Why My Daughter Decided to Move to Colombia

Why My Daughter Decided to Move to Colombia

I have long known that fear can worm its way into an equation, stopping a story at the point at which it enters, thereby derailing or hijacking an otherwise perfectly lovely time. The trick is to see past it or through it, so that it does not get in the way. Fear has its place, and is vital for self preservation at times, but I do not cotton with the anxiety it generates. I therefore have become quite skilled at finding effective ways to squeeze uncomfortable, fearful feelings into smaller packages, leaving more room for laughter, adventure, and love.

When our 23-year-old daughter made it clear that she was pursuing a position in Colombia with an organization that actively supports peace in areas of conflict, I’m sure my eyes grew wide and my pulse quickened and wanted to potentially live abroad. The Colombia I grew up hearing about sported drug cartels and violence and unpredictability.

Gale’s reassurance about the changes did little to erase the images that had taken root when I was her age. The website made it clear that this was an established organization with connections to better known groups (like the UN) and also that violence surrounding the job was more than a decade in the past. A decade to me reads like “last week” whereas to her it is long ago, back when she was a young teenager of thirteen.

Why My Daughter Decided to Move to Colombia
Colombian life

When our 23-year-old daughter made it clear that she was pursuing a position in Colombia with an organization that actively supports peace in areas of conflict, I’m sure my eyes grew wide and my pulse quickened.

I heard her excitement about how impressive the week of training was, how well thought out, executed and how helpful. I listened to the security measures that are now in place, and to her eagerness to be speaking Spanish all the time.

I considered the amount of walking she is be doing (45 minutes to the nearest town for things like groceries), her skill at mediation, even though that is not her role, and how much she is nurtured by being in a new culture.

Why My Daughter Decided to Move to Colombia
Horse in Colombia

Why My Daughter Decided to Move to Colombia

I reflected on our five mile walks together over these past couple of months, and understood how important this transition is for her. Having completed an excruciating year of graduate school, she was thirsty for something non-academic. Despite her passion for teaching, she could not settle into a position just yet, not with the world beckoning, inviting her to connect to people in a different way.

Residing in an intentionally peaceful community, her presence is a reminder of their connections to the outside world. Although she will be living in the northwestern corner of the country (a 12-16 hour bus ride from Bogota), she will have access to cell phones and internet (when they are working), and t-shirts that bear the name of the organization.

I know that she lives to immerse herself in a situation and live it fully, from the inside out.

When she walks with community members to their negotiations with the government or other groups, or to the hospital, she will be getting to know them, and they will be learning about her. She will see what they eat and how to prepare it, what their favorite dances are, and she will teach them songs to sing as a round and show them photos of where she lives here in the States. She will learn how to make puns in Spanish and how to spot a pig in the path when it is belly deep in mud and the same color. She will find out what is important to these people, what their dreams look like, and who is related to whom.

Why My Daughter Decided to Move to Colombia
My daughter, Gale

Spending a year in this community she will become a part of it, and they of her. I know that she lives to immerse herself in a situation and live it fully, from the inside out. We will look for her posts, her photographs and stories, what she is finding challenging and what surprises her most.

And I? I will be starting my internet search for flights to Bogota, and a quicker route than a 16-hour bus ride to her village from there. I can hardly wait.

About Meg Stafford

AvatarMeg Stafford is an award-winning author, and columnist for several newspapers, online magazines and blog sites. She brings over 30 years experience as a clinical social worker and training for organizational consulting to inform and expand her perspective about relationships, travel and small remarkable moments. Learn more about Meg by visiting her website.

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