Tag Archives: family

Update part 2: Parents and GLOW

Crumleys in Colombia!

My parents finally came to visit! They set aside three weeks to come and follow me around my PCV life, going to classes with me, meeting all my pueblo friends, and even tagging along to girls’ camp. It was both surreal and exciting to have my parents–my biggest support during my service, always available via Facetime or Skype to listen to my successes and challenges and to give me toilet-plunging advice–finally in Colombia. Getting to merge my two worlds for a few weeks was both stressful and rewarding, stressful because of the 24/7, two-way translating, and rewarding because it gave me a chance to see my host country through fresh eyes.

In spite of Spirit Airlines, they made it to Cartagena (only a day late and baggage-less.) They flew in and we made it into the city just in time for sunset over the historic walled city, making the cathedral domes glow. As

My parents in my pueblo!
My parents in my pueblo!

we walked around the enchanted city, we saw a wedding procession with cumbia drums, and watched a mapale presentation in the park. My parents tried their first arepa con queso, then jugo de mango. 

When they AND their baggage both finally arrived in Puerto Colombia, I got to introduce them to my Colombian life. I took them to visit each of my favorite families, meeting the kids I’ve watched grow and hearing the stories the grandpas love to tell over and over again.

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My mamas, L to R: Rocio, Linda and Mildred
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My dads, Frank and Don (missing Mario, in Argentina!)
As my American parents were coming in to town, my Colombian mama was moving out, going to Argentina to be with her husband. Before she left, we had a goodbye dinner with all my “parents” present: my American parents (theonesthatbirthedme), my Colombian mama (missing my Argentine papa!) and my Colombian papa and Ecuadorian mama, all at one table! This kid felt pretty loved, all of them sharing stories and conspiring to get me married (this is a dangerous combination.) Family, in all forms and definitions, is one of the things that makes life most worth living.

I was able to introduce my parents to all aspects of my Peace Corps life, including classes at my school; my weekend class in Barranquilla; each of the families I’m closest to here in my town; the Peace Corps staff; other volunteers; my favorite Colombian foods.

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Mom getting to know some of my students
At my school, they sat in on a few of Ines’ and my 10th and 11th grade classes. That week, we were working on reading comprehension and test taking skills, but before class started, I introduced my parents and made the students ask questions in English. The best part was when they taught my dad some of the local slang–he was a hit!

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That finca life

The last few days of their visit, I took my parents to visit two different fincas, or farms in the hills near my town, farms owned by family members of my friends. There, we took advantage of the laid-back, simple lifestyle of drinking fresh mango juice, helping to cook over the fire, and sitting around telling stories in the darkness when the solar panel electricity runs out. Some of the most special memories in Colombia happen in these moments, away from the complicated mixture of society and instead captured one savored story at a time.

Their visit was well-timed in terms of my cultural integration cycle (the PC gives us this scarily-accurate graph of a PCV’s adaptability phases) and I felt privileged to be able to introduce my parents to the Colombia that I know so well now. It’s nice to be a “local”, to understand most jokes and know how to get around. Seeing my parents interact with my host gente made me proud of the people and places I’ve grown to love. This really is an incredible place, filled with great people, and seeing it through my parents’ eyes was just the perspective I needed.

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Happy to introduce my parents to the enchanting Cartagena de la India
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“I was mother and father to my kids” // “Yo fui padre y madre para mis hijos”

 

Elisa

Author’s note: Elisa is a very special person in my house here in Colombia. She and my host mom have known each other for 20 years, sharing a friendship in addition to an employer-housekeeper relationship. She is a positive and patient presence in our house, teaching me her delicious cooking techniques and telling stories about her grandchildren. She is a perfect exemplification of the beautiful strength and endurance of Colombian women. This is her story. 

I left my village, Momil, displaced by the injustice

Momil is a town in Cordoba province
Momil is a town in Cordoba province

and violence. They killed a lot, seizing peoples’ homes and terrorizing everyone. People lived in desperation.

Continue reading “I was mother and father to my kids” // “Yo fui padre y madre para mis hijos”

French Toast

For me, french toast is my daddy’s favorite, a special Sunday morning special, perhaps.

Mama cracks eggs into a bowl and whips them with milk and cinnamon for texture. She pulls slices of wholegrain bread out of their plastic bag and dips them into the egg mixture, first one side, then the other. The eggy liquid soaks into the spongy insides of the bread. Hiss straight into the hot pan, these slices bubble and brown around the edges.

If it’s someone’s birthday, these fluffy cakes get topped with fresh fruit and maple syrup. If we go to Denny’s, they even have powdered sugar. French toast is for celebrations.

