I popped the last piece of pizza in my mouth, darting my eyes between Nina and her two remaining personal slices. She was too busy leaned back in her chair, happily smiling into the world. When asked if she was going to finish her dinner, she readily said: “I’m just content, you know?”
Our coordinator planned a team boat trip to islands around Cartagena earlier this month (major shout out to the Juan and only Carina!). Teachers from Barranquilla, Cartagena, Santa Marta, Bogotá, Bucaramanga and Armenia came together to boat, beach, bond and celebrate birthdays on the Caribbean coast.
On Friday, fellow B/quilla teacher Zack laid out our weekend before us: “Arrive tonight. Survive tomorrow. And live to see Sunday.” I’m proud to say that we succeeded. We arrived Friday. We survived Saturday. And we were alive on Sunday.
It was one of those weekends you day dream about well into the following week. According to Nathan, this weekend was an extrovert’s dream. I’d have to say I’d agree. Throw together twenty travel-minded, damn fun humans; put on some reggaeton jams; toss in
some, okay, lots of cerveza, rum and tequila; and, finally, sit back and watch the beautiful chaos ensue. It’s the kind of beautiful chaos that makes you appreciate every minor decision and sequence of events that got you to this exact moment. The kind that pushes mattresses together in the living room to have a pre-boat trip slumber party. The kind that gets the perfect combination of tequila, salt and lime to take hilariously awkward body shots. The kind that belts out a slightly buzzed, yet angelic sounding rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to end an already perfect day.
Highly charged moments like these create cinematic, watching-yourself-in-slow-motion scenes. You pause, rewind, and replay them to make them last a little longer. In actuality, you can’t replay them. They happened as beautifully as they did and they will stay like that, catalogued in your mind’s filing cabinet under Unforgettable.
These moments are yours for whenever you need reminding. When your alarm buzzes at 5:30am to get to class. When you’re dripping sweat and sticking to the leather bus seat. When you’re pulling teeth with the only half of the class that actually showed up. Your determination is slightly undermined. Your positivity is waning. Your energy is exhausted. But you’ve got Cartagena on your mind and you’re instantly brought back to the boat aptly named Le Triky. It’s tricky, I know…feeling like you’re floating through the following days that pale in comparison to the previous island-hopping adventure. Maybe it’s that just remembering suffices to jolt us back alive, to bring us back to the present. Past moments awaken our present ones. They have the ability to provide you with that extra sliver of inspiration to keep on. Pretty cool how Cartagena does that for me. I’ll continue listening to our boat trip tunes, dancing around my apartment with a smile widened across my face. Ask me how I feel. I’ll say: “I’m just content, you know?”
I think that’s the goal. To be content. It’s a wistful feeling. It looks like hopping the back of a moto taxi, wind blowing wisps of hair over my eyes. It feels like buoyancy on the beaches of Playa Blanca, floating my legs to the surface while listening to my slow, deep breaths. It tastes like Gelateria Tramonti’s genuine Italian gelato flavor, Tropical Tramonti, tickling my ice cream-lover taste buds. It sounds like the chit chat of our giant teacher sleepover, giggling at every playful, sarcastic blow. It smells like fresh-out-of-the-oven arequipe donuts, combining the rich sweetness of caramel and the starchy goodness of baked bread.
It comes and goes, yet makes a lasting impression on your senses. Sparked by stimulating any one of the five, these moments can be called to the forefront of your mind in an instant. I think that’s the beauty of how our memory is tied to sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. You’re reminded, you remember and you replay. And they can be recalled for days, months, even years to come. It’s only been about two weeks since I partied on a boat off of Cartagena with fellow crazies, and my mind is still wrapped up in the crystal blue waters, the dance beats, the endless noms, the constant laughter, and the perfect, yet simple response that embraces everything I’ve been feeling about Colombia: “I’m just content, you know?”