I've been waiting for this adventure for a long time. And, for better or worse, the internet has provided information and images to fuel my imagination, to ignite my curiosity. I've saved dozens of images on my Pinterest board, have viewed countless videos, have read through blogs, wandered through travel guides, and trudged through history books. I have, indeed, done some reclining-chair-travel to Colombia and back.
Am I over prepared? Have I knocked out the mystery of what is to come?
Three summers ago, Sarah and I traveled to China. I'd seen countless images of the Terra Cotta Warriors. I'd seen videos by PBS, BBC, Discovery Channel, History Channel, and National Geographic. I read (and followed) the advice from the Lonely Planet guide to arrive early and go directly to Pit 1 before the rush of tourists arrived. I knew what to expect. And the tears still sprung forth when we entered and saw this...
Seeing it in person, so close, was stunningly awesome. I love that memory.
So, yes, I can imagine, what it will be like to see the Caribbean Sea from the shores of Cartagena. I anticipate the taste of my first arepa and the view of Bogotá from Monserrate. But there's thump-of-the-heart feelings that come from gazing upon these wonders with my own eyes. The tastes. Smells. Those feelings of awe, curiosity, joy and adventure that bubble from deep within.
I'm most excited about meeting people. I'll have the good fortune of meeting teachers and students and working with my fellow TGCers from across the US along with Colombians. Aside from smiling at the thought of smiling with the people I will meet, I can only begin to imagine the rich encounters I will have. Experiences from TGCers who have traveled before our group have certainly issued glimpses of Extraordinary, and I understand that Extraordinary cannot be manufactured; it is authentic. We had many experiences like this in China including one special day in Datong.
We had hired a driver for the day to take us to several sights in the area. He was kind, helpful, entertaining, and very protective of Sarah. He provided an umbrella for us when we arrived at the Yungang Grottoes and he drove into a corn field so I could get this shot of "Buddha Mountain."
I really wanted to go on the coal mine tour in Datong, but the last tour had already left when we arrived in the late afternoon (hindsight-is-20/20 realization -- we had no business going on a coal mine tour! Coal mine disasters are prevalent in Datong!). Our driver saw my disappointment and rushed off to talk to Somebody. Before we knew it, Sarah and I were being escorted across the campus of the coal mine and refinery until we entered a building with a marbled foyer with photos of dignitaries hanging on the walls. At the end of the hall was an elevator, from which, the coal miners returned to the light from the depths of the earth:
We had been taken to see the coal miners come out of the mine. We stood there - Sarah and I - smiling waving like maniacs at these gentlemen (some waved back and, I imagine, some thought we were crazed.) This gesture -- obtaining permission to take us to this point to make up for us not being able to take the tour -- that was Extraordinary. I was moved to tears.
It's experiences like this - gems that I cannot anticipate - that I look forward to the most on this trip to Colombia.
In one week, I'll be there, in Bogotá, at nearly 9,000 feet above sea level.
This blog is not an official U.S. Department of State blog. The views and information presented are the grantee's own and do not represent the Teachers for Global Classrooms Program, IREX, or the U.S. Department of State.
Sign up for a personalized digital postcard here!