“The most important thing is this: to sacrifice what you are now for what you can become tomorrow.” – Shannon L. Adler
The day that I left El Paso, Texas, to start a new life in Pennsylvania, I called a couple of friends to tell them I was heading out. I deliberately avoided saying goodbye to them in person because I knew that I couldn’t handle it. I was on my way to a new life in a new and strange place. Although I had been to Waynesboro to interview of the job and look at apartments, I had only been there once. On July 4th, 2000, I picked up all of my earthly possessions and embarked on the trip to what would be my new home.
The morning that I left Baltimore to get on a plane to Barranquilla, Colombia, my wife and I stood by the car as the dog stuck her head out the window. We took a selfie and off I was, on my way to a strange land. While I was incredibly excited over the prospects of coming here, I was also incredibly scared. On the plane here, somewhere over Jamaica, I went into the bathroom and threw water on my face. I whispered to a higher authority that I was both thankful for the challenge and very, very scared.
You have already read what I’ve had to share for the last month, and I thank you for reading. (If you haven’t, all posts are under the #Colombia tag.) So I won’t give you a run-down of all that I did here. However, you should know that I didn’t include everything that I did here, or everything that happened. There is just too much to tell.
My view tonight as I write this is at the end of this post. It’s my last night here in Barranquilla, Colombia, though I’m scheduling this post to go live when I’m in flight to Miami. It’s been a bittersweet four weeks. I was incredibly homesick, missing my beautiful wife like I’ve never missed her before. I was a stranger in a strange land, speaking the language but not the dialects.
Colombia was sold to me by American popular culture as a dangerous place, where I was sure to get mugged and swindled. I didn’t. I came to find a place where people are happy, the food is delicious, and the university where I guest-lectured is top notch. It would be better than most public universities in the US. No lie.
Yeah, there’s still about 16 hours to go, so I could still get mugged. I could also get struck by lightning.
Yes, there are places in the city where poverty is widespread. Yes, there have been muggings and murders. (Though the murder rate is less than half that of Baltimore at this time, with a population more than twice the size.) There were plenty of shacks passing as homes, overcrowded and with questionable delivery of services. But as is the case in so many other parts of the developing world, the good people outnumber the bad 10,000 to one. And I am very happy to have met so many of them.
For now, this adventure ends.
On to the next one.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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