 

For her, my Colombian friend, french toast was her daddy’s invention when he needed to get creative to feed the hungry kids. When the money didn’t quite stretch to feed the many mouths in his household, her dad would send a kid to the corner store for a bag of white rolls (15 cents each) and eggs (5 cents each).

He’d whisk the eggs with milk. The bread he’d pull apart into smaller pieces, sometimes rolling them into balls before bathing them in the eggs. Each little roll got tossed into the sizzling skillet, swimming with rich butter. When the fried balls browned, they got covered with more butter and cheese that melded to the bread.

Now, she makes it for her two boys. For her brother, french toast is a bad reminder of tough times, but for her, it’s a delicious adventure to be shared.

I Just Podcast-ed about Colombia and Culture

You know how you usually hate the sound of your own voice? Well, I conquered that fear recently and served as a guest on Walking the Earth podcast. Mike Margolies is a fellow traveler and has a great podcast about the travel lifestyle, doing podcasts with travelers and expats of all different walks of life. Each episode is an open conversation about traveling and wherever else the topic leads.

Our conversation, recorded about a month ago, is about anonymity, navigating cultural differences, the idea of “home” and the evolution of relationships due to technology.

Episode 65
Podcaster!

Please, check out the episode and show Walking the Earth some love! Enjoy!

Journey on,

Shanna

P.S. Remind me never to say “and stuff” again.

A Good Old-Fashioned Update

I’m wrapping up the school year and preparing to go home for Christmas, which means it’s about time for a standard-issue update post! Aka, what’s been happening lately, the current state of affairs and a preview of next year!

The past few months have been pretty hectic, both in the school and in my secondary projects (not to mention personal travel and a few sick days.) The first half of the school year was my chance to observe, learn the school culture, build relationships with the faculty and the students, and generally settle in. But the second half was go time!

Continue reading A Good Old-Fashioned Update

Happy birthday to my Daddy!

Today is my Daddy’s birthday and I’m very, very far away–too far away to send gifts, give hugs or bake blueberry cheesecake. (Daddy: IOU one blueberry cheesecake in two years! Maybe two by then.)

So let me tell you about my Daddy.

As I grow up and reflect on my decisions, personality traits and passions, I see more and more of my parents in me (I’m not going to admit to that very often!!) Sometimes I realize something about myself that I recognize because I’ve seen my dad or mom portray that trait. Daddy gave me my long legs and my love of hot beverages, among many other things! Here are some other things that this man has given me, whether genetically or characteristically.

A Love of Education (and a sponsorship thereof)

Both my parents raised me on a diet of books and intellectual curiosity. My daddy is truly a jack-of-all-trades–he knows the most interesting facts about the most interesting things, and he never stops learning, reading or theorizing.

As a result, I hold firm to the belief that my daddy can do anything–he’s a brilliant thinker who can fix anything (from cars to bookshelves); can read an incomprehensible physics lesson and understand how the world works; every tough question I have goes to him, and he’s the problem solver!

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He’s set the standards high for my husband

No wonder I’m so picky: the future man will have to be gentle AND strong, witty AND mechanical, soft-spoken AND social, supportive AND challenging, tall AND dark AND handsome 🙂

I feel so supported, encouraged, listened to, remembered and spoiled to death to have my daddy! He and my mama are strong, stubborn, brilliant, driven, wandering, loving people, and I hope I can follow the legacy (minus the trailer in the isolated Nevada mine thing–I’m way too extroverted for that.)

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A love of the open road

Some of my earliest memories involve Interstate 5 (hereafter referred to as “the 5”), bright headlights lighting up the dense night between Stockton and Kettleman City, the truck’s digital clock glowing green and daddy sipping his Diet Coke all the way to So Cal.

We moved all over the country when I was a kid, and I’ve inherited the same restlessness. I crave the open road, the chance to be flowing along the freeway or flying over oceans to a new adventure. My daddy and I both love to be the driver, maneuvering the truck/car/boat/trailer/etc. up, down and around the country. There’s just something about “going” that is calming, inspiring.

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Photography–an eye and a machine

Thanks to my daddy, I’ve been on camera all my life (this has led to incriminating evidence of my sassy childhood and regrettable evolution of bangs.) I remember getting my first camera for Christmas when I was a kid, and daddy excitedly introducing me to what would become one of my lifelong passions. Every Christmas since, cameras have played a part–we can discuss the merits of various lenses, polarizers, shooting angles, apertures, and subjects (but it is very clear that Daddy is the expert–he knows everything about cameras and landscape, I swear! When people ask me how I got into photography, I tell them that my dad should be a professional and we’ve been carting cameras around all my life!) Another memory, one of my favorite, is driving down the side of some deserted highway just before dusk. Suddenly, dad slammed on the brakes, leaped out of the truck, ran to the back to get his camera bag and took off racing through the knee high grass. His target? A dead tree silhouetted against one of the best sunsets imaginable. Now, I’m the one who slams on the brakes and runs to get my camera, then I say, “Daddy, what lighting settings should I use?”

