So will someone come and carry me home tonight
– FUN “Carry Me Home” 2011
At the beginning of summer I posted about the nine lives tragically lost in a senseless shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, as well as the city’s strange similarities to Cartagena de Indias, the pretty place I currently call home.
After spending nearly a month in Charleston (plus a five-day mini trip to upstate New York), and now being back in the heat and hola of coastal Colombia, I can honestly say the difference is not the same. While architecture bears similarities, humidity draws sweaty comparisons and horse-drawn coches share a kindred sentiment, these things are probably all that resonates on the surface of being alike.
Traveling to the US on the day that Colombia played Perú in the Copa Americá 2015, I wriggled in my pleather air seat watching the partido on satellite delay, and joined in sorrowful awwws by other passengers as the game came to an end just before landing.
The days of missing Colombia while in Charleston wafted in and out like a teacher sleeping late for several mornings in a row: dreamy, but somehow not quite logical. Several nights after meeting, DJ Luigi, a Caleño who has organized Charleston’s Latin Groove and DJ’d at events since 2000, gathered a group of Charleston-based Colombian futbol fans at an outdoor eatery to watch the Copa America partido against Argentina. Surrounded by supporters swathed in yellow jerseys, the supporters of the seleccíon cheered from far away, despite the sorrow as Argentina won 5-4 on penalties.
Months before visiting Charleston, I reached out on social media to several businesses and organizations, hoping to make some new connections with while laying low in the Lowcountry.
Although my attempts to work with an arepa food truck were inconclusive, other independent businesses like Sweet LuLu’s Bakery on Wheels and Art Board Co. resulted in enthusiastic smiles, warm hugs and excited conversation about creative ventures, as if we’d been friends for years.
While the pangs of missing Colombia often ran strong, they definitely subsided during a visit to the Sunday Brunch Farmers Market, enjoying the friendly espiritu of these entrepreneurs.
Another wonderful connection, made through MeetUp.com, was with the Mount Pleasant Learn English as a Second Language group. As far back as March 2015, the organizer Myriam sent friendly text messages on everything from easy translation tricks to the awesomeness of arepas. When it came time to meet the group, I felt an instant connection of what hopefully will be a lasting friendship… even if it means “attending” monthly meetups via video chat.
The days of June and July melted together like a double-scoop in a waffle cone on a hot day. Memorable events included an entire day at Folly beach with a childhood friend watching kids at Shaka Surf School, eating tuna nachos at Rita’s Seaside Grille and winning tickets to a Charleston Riverdogs game just for wearing a shark costume next to a giant crab.
Another day, after devouring a delicious lunch at Mex 1 Coastal Cantina, one BFF and I drove her James Bond car to TJ Maxx, where we laughed our way through the clearance shelves, perusing half-filled bottles of bubble bath and questionable tchochkes (like a badly-chipped weiner dog ring holder). Sometimes simple humor can make a daytime outing feel like pure bliss.
As the days passed, consuming copious amounts of shrimp and grits, boiled peanuts and sweet tea (so as to get a true fill of Southern food, y’all) equaled but did not surpass heavy cravings for fresh-squeezed maracuya, salty-sweet patacones, or creamy, gooey arequipe. Staying up to date on la tierra madre adoptiva meant following daily Instagram posts from elheraldo and colombia_an_unknown_paradise just to catch glimpses of sunsets and the latest street art.
On a five-day visit to upstate New York to visit family and celebrate an upcoming wedding, it was hard to resist indulgences with 30-something nieces and nephews who educated me on the many sizes of Starbucks cups, why Sriracha surpasses ketchup as a condiment, and the benefits of breastfeeding beyond age one. (Yep!)
As green mountains whizzed past car windows to a Tom Petty soundtrack, the sense of wonder and contemplating what makes a place feel like home wafted through the air vents, accompanied by the smell of fresh-baked Cinnabon from the NY Thruway rest area.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
Several days later, flying to Cartagena and making the definitive route south of The South, the idea of home began to really sink in. Phrases like “home is where the heart is,” “home is where you hang your hat,” or the eco-provoking variations on “if you want to be where the grass is greener, water your own grass,” the resounding truth is that home is where you want it to be: the place that feels right for you, a place that’s good for the soul.
Just like some people have a soul mate, it seems possible to have a soul home, a place that gives you comfort, joy, content and challenge all at once. While it may not be where you grew up, or filled with lifelong friends, this is the place where you feel happiest simply existing in each day. A place where you build on what you’ve created and miss in your heart when you are away.
Colombia, for now, certainly feels like Home Sweet Soul Home… made just a little más dulce with a swirl of arequipe…. or a refreshing maracuya raspado enjoyed on the beach.