|Amrita (baby), mother (Nandan), and older sister (Anjali)|
Halfway done with DukeEngage and I’m halfway satisfied with what I’ve accomplished here. There is so much to see in this beautiful city that I’m afraid I’m going to miss something important. I’ve made so many new friends, not only from Medellín but also from Duke. While the weeks can be stressful, it is such a rewarding feeling to see how grateful families are when I interview them. Simple questions like where they are from, what they do now and how many people are in their family, mean so much to them. Originally, I had no idea what kind of filming we would be doing for this trip. I was intimidated by previous years’ videos and I am still nervous about the quality of my own work. Today that changed. My cogestora Luisa took me to a small wooden house painted green and pink just to interview Gloria. There was not enough time to run through the whole visit, but Luisa knew the interview would mean a lot to Gloria. She was overjoyed to see us, although sweaty and out of breathe after climbing up the mountain; she welcomed us into her beautiful house and made space wherever she could. It amazes me how warm and hospitable the families we visit are. Many of them have almost nothing, yet they offer me arepas, they offer me a warm home cooked lunch. I now understand my purpose on this trip. It is for people like Gloria that we do the interviews. It is for her and her family that these interviews are presented to the local community and to others so that they can see the amazing people that make up this city. Still, I am only halfway satisfied because I know there are more stories to be heard and more places to visit. It’s hard to say if I’ll ever feel completely satisfied. If only I could stay longer.
I think it may a little of an understatement, but I don’t think I will ever be confused for a paisa. Especially because the people in this country have absolutely no idea how to pronounce my name. (They normally just make a “guh” sound and then mumble something). But after living in Medellin for a month, we are not entirely still tourists. Once you buy a gym membership in another city you kind of relinquish your tourist badge. Our almost complete immersion in Medellin life did not really strike me though, until my cousin came to visit this past week. Rafi and her boyfriend have been travelling around South America for around 4 months, visiting numerous cities and staying in numerous hostels along the way. I learned a great deal from visiting her hostel – aside from how to give Jota a minor heart attack. The Pit Stop hostel was full with young travelers from the UK, Israel and numerous other countries. Hearing so much English outside of my Duke Engage bubble was a weird change of pace. As I visited the hostel more and more, I began to realize that these people were not truly experiencing Medellin. I was thrown off by the tackiness of the posters inside, one of which advertised a Pablo Escobar tour. I looked at one of the room names that read “Valderrama” and cringed a little bit inside. Is this all they were going to witness of Medellin? Cocaine and football? The hostel made me appreciate the benefits of living with a home stay and the companero/a program. While I may not be able to travel around the continent or the country for that matter, I am getting to immerse myself in the culture here and get to know the city inside out.
Nonetheless, Kendall and I (quickly putting our tourist badges back on) decided to accompany them on the Pablo Escobar tour. However, the entire time we felt somewhat guilty. As if by going on the tour we were somehow aiding the Colombian stereotype we are not only trying to shed ourselves but to shed in America as a whole. I am not ashamed to say that I enjoyed the tour, especially since we were also able to meet his younger brother, Roberto Escobar. I just hope that when I return to the states and tell my friends about my time here, that they are just as excited to hear about the Pablo Escobar tour, as they are to watch our videos.
As we approach the end of our fourth week in Medellín, fluxes of emotions roam around my head. For some reason, I feel like I have been here forever, but part of me feels like time is running out and we haven’t been here at all. Yes, I know, what a paradox. How could I possibly feel like I have been here too long, yet no time at all? Well, we have done and seen so much in the last four weeks that it feels like an eternity, but we have yet to finish what we came to accomplish, and we are already half way through with our time here.
Yes, homesickness has plagued me a bit…..I mean the food isn’t too different at home, but I miss my family, my friends, MY home. Although Medellín has been my home for the last month, and I do feel like I am back in Miami with my home stay mom cooking for me and looking out for me, the similarity brings back memories. My home stay mom actually reminds me of my grandmother; I can picture my Abuelita at home ranting and yelling “E-stephanie te tienes que comer la comida completa porque hay niños en Cuba muriéndose de hambre.” Oh, I can hear her right now pleading me to eat my food while pointing her finger at me and waving it around frantically until I obey her every command. That is the reason why I am homesick; not because things are so different and I miss the uniqueness I have at home, but because of the similarities between my situation at home and in Colombia. Every similarity reminds me of home, of my family. Every similarity leaves me more homesick as everyday passes by. Every similarity is a part of my past at home; a past I cannot wait to return to in four weeks.