Food Series Take One

Here in Barranquilla, I’ve had more time to dedicate to things I’ve always wanted to do. So I asked myself: “What are things you’ve always wanted to do, to know more about, to learn, and to develop as a habit?” Cooking is one of those things (among many, many others). There’s nothing I love more than good food. The following food porn pictures have been lovingly prepared and carefully photographed by yours truly. Note: Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. 

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My Kind of Humans

I have this overwhelming feeling that I’m in the right place at the right time with the right people. Barranquilla feels right because of our little costeño family. We’ve truly gotten to know one another, so much so that we’re not even interested in meeting other gringos. We’re more than happy with what we’ve got.


When you bring together a handful of like-minded travelers, you’re bound to see friendship sparks flying. Ever since our unforgettable Carnaval-inspired introduction on our Avianca flight to Barranquilla, we realized just how fun-filled our time on the coast would be.

Each one of us brings something dynamic to the table, quite literally:


We continuously comment on the fact that we really lucked out being placed together. We’re thrilled that each one of us is bursting with personality.

And we’ve got a combined sense of humor that makes for the best family night entertainment. Cue a How I Met Your Mother impromptu intervention complete with letters of flowery bullshit and hilariously fake means for self-improvement.

There is no matching the kind of instant support and common ground you receive from a shared experience. Orientation in Bogotá was inspirational, but life in Barranquilla is far more exhilarating. Gratitude for my B’killa family is endless and there’s no doubt in my mind that ten months with this bunch of psychos will be costeño crazy.

Living Abroad Round Two

Long-term travel caught my attention when I studied and interned in Madrid for a year. One semester didn’t satiate my abroad appetite even before I left. After finishing two semesters, I still wasn’t satisfied. Fast forward to now: I’m living in Barranquilla, Colombia for, yes, another year.

It’s living abroad round two, but at the same time, each round is an isolated experience. They are completely different. This time, I’m truly independent. Your girl’s got a job, an apartment, and bills here in B’quilla. This independence is what I wanted; it’s what I’ve been craving. And it really has been liberating.

Each day I wake up and decide how I’d like to organize my day. So far, my days involve teaching (that’s a given); they’ve also been focused on practicing yoga/pilates, writing, cooking meals, and eating ice cream.

I’ve learned a lot about what affects my happiness, and what things affect my daily happiness. I absolutely love where I live. It has lots of light, greenery and space – plus we’ve got a hammock! Where you are does affect your happiness. Moving into my first apartment abroad has truly made me happy.

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I thrive on the energy around me. Some days I’m super tired and teaching is the last thing I want to do. But then I show up to class, and the energy in the room wakes me up. My students really are animated and fun. They help me to become my animated and fun self.

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I love to cook. It’s my passion. My days revolve around meal times, and around prepping for meal times. There is no better way for me to de-stress than to come home from teaching and prepare dinner for myself. It’s therapeutic. And by the time I sit down to eat, I’m relaxed and content.

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I love walking. I believe this stems from my European adventures, and my walkable university campus back in New York. I’ve become used to walking everywhere, though Barranquilleros are absolutely jaw-dropped when I tell them I walked to my destination from my apartment. I think this is due to the unbearable heat, but depending on the time of day, it is actually quite pleasant to not take busses everywhere.

I need green space and/or beaches. I enjoy cosmopolitan cities, but I’ve also noticed that I need a balance between nature and concrete. There are not as many green spaces in Barranquilla as I would’ve liked. Fortunately, our apartment is right next to a luscious park. And the B’quilla beaches aren’t too far. Being geographically equidistant from both Cartagena and Santa Marta is a refreshing reminder that beautiful beaches are relatively close.

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I require lots of ice cream. Barranquilla is scorching hot. Thus, ice cream is crucial. Come to think of it: It doesn’t have to be hot for me to require ice cream. You won’t understand how happy ice cream makes me until you’re waiting in line with me listening to me anxiously decide which flavors and toppings to order.IMG_5697

I need to stretch. Since moving here, I’ve tried to make yoga a habit. I usually stretch when I wake up anyways, so why not turn it into an elongated stretching/breathing session? I feel healthier when I wake up and stretch. There’s a peaceful, content state of mind that follows moments of stillness.

