In about five weeks, I’ll venture back to China for what will be my sixth year abroad, and my fourth country to call home. I never planned to be gone this long, but now I have no plans of returning. It’s funny how things work out.
I like my home in Shanghai, and don’t often feel homesick, but from time to time, I’ll find myself missing the States. Or Korea. Or Colombia. Home has become something of a relative concept, so it’s hard to actually be “home-sick.”
Lately though, I have been thinking a lot about my two years in Bogota, and the wonderful memories associated with Colombia. So I made a list. Here are the top 10 things I miss most about this former “home” of mine:
Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what I do for a living. “How did you start teaching overseas?” “Do you teach at a Chinese school or an American school?” “How do you travel so much?” “What kinds of benefits do you get?”
Then the most important: “How can I do it too?”
Six years ago, when the U.S. economy took a turn and I was left without a job, I decided to throw all caution to the wind and move to Korea to teach English. I had never taught before, I hadn’t traveled much, and admittedly, kids weren’t really my thing. But I thought, Hey, I can do anything for a year.
I have to admit: my relationship with Bogota has not been love at first sight. It’s taken work, patience, and understanding. And as I’m sure most of my ex-boyfriends will tell you, I haven’t always been the most patient, or understanding, girlfriend.
Before moving to Colombia, I spent a lot of time daydreaming. I pictured myself in the kitchen, learning how to make traditional delicacies with someone’s grandmother. I saw myself dancing salsa in local clubs, like I had been doing it my whole life. I imagined the coffee shops I’d frequent, and the buzzing effects of their strong Colombian drip.
For me, traveling and food go together like peanut butter and honey. It just makes sense. In one bite, we can discover a culture. We bond with its people.
My family shares the same sentiment. So when they came to visit a couple of weeks ago, I took them to my favorite place for a Saturday morning in Bogota: La Plaza de Mercado de Paloquemao. Although not present in many of the guide books, nor listed as a top thing to do online, this bustling, chaotic flower and food market was the first thing to make me fall in love with the city.
My friends below looked like miniature action figures as I tightened my grip on a sharp, protruding rock.
“That’s it, you’re almost there!” shouted my climbing instructor, Hugo Rocha.
Almost there? Is he kidding?
“I think I’m fine to come down now!” I yelled. But Hugo ignored me. “Focus on your feet and push with your legs. You have this, Jennifer!”