Re-ignition of the Butt Fire

The featured picture is a collection of sweat rags/towels. One can tell which one is mine, and the blue one is my friend’s Sammy’s and the orange one is Jimmy’s.

When visiting Colombia, especially the coast, don’t forget your sweat rag/towel.

 

Thank you shout out to…

Carmen, for accompanying me to the airport when I went to visit my family.

Helena, for accompanying me from the airport. That was the funniest journey of my life. We walked through sand with rolling luggage the weight of two barbells and saw magic on the bus, where a guy revealed white as snow bunny from lighting up a buncha napkins on fire.

My parents for defending me at the airport against the evil American Airlines. That was love that made me cry.

The kids of my Catholic church and my local Rotary Club in Texas.

The tour guides of village, Don Diego. Helping them learn English has been a real reward for me.

 

WINTER IS HERE IN COLOMBIA!

And that means…. Lots and lots of rain. Who needs snow, when we have floods, humidity, and mold!

I am extremely shocked to tell you this, but I prefer the scorching, blazing sun and heat than the rain.

Rain means…mold building its army all over your stuff like backpacks and hats.

Rain means…no hot sun to dry your laundry.

Rain means…flakey energy and along with that, the absence of running water.

Good Jesus, but life goes on.

Then again, rain also has some positives. It seems that with anything, there is always a good and bad side.

Rainy season has definitely cooled down my area a little. So much breeze. Praise!

One night I turned off my fan because I was cold! COLD!!!!

I remember when I first came to my site, my host family gave me this chipmunk wooly blanket that is like Snuggie material and I quickly tossed that aside into the depths of my room.

I now wrap and caress that thing around my body when I sleep.

What the heck, seriously. Life is kindaa ridiculous…so ridiculous like this plate of scrambled chocolate chip cookies. Galen and I tried to use a stove top as an oven to bake cookies because we have no oven. It sadly failed, so we scrambled them. They tasted so good. Never judge a cookie by its figure.

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So…how is everyone! I love writing about my fabulous life, but power and internet are not really my best friends here in my village, hence the big gap from August to today.

Me? How am I doing?… I’ve been sad, happy, excited, depressed, ashamed, angry, and now I am very, very awesome.

I visited my family in Texas, we have a new president elect, my English class for tour guides in village, Don Diego, is up and running, and Thanksgiving and winter break are coming.

Please remember that my blog is not affiliated with the U.S. government and these are my opinions and views only. We have a new president elect, but that does not mean I respect him. To let you know, the fight for equality and justice continues with a stronger force. I still represent the U.S.A. proudly and still stand up for myself and others even though I am in Colombia. 

With that said, I am doing so well.

In October, I went to Texas to visit my family for one week. I realized I did not miss the States as much as I thought I would, but the love for my country still remains. Our country is already great. We don’t need to make it great again, we need to make it more open and accepting. Everyone should try to be to more open and accepting. It’s a team effort.

Ok, I am done with the underlying tones of political insinuations…

I tried to bring a huge conch shell that I received as a gift from my counterpart, Giovanni, but Colombia security took it away from me because I could not bring it in my carry-on. It was a sad realization that a shell could be a weapon on a plane. Here is me trying to be extremely happy with my last moments with my shell, but deep inside I was kinda crying that I could not take it. RIP shell.

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I had this expectation of all this great food I would eat and roll around in, but unfortunately I was undergoing the process of re-adapting to the environment of the USA. I carried Pepto Bismol around me at all times. Vietnamese pho noodles, with a dash of Pepto. Korean BBQ, with a sprinkle of Pepto. Mexican tacos, with a gulp of Pepto.

Super delicious.

I visited my Catholic Church and gave them a sweet presentation about my service and Colombia with the help of my cute siblings. One kid said that sancocho looked like a Korean stew, budae jjigae which us Koreans nickname it “trash-can stew” (literally translated). Basically in both soups, you throw a buncha ingredients in and boil it until ready. I spoke in Kong,Spang,-LISH and it was a hit. (Korean, Spanish, and English mixed together) The kids listened with great attention and they left the room with greater gratitude because I told them some of my challenges in Colombia like power outages and lack of water where I live, but I also told them the great things about Colombia like sancocho, the people, the contagious happiness, and how Colombians helped our dear Koreans during the Korean War. Their Sunday School teacher, Rosa, led a prayer for me to be strong to continue helping others.

