This past week was my birthday and I was nervous. I really had no idea how the Colombians, that I have been living and working with for 7 months, would treat me. I knew I would get a hug and blessing, dios te bendiga, from everyone. However, I didn't realize I would get two surprise parties and a lunch. Students told me that were honored to be in my class, enjoyed getting to know a North American, and now see more opportunities for their futures. Even though Cartagena is a tourist city with many gringos, most residents have never spoken, let alone work, live, and eat with one.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I represent the US government, people, and attitudes whether I like it or not. It can be a tough task especially when I don't agree with many of our policies or even my fellow citizens. However, I do agree with one thing that the US has been doing well since its inception: providing opportunities. Since, most of the Colombians I meet will not be able to visit the US, it is my job to serve as a link to opportunity. It's not a hard task and often as simple as sending an email about a free course from the US Embassy or scheduling a field trip. I just need to make the connection.
At the parties with a tear in my eye, I thanked my students for their nice words. Their warmth and excitement gave me even more energy to not only represent the US, but bring the Land of Opportunity to Colombia.