Colombia #2: Creating Lasting Memories

Lauren ’24 and Xavier ’24, reflect on the importance of taking risks, whether it be from trying new foods or striking up a casual conversation, it is “quintessential to our growth as a group and as individuals.”

After a long day of travel, we made it safely to the hotel and enjoyed take out from a Lebanese restaurant. Being satisfied and exhausted, we all had no problem taking a warm shower and finding comfort in our beds.

The morning was slightly more confusing and chaotic, as we were all learning to navigate life without a phone alarm, the weather app, and a contact to others in the group (as well all forgot what rooms people were staying in). This chaos quickly dissipated as a result of the crisp taste of mango juice and fresh Colombian coffee; we were prepared for the day. Our learning started in a small, but homey meeting room with our Envoys guides, Luisa María y Jerónimo. They gave us each three pieces of string, yellow, red, and blue, and as our group made this bracelet, we had to work together to learn the craft. I will admit, I had to restart about six times, but luckily my peers helped me navigate the loops and swoops and tugs of the craft. As we scrupulously tied out knots and figured out the patterns, we were asked to reflect and set intentions for the trip. With the group we shared what we will individually bring each day, some fears we may have, and what we want to get out of this trip. Tying one knot after another I was able to reflect, and I realized that the bracelet not only symbolized the Colombian flag and culture, but it also was a reminder of our goals, strengths, and to bring our full selves to each activity. After the bracelet was fastened securely on our wrists, we were encouraged to keep the long blue and red strings dangling instead of cutting them off. Throughout the day these strings were dragged through our food, new dishes of ajiaco and cazuela they got smoothed in sunscreen, and touched the hands of local people who eagerly welcomed us into their country. Although annoying at first, the strings were not only meant to get in the way; Jerónimo asked us to tie a new knot in the dangling strings each time we had a new experience or memory that we wanted to always hold with us.

I tied my first knot fairly early in the day. After our introduction to our Spanish teacher from Colombia, Margarita, we took a walk in the streets of North Bogota. Along the way we walked through a park and saw children our age living out their everyday lives, but playing basketball was not our final destination. We made our way to a local market where I was able to purchase mango azúcar. Although these new and delicious flavors deserve a knot of their own, I tied my first knot because of the conversations I had with the workers in the market. The simple exchange with the employee my age started from asking what shade the mango is most ripe, but quickly turned into a casual conversation. In this moment I realized that no matter what exciting and new activity we do or the destinations we end up in, my fondest memories will come from everyday conversations with local people. I confirmed this realization later in the day when we were in el Centro, on a graffiti tour. In the streets and in the plaza, I was able to talk to a few local people. These spontaneous conversations not only allowed me to practice my Spanish, but I was able to see a portion of the culture that you can’t see just on tours. Tying this knot taught me to bring my full self to every conversation and to not be afraid to start a new conversation. Reflecting on the day, my knot reminds me I will learn the most and grow exponentially through conversations and learning about the lives of others.

-Lauren ’24

Coming to Colombia, I knew I’d have a cultural advantage to the group. As we explored the city a sense of knowledge rushed over me, I could vividly remember the snacks, fruits, drinks, and slang I grew up around. Once I was here again, now with my friends, I was determined to make them love Colombia as much as I did. I tied my first knot on my bracelet after the conclusion of the first day. Only after I taught Bonnie, Mariam, and Alice common soda brands like Colombiana and Postobon, taught Lauren and Adaugo what a bocadillo was, and persuaded the group to have mid-day coffees at lunch, did I think I earned it. I may not be a tour guide, but being able to make the group take risks and try new things made me feel our unity together. Even the non-Xavier induced risks people took and chose to share with me helped further my sense of Colombian pride. Seeing my group mates branch out and tell me to try new foods they got brought me immense joy.

Our first day was filled with new exchanges, delicious food, language immersions, and challenges that were quintessential to our growth as a group and as individuals.
On to day two…

-Xavier  ’24