Thursday, August 4, 2011

A look back, a leap forward

So… it’s August.

This means two things; first, I am entering my eighth month in Colombia; second, I will be turning 24 at the end of the month. It also means that I am nearly two-thirds of the way through my service.

Okay, that was three things.

At any rate, I have been in Bogotá for a while and it seems like as good a time as any to take stock of how far I have come since arriving last January.

The most obvious improvement has been with my Spanish abilities. To illustrate, when I first arrived in Colombia I could barely order a beer from the local tienda; earlier this afternoon I went to the bank to replace a dysfunctional debit card using, of course, only Spanish to communicate what I needed—something I was not capable of eight months ago. I am also now good enough at Spanish to talk to Colombian girls at the bars, which I must say, is quite awesome.

Another significant change has been my level of comfort with living in a developing country. During WorldTeach orientation, I felt like a daredevil taking the bus in Cota from Hacienda Santa Cruz to downtown (in reality, a very safe area). Today, I regularly navigate Bogotá’s crazy colectivo bus system, entering parts of town many Bogotanos would never even venture to. Although I am always careful, I have learned to overcome the fears of the many potential dangers of being in such a dangerous area—having grown up in a white-collar suburb of San Francisco where people don’t even lock their doors at night, I consider this to be an accomplishment.

Despite these consummations, my greatest victory is simply the fact that I am still here. I am doing it; I am living in Colombia, a country where most foreigners are afraid to go, working in a neighborhood where few gringos have gone before.   

And now I find myself at the final stretch.

Back in high school, I ran the 300 meter high-hurdles for the Burlingame High School Track & Field team. It was an exhausting race; not only did you have to run really, really fast, but you also had to clear a series of not-so-low obstructions blocking the path. The race was won at its most difficult part; the final 100 meters; the final third. Although the finish line was now within sight, this was where most runners made their mistakes, faltering and falling when they were nearly there.

With 4 months left in my service, I am at the final third, the final 100 meters of my time in Colombia. Although I am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, I need to stay focused—I am nearly there. I can practically taste the In-N-Out, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and ground beef enchiladas.

Since my recent post expressing my frustrations and disappointments with the way things have been going, I have taken steps to rectify the situation and make sure my students receive the greatest benefit from my presence during the time that remains. I am excited to see how it all pans out.

In the mean time, I’ll keep an eye on that finish line.


  1. Hey, I found your blog when I was searching around about the WT Colombia program. I actually just finished submitting my application for the 2012 year, so I love reading about your experience! I hope you keep writing!


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