She ended my presentation that we must be kind to others and to help them. Good karma exists, because a Colombian had helped a Korean in the 1950s and here I am, lending my hand to the people of Colombia. 

 

 

My sweet friend, Ronald, visited me from Austin, Texas and he kindly helped me during my presentation at my local Rotary Club. Those Rotarians kept making fun of me having gone to THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN (they went to other less quality universities in Texas 😉 ) but I never let them crush my spirit!! I still bleed burnt orange blood!!! HOOK’EM.

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We were going for the serious face, but Ronald must’ve been sad being bossed around.

Ronald and I went to an arcade called, Nickel Mania, and you pay the game machines with nickels!!!!! There was this Kung Fu Panda game where you hit dumplings and avoid bombs and I won the jackpot twice. Haha. 500 tickets. Get on my level.

 

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My mom took me to a Korean clothes store and I got this cool moon shirt. Great material, I tell ya.

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She was trying to help me get what I need and what I needed was some long cotton pants that were cool, as in cool as suave, but thick enough to protect my legs from mosquitoes. The store lady was trying to sell me this extremely old lady fashioned pants and I was like, this is too thin for the mosquitoes, and she was like, there are no mosquitoes here in Texas and I was thinking Oh God, take me away from this place. Then, my mom was explaining that I lived in Colombia and there are mosquitoes and that it is very hot over there.

 

One thing I learned from this experience was that I hate clothes shopping so much and nobody understands me!!!!!!

 

My sister made it rain on me and bought me sushi with a ridiculously awesome Groupon. Haha, I forgot about Groupon and all the million applications that help you save money. She showed me her art studio at her university, Southern Methodist University (SMU), and there was basically porn everywhere. I could’ve been an artist. I can draw nudity. 😉 Viewer discretion advised.

Haha I love you Sally. My sister is very talented. She also did my professional headshot. I told her to photoshop my double chin, but I realized I looked like a thumb without it.

Extra fat is necessary for beauty.

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Note: She only removed my pimples. Tranquila everyone…

My little brother can drive now. He helped me with my errands and I am forever grateful for my mini me with a solid six pack. Someday, I will obtain a six pack and then we will be twins.

I met our new family dog, O-Deng, which means fish cake in Korean. He is still not potty trained, so everytime the sun came up, my mom yelled, “TAKE O-DENG OUT!!!!!!! AHHHH HE WILL POOP!!!”

It was like a daily battle cry.

 

We celebrated my dad’s birthday and I sang the Colombian national anthem and a bit of the Colombian birthday song to him. I only know the “Dios te bendiga” part…and just sang that over and over again until told to stop.

 

 

That week flew by and I returned to Colombia after some stressful situations that American Airlines gave me *fists shaking in the air cursing all sorts of bad words*

Coming back to Barranquilla gave me a whooosh of relief.

Hmmmm… Why is that?

There is a saying in Korean. One would pronounce it phonetically in English like, jungee deul eeh dah. (Currently cannot type in Korean on this keyboard..)

It means, one has affection for something or a country.

I feel this affection for Colombia.

I had told my family that when I see vendors on the streets, they sell their products with so much happiness. There is my favorite guanabana juice lady, Jessi, and she makes my damn day when I see her selling her juice. I wave at her like I am never going to see her again every. time. I see her. You can just picture the excitement with each wave of my hand… Happiness does not cost anything.

Visiting Texas gave me the opportunity to spend time with my dear family, talk about all my crazy stories, and share the greatness of Colombia and that was all that mattered. I could have done without the Pepto and the ridiculousness of American Airlines, but I came back to Colombia in one piece recharged with a lot of love from my family.

