After 97 days in Colombia

DSC03727I left Colombia on July 7th and I have yet not understood that I am not returning. At least not for a while.

Initially, I was supposed to stay in Costa Rica for 9 months, with travels planned for July and August. However, since I got accepted to graduate school in San Diego, CA,  my travels will have to wait. I did manage to attend a silent meditation in Peru in the end for profound reflection.

What did Colombia teach me? What have all the places I have gone to taught me? Well, where do I even begin? I have tried to share parts of my story, and the story of other people’s lives from corners of the world, with just a few words. Of course, it seldom paints a fair idea of the reality.

Many might hold opinions about the time of my travels and charity work coming to an end. Yes, I might write more seldom and the contents of my blog will shift focus for a while -however, this is merely a re-route.

I am settling for a while in the USA, to study. I am looking for charity projects to work with in San Diego. I am looking in to places and projects to work with this winter and next summer. Yes, I will attempt to live in the now, AND I cannot wait until I get to work with kids or even families soon again – in whatever capacity it will be. There are so many places where I can lose myself in the service to others.

97 days in Colombia went by so fast and it was so hard to leave the children. I sit and laugh to myself in this moment when I remember my reaction when some of the kids asked me what “motherfucker” meant or when they gladly announced that their drawings certainly was not an elephant but a “penis” or when they insisted on saying “bitch” instead of peach or beach. I will never forget the horror in Elkin’s eyes when I said “Que Chimba” when he made a cool jump and I said “how awesome” – well, this is what I thought I was saying. What I did not know at the time was that small kids in Colombia only know the word chimba as..”vagina”. Embarrassed? Not at all.  I will never forget the classes at Casa Maren with the young ones, such angels. So well-behaved and so willing to learn. I am so sorry that I did not have more time to teach. The programs at Poder Joven were not that supportive of English classes as I wanted. But I tried. And hopefully, they can keep up their good work and keep the kids off the streets. I did not donate any money to Poder Joven, all I did was take some of the kids to Copacabana waterpark. I do have some ideas and would like to email them and see how it would work but we will see. Right now, I have on-going plans for Nepal. It is also important to remember, my work, I take it very seriously – I am not on “just a whim” volunteering to make time to pass. But I am also not interested in putting money where I feel that the project owners do not prioritise or share the same vision I have for a certain cause. Yes, we all want the kids to be healthy, happy and loved and so. But as you know, I believe in education, therapy and creativity. I cannot say more at this time about the different projects that I have worked with but it will slowly grow and make sense to you along the way.

I was only in Medellín for about 100 days. I did go to Bogotá, Bahía Solano which are other parts of Colombia. But I have never and I mean never met such friendly people as the Colombians ( I have been in approximately 30 countries to compare it with) EVERYBODY. We all have bad days – but they will still be polite and never rude. I am so astonished. I love Colombia and all its people. So nice, so polite, so friendly. Not one single time did I meet someone rude or unfriendly. Well, I did have a few taxi drivers who I wanted to throw something at at times when they wanted to rip me off. But even then – they were POLITE while wanting to rip me off. Yes, I know, quite confusing.

Children are children and I love them all. I miss them already and I really wish I could see them again soon. I will try to see them on Skype. I will never forget them.

WHAT DOES IT COST TO VOLUNTEER IN COLOMBIA?

Airticket from CR about 5500SEK

Living expenses per month 5000SEK for 3 months

FOOD etc (not eating out) about 9000SEK for 3 months

METRO/BUSCARD about 2200SEK for 3 months

MEDICAL CARE 1500SEK

KIDS 1200SEK with bankcharges and all

SKYPE CALLS 800SEK for phonecalls

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Approximately 25.000SEK

Other travels, activities, work or supplies are not included/stated above.

 

320 days since I left Sweden last year

When I was 19 years old, I left Sweden to pursue studies in Taiwan. I had fun – I partied and lived life like “crazy”, until I realized I “should” study, which I also did. I loved it there and yet, I changed my ticket and returned to Sweden earlier. Another thing I remember was when I moved to live in Paris for a month or two because I wanted to study French. I loved it – and still changed my ticket for an earlier return to Sweden.

This time, I have been away from Sweden for about 320 days with the exception of about 3 days when I was there last December to re-pack and I have not one single time felt like – I must book my ticket to go back earlier. I have rather been, oh no! Already time to leave Colombia? Maybe I should have gone back to grad school next fall!? But it is time. I miss Swedish air to inhale and Swedish water to drink. And I am glad to see my friends and family in Sweden. But I am also ready – ready for school and all of my new changes and challenges. I am also ready to continue studying Spanish and pick up my French again – with that I could work in many parts of Africa and Central/-South Americas. It was very challenging to work with the children in Colombia considering my lack of Spanish skills. My Spanish did improve but yet, it was difficult.

Some clear memories in regard to Nepal, Costa Rica and Colombia:

I have never had so much chocolate and rice and potato as I had in Nepal. I have never had so few showers as I had in Nepal (12 in 3 months). I have never had so much beans and chips as I had in Costa Rica and I have never had so much rice, soup or juice as I had in Colombia. I have never met such friendly people as in Colombia. I have worn the same clothes almost every day for 320 days and recently thrown away some because they had so many holes or so much dirt on them. I wore them good.

I have never needed so much medical attention as during these 320 days. I have had infections of all kinds and weird body sensations (not good ways). I even ended up having a travel buddy for 10 months who finally started to pack up to leave – a little parasite in my finger from Nepal (about end of September) – I took medicine for it end of June this year and finally it is healing. Yuck, right? I have been food poisoned, realized that my intolerance to milk and cheese is more severe and I can almost not have any. My tummy did not like Peru at all and I was stomach sick for at least 3 days, which was awful. Finally, when my appetite was back, I had lost some weight. But it all came back after 3 days of juice and smoothie drinking. Oh, and of course some candy, foods and other yummy stuff.

I have laughed, cried, and cried from laughing. I have been upset, angry, hurt, and experienced many other emotions alongside meeting people, living life everyday just like you at home or wherever you are. Challenges have come my way, and I have been outside my comfort zone more than once. At the same time, it has felt natural for me to challenge myself in a way that it almost has not felt as if I have been  “stepping outside” of my comfort zone. I have tried to live every single minute in the now and remembered to breathe. When I walk, I remember doing this in Nepal every day – for each step is an inhalation or exhalation. Every moment is imprinted in my every cell and I will remember it all and I have learnt so much. I thought I was the one who set out to teach and give but I have received so much, so much in return. I am so grateful and forever humbled. This is where I am meant to be – and to continue my work and journey. To work and help children, people and to continue to grow and to share and give even more.

Right now I am on a flight back to Sweden where I will be staying for a few days. Next time I see you here, I will have moved to California. Until then, keep enjoying your summer. Thank you to everyone who passed my path these past 320 days. Thank you to everyone who have read, or are reading my words in this very moment. I appreciate all of you who have taken the time to send me a thought or email. It means so much.

A good friend, Ricky, asked me to describe my year of travels and work with 3 words. My initial response was that it was not possible to do so. Nevertheless, when I gave it an extra second, these 3 words instantly came to me:

 Amazing, beautiful and absolutely priceless.