Today, June 3rd 2017, marks the ten month anniversary of my feet first hitting the Colombian ground to begin my twenty-seven month period of service in the Peace Corps. Much has changed in a brief period of time: I went from babbling to fluent in Spanish, I sweat more during this period of time than my previous 24.5 years of life combined, and I underwent a professional and personal transformation, among many other unique experiences I have had and new relationships I have forged. With over a year and a half remaining, there certainly will be more successes as well as challenges in my various community projects, and I will continue to better know myself, my beloved home of Fundación, and the human experience at large.
As a rule, since I first learned what a blog was, I have found them and their blogger owners to be arrogant and conceited. Just typing that first paragraph made me tinge with a regret for having decided to go down this path. However, my decision to start this blog is two-pronged and for reasons outside of a desire to show-off.
I have done a poor job of staying in touch with family and friends back in the United States despite my host family’s strong Wi-Fi, myriad ways to stay in contact through the Internet, and more free time than I have ever had before. My dad, Steve, and brother, Nicholas, visited me for a week in March, and there are numerous other family/friend trips in the works. Nonetheless, I should be better up-to-date with my highly supportive family and friend network back in the U.S.
The second reason for walking the plank of blogging stems from my freshman year of high school in Señora Ruppel’s Spanish class. We were learning the twenty-one countries and their respective capital cities that have Spanish as their official language. Señora Ruppel was a huge proponent of her sometimes silly yet always useful mnemonic devices. When it came time to learn Colombia’s capital, it was easy – there are a lot of bad people in Colombia and ‘Bogotá’ looks like ‘boogeyman’. Yes, Colombia did hold the dubious distinction of having some of the world’s highest murder rates, kidnap rates, and drug production from the early 1990s to the mid-2000s. And, yes, Colombia was on the verge of a failed state with multiple guerilla groups (both right and left wing) and drug cartels warring around 2006 when I learned to remember Bogotá by associating it with the boogeyman. However, the past ten years have seen one of the most remarkable turnaround stories of the past century, and 2016 was Colombia’s year with the lowest homicide rate since 1974.
Peace Corps has three goals that support its mission of promoting world peace and friendship:
- To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
The third goal has led me to create this blog. While Colombia is getting much better international press these days, especially its flourishing tourism industry, upon telling people that I would be living in Colombia, I endured countless questions about safety and drugs (perhaps in part thanks to Netflix’s popular ‘Narcos’). Moreover, many of us North Americans are guilty of thinking that all our Spanish and Portuguese speaking neighbors to the south have the same culture, eat the same food found at our local Mexican restaurant, and do not have much to offer the world outside of the occasional supermodel or star soccer player.
Therefore, the purpose of this blog is to better stay in touch with family/friends and to help facilitate understanding of the real Colombia that I have fallen in love with – one of magical realism, development, and incredible human warmth (and no boogeymen).