 

On October 27th, my butt fire just got lit up crazy and I started my secondary project. Our secondary projects must relate to teaching English and I started my class for tour guides in a village 10 minutes away from my village called, Don Diego.

I have understood that in the coast, punctuality is not really a thing here. However, I have brought my tiger lady and American professionalism into our class and we are slowly becoming more punctual and slowly taking this English class more seriously. I believe in their success with applicable English for their professions. They give me so much joy. I realized that  English is really hard. Pronouncing things is hard. Sometimes, the guides will say something that really sounds like gibberish. Some days, my Spanish sucks so hard where my accent and pronunciation just are a hot mess. In these cases, we all just laugh together after jibber jabbering at each other.

I went to the famous National Park of Colombia, Tayrona, with a veteran PC volunteer, Jimmy. I had always passed by the entrance of Tayrona on bus, wondering and dreaming…what lies beyond that entrance? It was like the door of Narnia. I finally entered the other side and realized…

You really need to be an outdoorsy person for Tayrona. You need to be comfortable being smelly and stepping in mud or maybe horse poop. You need to pack food. You need to sing songs to get through the hiking. You should bring earplugs because you never know if the guy sleeping next to you in the hammock will snore like a bear. I almost wanted to close his nose.

Jimmy and I met a Swiss German named, Rolf. He was such a smart guy. We learned about Switzerland’s government body where they have 7 ministers who make political decisions. We learned that Swiss German is more of the rougher German language where they do not have a simple past tense. They basically use the past perfect tense. Then, there is German German spoken. But here is the interesting thing…Swiss Germans can understand the languages, Swiss German and German, but Germans cannot understand the language, Swiss German. MIND BLOWN. Rolf told us about his experience in Japan and we laughed so hard when he described the technologically advanced bathrooms. Japan has bidets in their bathrooms and when Rolf tried to flush, he pressed many buttons to get there. One button raised the toilet seat and the other button heated the seat… Technology I tell ya. He also told us about his company building a school in Nicaragua and how his company helps fund and maintain that school. He and his colleagues do this genuinely from their heart with nothing in return. I asked him twice to make sure I was hearing correctly. In today’s society, it seems that we live in a give and take world. If we give something, we must get something in return. But, Rolf and his colleagues just gave and are still giving. There is this quote I saw on the internet one day that goes like…”Character is when you do something for others who can do nothing for you..” or something along those lines. I think we should try to aim to live more like that for a more peaceful world.

Anyway, Rolf was a nice and smart guy and I just rambled about him because one can not only learn from books and school, but also can learn from people. I think it’s valuable to talk to people and share dialogue to understand and learn from and about them so we can all be a little bit more open minded. He knew a lot about the USA government system and it was a realization that the world indeed watches the USA on a microscope. We sure talked about all sorts of topics, from Japanese bidets, USA government and politics, nuances of German, Colombia, his Korean international student friends, Nicaragua school building while sharing American culture through Doritos and s’mores, and he sure did ask for s’more s’mores… 😛

The park is huge and breathtaking. We hiked to the following points, Arrecife, La Piscina, and then stopped at Cabo San Juan. One can go further, but we rested in Cabo San Juan.

 

 

I rode a horse for the first time to Arrecife and it was frightening but awesome.

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Then, we got off the horses and hiked. The trails became impossible to walk through without getting muddy and I basically released a new fashion: mud boots. People entering the park looked at my new shoes with great interest and jealousy.

 

Alright, I close this blog post with my sexy feet.

As Thanksgiving rolls around, please take the time to talk to your family and friends and appreciate all the good things in life…and eat all the green bean casserole for me, please.

 

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Angell Te Queremos -We Love You

*Please hover your cursor over pictures for captions!

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.

No shame.

 

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.

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A fire pit in 90 degree weather.

 

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.

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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.

 

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Me and Mauricio at Beautiful Ponedera #1

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.

Exhibit A..

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…

 

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Clara and me. She hated wearing that jacket.

 

 

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.

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Chan and me…climbing a tree haha.

 

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.

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The gang.

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.

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Wow, can you believe it is already March? Time flies when you are having fun and sweating your water weight away. 🙂