Hola

Hola, we are nearing the end of our Colombian trip. It has been awe inspiring, and surreal and amazing. We have stretched and grown and tried many things and been out of our comfort zone many times. There has been some fear and apprehension, some feeling lost and a whole lot of the unknown. When you don’t speak the language and very few speak your language, it can be unsettling especially when there is a need to communicate. Having tourist Spanish helps a little but I am certainly grateful to those who walk beside us and interpret. I also love that they are showing us the intricacies of their culture, introducing us to the fruits of the land and the foods of the people.

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Language is a bridge to know someone on a deeper level but language is spoken in many ways. This is the hanging bridge at Parque del Cafe

If you have been following my blog, you know I have embarked on a bit of a coffee social experiment. Well, it’s not as much an experiment as it is a quest. I was thinking about it last weekend when we were involved with the wedding here. The wedding was at a hacienda and much of the family stayed there for the whole weekend and broke arepas together many times. We actually spent very little time with our friends who we are traveling with which meant spending time alone or spending time with people we did not know who did not speak English or spoke little.  The first day we met a fine couple and we were blessed by having the man sit with us for most of the time. His English was quite good so we were able to communicate in English with him. We learned about his family and job and we shared with him. His wife speaks English very well but was busy organizing the wedding. I am watching on FB for her to start up her business as a wedding planner.

The day of the wedding we spent time with people who knew some English and I practiced Spanish while they practiced English. We talked for hours. I told them about our kids and pets and why our pets are named as they are. We found out they have a mini pincher x chihuahua that is named Forest. Seems their cat Nina liked to run when they got Forest and Forest would run after her. Of course we showed photos also.

The day after the wedding I spent a lot of time with the ladies in the kitchen who are the bride’s family. They were cooking on an open fire pit and then preparing stuff in the kitchen. One of the young ladies knows some English so between her and I we were able to talk to each other and explain things and talk to the other ladies. We talked about all the same things, kids, pets, weather in Canada, sports (I even explained the game of wallyball), and the flavours of pop/soda/gaseoso and some other mundane things that people who share the same language say in passing but is a big deal when trying to communicate between languages.

I could have sat by the pool and had the rhythm of people speaking Spanish as white noise to my thoughts. I could have felt alone in a ‘world’ surrounded by people who didn’t understand me and talked to each other. Instead, I went up to people and said ‘Hola’. I went over to the fire to see what the ladies were doing, I went and sat down beside someone and started a conversation (such as it was). I pushed passed my fears and insecurities and I was received with open arms and hospitality.

In that setting I was with people who are friends of friends. There have been a couple situations where my lack of Spanish has not been received well, but that is part of the experience. I am not the reason for another person’s reaction.

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I often ask how something is spelled because I can’t always understand the sounds and especially the silent letters.

What I learned from the experience is I have the capacity to break out of my comfort zone and push through the questioning looks because I butcher a word with my English accent. I can say something wrong, be corrected, struggle with saying it and be uncomfortable with still not grasping the accent. I can be wrong, I can be frustrated and I can try to say it a different way. I have more understanding of those who come from somewhere else and are working on learning English. Somehow now, speaking English to a stranger doesn’t seem as difficult as it did once.

Although this isn’t the same as my coffee time quest, I have learned a lot, not only from the experience of the trip but from the desire to communicate and connect despite the language barriers.  Language is spoken in many ways and we are able to connect with others despite lacking in the spoken word.

I believe it is important to continually grow. Growth happens through stretching; it doesn’t happen in our comfort zone. The challenge is to move out of that zone and make things happen. Life happens more abundantly in growth.

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Dream Bigger

I woke up in Colombia this morning. It has been 6 days of waking up in another country. Many years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined coming here for a visit. It’s funny how life takes on a life of it’s own and yet, it needs some energy behind it. How often does a person get an idea, a dream in their head and they push it away as a ‘dream’, a ‘whim’ a ‘notion’ that ‘just isn’t possible’? How often are we chided by that little voice in our heads that says ‘it can’t be done”? I have learned to dream big, to dream bigger than that little voice is comfortable with. I have learned that dreaming big and dreaming bigger makes those dreams a reality.

Almost 10 years ago we met a lovely family who started coming to our church. Within a short time we were good friends and had a group of couples that got together. We met more people from our church who were from Colombia and they were quick to tell us we need to be learning Spanish. Over the years we have remained friends with this group of people and those friends ended up in our home school circle as well so we spent much time with similar interests together. Five years ago they went to Colombia. When they returned they told us that when they were here they thought of how they would like to show us places they love.

At that point it was a conversation and fleeting comments followed although they were not part of a dream at that point; but the seed was planted and watered. My husband and I did not travel much while we were raising four kids. I stayed home with them and he worked really hard to make that happen. About 5 years ago, we were gifted (by my family and our kids) with a flight that sent us on our first ‘warm during the winter months’ vacation. We went on a few more because, well, it’s cold in Canada and it’s warm other places. I also decided to learn Spanish (after a trip to Cuba) using the Duolingo App. Of course I had friends who were more than willing to have me practice. I worked on it almost daily for a couple years and then last year didn’t spend time on it because of time spent on other things.

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A view of downtown Bogotá and beyond from Monserrate.

Then last year happened. I finished my personal trainer certification. I started my Monat business which happened to be with my dear friend. My husband’s job was iffy and we started a house flipping business with these same friends (and a brother). Then said brother became engaged and the wedding was in Colombia and now here we are, attending a Colombian wedding in a couple days, traveling around Colombia with our friends who are  patiently translating for us and helping us at every turn. However, I know enough Spanish to understand some of what is being said, I can speak enough broken Spanish and sign language to get a black, no sugar coffee special made for me at a street kiosk and tell people I have one son and three daughters, their ages and that I have 2 grandchildren and one more in 3 weeks.

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We walked a lot in Bogotá and when it was raining hard we stopped at a grocery store and learned about the fruits and vegetables here.

I have added a couple photos but this post really isn’t about our trip, it is about dreaming big. It’s interesting how there are little snippets of things that pop up when you are thinking of a post. I have been planning this one for a couple weeks but in preparation for the trip was unable to sit long enough to write it. This morning a friend posted a Facebook post about following your dreams and one of the lines was about waking up in another country. On the way from Bogotá to Ibague, I was listening to a couple podcasts. To be fair, I listen to inspiring podcasts that talk about dreaming big in business and in life, but the person interviewed was a young lady (26) who travels the world and has amassed riches through business after living a terrible teen life at the hands of others. The thing take home message along with others was, “Money is not the only currency”. When we are serving others, and being genuine in caring and help to others, we can receive the same from others…not always the same others but still receive.

We have been so blessed in all our travels to have the gracious help of others, to have accommodation, to be given food, to have transportation, and tour guides and advice from people. We have experienced the generosity of friends, new friends and strangers. We have been overwhelmed with kindness.

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The time spent with family and friends is the greatest of riches.

The currency of relationships, of connection and goodwill go far beyond what money can buy in enriching an experience. Yes, money is needed too. That is one of the reasons we work. But money isn’t the only currency. Dreaming big isn’t about money either; it is about doing things that you didn’t think you could. It is about, instead of saying “I can’t”, saying “How can I?” It may not be about travel for you, it may be something you want to do in life, go to school, have a bigger house, live somewhere else, have your own business, have more time for family and friends, run a half marathon, or lose weight. Whatever you dream, amp it up–dream a little bigger, then dream a lot bigger. You may wake up in another country one day and it will be good.