at 7 pm.
Mom : “Cómo?”
Ivan : *Speaks at lightning fast pace and with an annoyed tone* Ella dijo que ella va a ir a biblioteca y entonces va a ir a casa de Jackie por tarea. Ella va a regresar a las 7 pm!!!” – She said that she is going to the library and then Jackie’s house for homework. She will be return at 7 pm!!!
Angell : *Smiles* “Si”
Haha. Poor Ivan. It’s hard being the youngest of the family as well as my translator.
*My brothers play soccer once a while and the winner buys boli – a flavored ice. They play and Ivan was really kicking butt this one day and it was so hilarious to watch. Mauricio got frustrated and kept saying some goals weren’t goals and then there’s Ivan screaming each time he made a goal. They used me as the referee and it was a lot of pressure… haha.
They can’t wait for Colombia to win against USA in an upcoming soccer game. We will see about that.
Wow, can you believe it is already March? Time flies when you are having fun and sweating your water weight away. 🙂