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I reflect through writing. For this reason, I have so too many journals. But can one really have too many journals? Nahhh. Here in B’quilla I have a gratitude journal, a happiness journal, a travel journal, and three undesignated journals. The trick is to set aside time to write, reflect and document. My dear friend Christine O’Dea writes for at least ten minutes before going to bed. Pretty good idea, eh?

I really feel like I’m coming into my own here in Barranquilla. By distancing myself from the familiar, I am learning more and more about what it is that makes me happy. And I must say: I am happy.

The First Things I Bought in Colombia

Being a practical packer is a skill you develop after learning to take just what you need. Moving abroad meant packing for ten months, and being reasonable with what I think I’ll need to bring and what I’ll be able to buy in country. Upon my arrival, I actively sought out these necessary items on my shopping list:

A Colombian phone. Aside from using my iPhone on WiFi to stay in touch with those back home and those with me in Barranquilla, I knew I needed the most basic Colombian phone. Cheap is key, and I ended up with a Nokia equipped with the game Snake. Finally! I bought a cheap Nokia phone in Madrid that, to my disappointment, didn’t have Snake. We’re throwing it back to T9 Word texting and playing simple games.

A fútbol jersey. No stay in Colombia would be complete without getting involved in fútbol. Step one: Wear Colombia’s national team jersey. This was an adamant request by a Colombian friend, and I can’t wait to go to a game wearing it.

A yoga mat. Finding this baby was more difficult than I anticipated. I felt that bringing my own yoga mat from home would’ve taken up too much space, so I decided to buy it in Colombia. I checked out plenty of stores – some sold yoga mats in a bundled box for an exorbitant amount of money and others had other types of mats that wouldn’t work – and finally found a bunch of sports stores selling yoga mats for a price I would pay.

Almost bought a smaller bikini bottom. After visiting a few beaches and scanning the cheekless crowds, I’m thinking this may be my next purchase …

“Alone” in Barranquilla

Loneliness is about learning to be alone with yourself. It’s an art, really. Discovering what makes you happy when you’re by yourself is beautiful. I needed to be reminded of this after being in Barranquilla for a few days. There are few, simple things that I need: Yoga, music and cooking. I need to stretch and breath. I need to listen to my favorite songs. I need to cook meals for myself.

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I know that I am most definitely not alone in this volunteaching program, but there is a form of loneliness that accompanies picking up and moving to a foreign country. It’s starting over again. It’s introducing yourself constantly. It’s meeting new people and seeing new faces every day. It’s discovering who you are outside of what is familiar. It’s choosing who you want to be. It’s spending your time doing things that make you happy.

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For the first month in Barranquilla, I am living with a host family courtesy of Volunteers Colombia. On February 12th, I was dropped off at my host family’s house in the barrio of  Las Mercedes in B’quilla. They are very kind, generous and helpful – I’ve been treated like family after having lived there for such a short time. I already learned how to make patacones and my host mom made me arepas con queso. It’s taken some adapting.  I do enjoy it, but I feel I need to take another step towards independence. After March 15th, I have the freedom to choose to stay or go. I came to Colombia yearning for independence and personal freedom, so I’m searching for an apartment.

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Getting your bearings in a new city requires a lot of effort, patience and observance. I’ve had time to just be in Barranquilla: taking my time at the grocery store to learn new words and wait in long lines; catching buses hoping for the right direction; sitting in malls people watching; walking the city alone. I’m in a constant state of discovery and awareness, outward and inward. After a week, I’ve begun to smile at the small successes of my days and laugh at the cultural differences. Yes, cat callers are inevitable. Yes, schedules are nonexistent. Yes, heat is pretty much unbearable. The fact is, I’m living in their city. I’m adapting to their culture. The process of learning to be happy in Colombia has already begun, and I know that I can’t expect anything to be similar to what I’m used to back in the states. If I want to thrive, I must adapt and believe me, I’ve already been taking it Colombian slow.

