La Despedida (The Farewell)

As I sit in my room surrounded by suitcases mostly packed and bits and pieces of the life I’ve had the joy of living here for the last two months (eval notes, leftover foam, Spanish dictionary), it’s very difficult to put into words what I’m feeling. Six weeks ago, while fighting culture shock, I was counting down the days until I would be home. Four weeks ago, while still counting, I was feeling more comfortable. Three weeks ago, I was counting because I needed more time. Two weeks ago the same. Today, I’ve been fighting tears all day as I think of all that I’m leaving. Tomorrow, as I board my plane back to the U.S., I will be leaving…

40 adorable babies that absolutely have lit up my soul for the last two months. Full of laughter, unconditional love, slobbery kisses, and hilarious antics, they have been my daily joy.

A host family I adore. Angelica and Gabriel have been more like siblings to me than parents during my time here. Evening hours spent at the dinner table discussing music, politics, food, Gabriel’s newest business idea, my Spanish errors – and the list goes on – won’t soon be forgotten. Angelica’s mother is also hands down the most welcoming and cariñosa person (I can’t translate this in a way that does her justice) that I have ever met. Tears were shed on more than one occasion tonight as we said our goodbyes. They have truly been my Colombian family and I look forward to the day when our paths will cross again.

An institution brimming with love. Yes, there are days when I can’t stop thinking about all of the things I would like to change (given a million years and a giant budget), but the foundation of Chiquitines is love. Those red brick walls that I have come to know so well are a refuge for the abandoned and a home for the most innocent of all. A place where play reigns and smiles abound.
As painful as it is to leave such things, I also know that because of them, I’m leaving Colombia with more knowledge and skills than I had when I first arrived. My time here has taught me to

Value small changes as positive change none-the-less
Let go of everyday anxieties and live with a lighter heart
Understand that just because something is different doesn’t make it better, worse, right or wrong
Value interdependence more than independent me ever thought I could
Appreciate the gift that is a loving family
Rejoice in the resilience of children

As my daily routines change significantly during the next few weeks, I’m not sure how all of this will factor in. How I will use what I have gained here to lead a more altruistic and fulfilling life has yet to be determined. However, until I figure it out, I will rejoice in knowing that I have been changed for the better.