Jun 30, 2010

Wait...Am I Back in the U.S.?

About eight days ago, we students went to with a few of our compañeros to El Tesoro, which is a mall in the wealthiest part of Medellín. I was amazed when we arrived. Everything was somodern. It was the nicest mall I had ever seen, and clearly most people there were at least relatively well off. It seemed as if every other person had an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt or other American attire written in English. Everybody was well dressed, and I recognized almost every single store. Besides the fact that almost everyone there was probably Hispanic, I felt like I was in a different part of the U.S. I felt the most comfortable than I had felt in that entire trip. Although I knew something was wrong, I could not put my finger on it at first.

Today, five of us went back to El Tesoro to watch a movie and have dinner. That same feeling from before returned, and this time I could label it as guilt. It was a guilty pleasure to be having a great time at the mall. I felt that I was betraying my civic engagement duties.

After touring all of Medellín, of course I would feel the most comfortable in the most “American” place. Days before I had seen extreme poverty. Now I was at a pizzeria chatting away. How am I so privileged to be able to enjoy these luxuries?

First, I need to acknowledge my privilege in this world. I do not know how or why, but either way I was born into a very healthy life—mentally, physically, and geographically. Furthermore, it astounds me the way the United States has such a large presence everywhere. The wealthiest part of Medellín was…the most American? During dinner yesterday, a Beyonce song was playing on the radio. American music is also prevalent here? These things started to blow my mind. It makes me sad that even in another country American culture has at least some level of dominance. After all, I came to Medellín to learn about an entire different culture, not be reminded of what I am used to. Why do the bestrestaurants have to be so Americanized? Why do the best clubs have to have American music? I still do not understand.

I have fallen in love with Medellín: the food, the people, and the culture as a whole. There are many things that I wish I could bring back to my country from Colombia. Although American culture does exist in Medellín (mostly wealthier places), There still exists a rich and unique Colombian culture that amazes me. So far this experience has taught me to appreciate stepping out of your comfort zone, yet at the same time to not take for granted the place that you live. I miss my home in the the states, but there are many new things I will learn here that I hope to apply for the rest of my life. These daily reminders that have bits and pieces of American culture make me miss my home yet fall even more in love with Medellín all at the same time.