In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are the top ten things I am thankful for while living in Cartagena…
10. Skin Cancer- Even though my skin is turning into leather and white spots are forming on my skin, I still love the happiness and energy the sun gives me.
9. My Students- Despite their erratic work ethic, they always have a smile on their faces and never complain if I forget something or have to cancel class.
8. The Ex-Pats- There is a good group of Peace Corps Volunteers, language teachers, and FBI´s most wanted that create a lively, intellectual and not- so- wholesome atmosphere.
7. The Lunch Ladies – Every day, I eat lunch at the university and barely indicate what I want to eat. They know that I am laying off the rice and beef soup, prefer lentils to beans and to forget the fish on Fridays.
6. Personal Body Guards- Outside my house there are some great men that I know would help me in an emergency or robbery. They are the doormen of my building, self-employed parking lot attendants, car washer kid, and fresh orange juice maker.
5. Photocopy Dude- As a teacher, I need to print and photocopy almost every day. In Colombia, you cannot do it yourself like at Kinko´s so, I am lucky to have the best printer, photocopier, and stapler dude in town. He always smiles and gets the job done quickly. No more screaming “paper jam” in frustration at the crappy school copier.
4. High Probability of Smartphone Theft- Since, it is too dangerous to have a fancy cell phone, I stay unplugged and stick to calls and texts. I don´t check Facebook at the bar… only at work.
3. French Expressions of Dislike – I have a wonderful French roommate who has the best expressions, noises, and faces to express her dislike of something. This is the only French I learned all year: merde, putain, bordel, bordel de merde, fait chier, enfoiré, sa mère, salope, and grosse pute.
2. Food Sharing- There have been so many times I have been stuck in a long meeting starving to death. Luckily, Colombians always share their snacks and pass me peanuts, chips, and crackers as our boss drones on.
1. Freedom to Leave- Most Colombians cannot travel due to economic and visa restrictions. I feel very lucky to be able to go home at a moment´s notice, experiencing different worlds in the same day. Hopefully, the archaic borders will disappear and we all can travel freely, finally getting to know the people we judge, but only see on CNN.