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Advice for the Road

Look back and smile. Appreciate the butterflies. Cherish the coming and going. Be okay with leaving. Feel your emotions. And then let them out into the world. Write things down. Scream when you want to. Sing out loud. Cry when you need to. Bounce around when you just have to.

Look up. Take deep breaths. Close your eyes to pause, open them to admire. Remember how you got here. Be grateful for the path that has led you to now. Keep your eyes forward. Treasure new beginnings. Lower your expectations. Be gentle to your soul. Let your mind wander, and let your feet follow. Practice gratitude. Smile often. Recognize beauty. Interrupt routine with spontaneity. Say ‘yes’ to things, people, ideas that you normally wouldn’t. Do the things you’re supposed to do in the places you’re supposed to do them.

Keep your ears open to others. Genuinely listen to their stories. Share your own. Collaborate collectively. Trust in timing. Be calm in uncertainty. Just go with it. Adapt. Follow your intuition. Absorb everything. Open your senses. Digest your surroundings. Be where you are. Face the fact that you’re really doing it. “If you want something in life you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.” Be confident in yourself. Thrive in the unknown. Pick it up as you go. Go.

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I’ll Always Be the Girl Who Adventures

In anticipation of my move to Colombia and my success in making it to the final round of Fulbright to teach English in Brazil, one of my closest friends told me that I’m still the girl who adventures. She told me to trust that life has something amazing coming. I believe it does.

Today, February 1st, has been my launch date since last fall: The day I fly to Colombia. It has been everything I’ve been looking forward to, but I didn’t think about how it would actually feel to leave again.

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In 2012, I left for Madrid for roughly the same amount of time, nine months. I didn’t think past that launch date either, and it didn’t hit me until I was flying in limbo between New Jersey and Spain.

Here I am between New Jersey and Colombia feeling the same kind of way. I’m actually doing it: I’m going to Barranquilla to teach English. Wow.

The thing about coming and going is you end up only talking about coming and going. Pre-Colombia conversations have been focused around when I leave, what I’ll be doing, where I’ll be going, so much so that I never truly put thought into how it would actually feel, how today would go, how arriving would be. I find it sad that everyone dwells on the ending and the leaving when I’d much rather think about the beginning and the going.

There’s a butterflies-in-my-stomach feeling I get in airports. I even enjoy how familiar flying is now, though I’ve become accustomed to quick one-day or week-long trips. Today was different. It was weighted with much more nervousness, excitement and anxiety. I usually have a return ticket. I normally know the return date. This time, I don’t. The next time I expect to be stateside is in December. I find it so interesting that people want to know concrete dates – when do you leave? …when do you come back? Ten months is a long time, they say. But I feel ten months is not enough. Putting a stamp on the day I return allows my mind to think through ten months, to fast forward an entire year in my mind, to zoom through 300 days. Imagine how much can happen in ten months.

I know nine months wasn’t enough for me in Spain, and I know how much everything changed during that short amount of time. My experiences in Madrid influenced everything I did upon my return: I got involved in international education at Marist College and with Academic Programs International (API), I devoted my time to Spanish and Portuguese language acquisition, I was passionate about creating a travel-minded community with other study abroaders, and I became health conscious of my mind and body. I felt more confident about where I was headed, and I’m happy that my path has led me to here.

I am so excited to see how Colombia will change me and how I will grow as a person, a traveller and a teacher. I want to be open to new opportunities. I want to let life happen in these next ten months and see where it takes me. I want to welcome this next adventure without focusing on a time limit, a return flight.

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I’m taking this ten-month, do-something-I’ve-never-done risk for me. I need to do it. I get this feeing that this is what I’m meant to do. I’m meant to go. There’s something that pulls me away from home and pushes me into the the world. It’s a terrifyingly exciting feeling to crave immersion and experiences in other places. Saying goodbye does not get easier, but welcoming newness becomes more thrilling.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since returning from Spain and losing my dad, it is that how you spend your time is a reflection of you and your capacity to grasp how fleeting it is. Time is everything, and we have the power to decide how we spend it, where we spend it, and who we spend it with. I’m going to Colombia to spend my time doing new things, meeting new people, and learning as much as I can about myself and others. What I do now affects the rest of my life, and my life is worth my time.

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