This week I received an email from my past volunteer organization, WorldTeach, asking for contributions to their alumni page. Having been recently featured on Lillie Marshall’s website, TeachingTraveling.com, I replied with fervor, and was selected as the September alumni feature on the Worldeach.org website: an awesome opportunity as well as an honor.
While it’s only right to admit my year in Barranquilla as a volunteer with WorldTeach Colombia 2014 was not easy, I managed to fulfill the promise of a year commitment. Getting lost on the buses that connect the 4th largest city in Colombia, living in a bad first host situation, and struggling to understand Costeño accents were just a few of my every day challenges.
But I refused to give up. Instead of focusing on the bad, I channeled my energy towards the good, including a love for this beautiful country and it’s wonderful people, which in turn became a decision to remain on the coast even after a difficult first year. It’s as if my relationship with Colombia deserved one more chance for us both to get it right.
As a foreign teacher in a diverse country, living a continent away from family and friends, internal questions occasionally arise, such as “how did I end up here?” and “what am I doing with my life?” to the even deeper, “is teaching in Colombia what I was born to do?”
In my heart, I long to be a travel writer, making a great life by traveling to locations and reporting on intriguing parts of the world. I focus on this idea and take positive steps each day to move in that direction. I know the day will come when I am sitting next to Richard Branson in first class, sipping champagne and comparing notes on making better lists, but until then, I’m doing my best to teach computers and English to delightful, energetic teenage girls. And I love it.
Sometimes life makes us wonder what we are doing, which is really a way to find what makes you happy and focus on it. If you feel some part of your existence is lacking, perhaps it is best to start by simply appreciating what you have, allowing the rest to wash around you and help you realize things are fine. Some thoughts may keep you awake at night, or nag your conscience when you are sitting through yet another conference on classroom management, but if you allow yourself to find and accept one thing that works well, then it often becomes easier to concentrate on what else you want to do.
There are many websites based around this idea, along with some wonderful, inspiring quotes. Some of them are deep and philosophical, while others are simply focused on being happy right now. It seems the basic theme for them all is don’t panic, stay focused and keep going. You might be surprised at how things will fall into place if you simply guide them there.
As for me, I am still visualizing that conversation in first class, where I hope the CEO of Virgin Airlines and I can share a few laughs as well as talk business. But for now, I’m here, in Cartagena de Indias, teaching twenty classes a week and surprising myself every day. While some parts of my life remain to be said – with loftier achievements attained and goals marked on the bucket list as “done” – this one, for sure, feels right for right now.