Luxuries and Life Perspective
One of the difficult conversations I often have when coming back from any of my trips to Colombia is explaining to others why I would give up a week’s vacation time and spend nearly $2,000 to go do hard work, share a room with other women, and forego the luxuries we experience here in the United States every day.
When going to a foreign country, you never fully know what to expect. The first time I went to Colombia, I had seen photos of those who had gone before. I listened to stories of those who had already experienced the village of Brisas del Mar, and I had read facts about the small village. But none of those things did the experience justice. On my first trip, the team leaders asked me multiple times if my time there lived up to my expectations. My answer was that every single experience I was having far surpassed any idea my mind had even begun to form beforehand.
I chose to go, giving up the luxuries of life for a week. The team leaders warned me to be prepared for cold showers and little water. Beware of the fact that you don’t flush a toilet unless necessary (if you know what I mean). Be ready for tummy problems because food is different and the body might react negatively to the differences. Be ready to be exhausted.
Those statements didn’t adequately convey everything to me beforehand.
The water in Colombia is scarce- it’s a precious commodity. What we take for granted, they are incredibly grateful for every day. I learned to find gratitude for those same things.
When it came to showers, I confess to you that I am a typical North American. I like my showers very hot, and I like the pressure of the water to be hard. However, to me, a shower had never felt so good as it did there in Brisas del Mar in 2016.
I was caked in dirt and sweat after a hard day of working in the sun digging holes, and so a quick run of water over my skin (then turning off the water), lathering up my body in soap and trying to scrub a bit of the grit off my scalp (then turning the water back on and rinsing off) felt absolutely amazing.
I was grateful to have water. Period. I didn’t miss the hot temperature or the water pressure. I was thankful for having any water at all. Now, when I take showers, I don’t take the heat or the pressure for granted any longer. And I hope that sticks.
I became very thankful for clean drinking water at home. While the Colombians were so good and gracious to provide clean bottled water for us, the water they drink looks yellow to us. It’s not clean. Colombians drink it because they are accustomed to it. If we were to drink it, we would be sick for days. I know I take water for granted each day. We have it in our faucets or we have it in multiple variations of bottled water that line the store shelves for us to choose from. They have to go a distance to get their water, and it isn’t even clean. I live with it at my fingertips every day, everywhere I go. I am so lucky.
Water is also such a precious commodity that you don’t flush the toilets unless you have to…. and without my being descriptive here, hopefully you can follow that statement. It isn’t as gross as you may think… but maybe that’s because I learned how to live with it. The toilet paper goes in the trash rather than down the toilet. For Colombians, it’s a way of life. However, of course for us it’s an adjustment to remember not to flush or even not to put the toilet paper in the commode. When I shared this with many in my life, their nose wrinkled upon hearing that fact of my travel. To me, I understood it after I lived it for a week. The community of Brisas, amongst others, value the water, and do not flush until necessary.
Little Every Day Life Luxuries
I left behind all my electronics for the most part while in the village. Here at home, I listen to people around me every day complain because the internet is slow or their phone isn’t working right. I am guilty of complaining when I don’t have two monitors to use for work! It was SO good for me to be away from those devices for a little bit. It was freeing. There, I realized the beauty in technology not always being so available.
I connected more intimately with people because I didn’t have a phone or a text or an email constantly distracting me from being in the moment. I haven’t figured out how to do that better yet upon my return, but it’s one I am still working to incorporate as a lesson learned. It wasn’t going without; it was learning to truly live in the moment again- something we so easily miss here with all of our distractions.
I left my bed. Many of the people in Colombia don’t really have a bed.
I have food readily available, while they struggle to have enough to feed their families. The village has a food program for the school age children, but they don’t always have enough funding to keep it running strongly. I have never had to worry about my children going without food.
They have dirt roads, bumpy and dusty. We have paved roads, and complain about potholes….
The list goes on.
It’s all about perspective. Giving up my luxuries for one week became a privilege. It became a privilege which has led me to now, 4 years later, opening the foundation Footprints with Hope. That week of seeing life so differently transformed me so that I want to keep going back to help them have a more sustainable way of life, one which makes sense for their culture. Becoming immersed in their culture didn’t feel like a foreign world. Somehow, Colombia became home very quickly…. and those little everyday luxuries we have here faded into the background.
The Colombians taught me to appreciate water, food, a toilet that flushes, a warm bed, paved roads and cars to get us places, and technology to connect (and to blog!). Those are some of the lessons I want to hang onto and help others around me and around the world experience too, through Footprints with Hope. We all have issues we face on a daily basis, and I don’t minimize those, but I will say that perspective changes completely when you become immersed in the way another person lives on a daily basis.