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Labors of love through the USPS

The latest way that my daddy has been outstanding is by sending me care packages all the way here in Colombia. I can’t even begin to describe how thrilled I am every time I get a package, carefully wrapped and labeled, and filled to the brim with thoughtful, fitting and useful goodies–from dark chocolate to a portable speaker that I can use for my English classes. My entire family pitches in to these incredible packages, and I feel so loved, remembered, missed and understood when I open them! This transition to the Peace Corps has been a little more difficult emotionally than I anticipated, and I am so glad to have such a supportive and positive support system at home. In some ways, I feel like I’ve grown even closer to my family since I came here–even more than when I lived just a couple of states away. Daddy has spent I don’t know how much time or money in the post office, ensuring that they get my little boxes of home in a safe and timely manner!

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So to my Daddy: thank you for being my daddy and for giving me so many passions, ideas, experiences, character traits and inspirations. Thank you for my Crumley smile and for peanut butter and applesauce on toast; thank you for teaching me to be independent and inquisitive; thank you for that fettuccine alfredo in Seattle and for stuffing me in a canoe at age 2 weeks; thank you for challenging me to think and create, and for laughing at my jokes; thank you for fixing my cars and my homesickness; thank you for those two-squeeze hugs and emails!

Love you and happy birthday, Daddy Don!

Packing and Moral Support

So when people say, “oh, you’re an expert at packing by now!” they don’t realize that there’s an eleventh hour clause. That is, the presumed packing expertise doesn’t kick in until the very last minute, when you realize your flight is at 8 am instead of 11 am and your shoes weigh more than you thought. No matter how organized the packing progress begins, it always ends with stashing and cramming (the goal is to pack the random junk tightly enough into the little nooks and crannies that you don’t have to sit on the luggage to zip. That’s the goal.) Besides, how the heck does one pack for two years in a coastal tropical zone with monsoon seasons and occasional trips to the snowy mountains, with maybe some side trips to the Amazon jungle and Macchu Picchu? Hence the perpetual feeling I’m forgetting something.

My incredible support system showed up for the fun: my parents tuned in via Skype to provide moral support I didn’t realize I needed. It’s funny how parents know that stuff.  The most amazing part here is that they got on Skype at 4 am their time—and stayed with me until the end! My daddy is an incredible photographer, and he  had carefully wrapped all the batteries, chargers and lenses for me—including two chargers for every electronic, because last summer I left my only camera charger in the most remote village in Argentina…oops. Live and learn! My mama has patiently called pharmacies, insurance agencies, cell phone companies and banks to help me get everything done. I don’t know what I would do without these two.

While I rolled t-shirts and stuffed Ziploc bags full of vitamins and toothpaste, my dear, sweet, unstoppable aunt packed me a lunch. She artfully applied almond butter to celery sticks, carefully arranged a beautiful bunch of grapes, chose vegetables and nuts and packed it all so that it wouldn’t die in my backpack. By the end of the packing, she had fallen asleep on the couch with a carton of Portobello mushrooms on her lap (“what can I make with these for your lunch?”) and I had eaten half the gorgeous grape arrangement. I tried to herd her to bed, but she insisted on packing a pinch of salt in tin foil and hand wipes—and guess which were the best parts of my lunch today?

Now all that junk is down below (total weight: 92 pounds, including a load of granola bars and oreos), I’m free to drink airplane coffee and blog to the Weepies.

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I’m really curious about the other people in my PC group. They haven’t told us how many of us there are, or where we’re all from. I’m guessing there’s going to be a variety of backgrounds. Just among the five of us who already found each other via Facebook, we’re from both sides of the country and our degrees range from education to sociology. I wonder if most of our group is recently graduated, or if there will be people with master’s in education or even teaching careers under their belts. I wonder if anyone else is bringing a musical instrument. My ukulele sounds a lot better with something else to drown out my pickings! It’s a little bit like the first day of school. Will they like me? Will anyone sit with me at lunch? What if  I know that we all have some basic things in common already: we’re all pretty dedicated to our work, we’re all travelers, we’re all going to be teachers and we’re all brave enough to leave the U.S. for two years!

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I’m excited but I feel like I still need a bit of time—for what, I don’t know, but I don’t feel quite ready. I don’t have my big girl pants on…I’m more in the yoga pants stage this week.

Tonight, four of us get in at the same time, so we’re planning to meet in the baggage claim and catch a shuttle to our hotel. Tomorrow is a meet-and-greet and orientation, where we’ll introduce ourselves and talk about safety and security (again.) We’re off for the night, then we ship out Wednesday morning!

 

Journey on,

Shanna