BUT FIRST. I'm going to get a bit sad and personal, in order to illustrate some really lovely points, so hold on.
I got divorced less than three months ago and I neither expected it nor understand exactly why it happened. I was supposed to be living and working in Texas by now so, as I'm sure you can imagine, I was tremendously unbalanced by this. BUT! I've never been one to just sit on my hands so I quickly resolved to try and use all that horrendous misery to power something productive and, well, here I am in Colombia having a fantastic time. A legitimately fantastic time, not a fake 'grin and bear it' situation. And I'll illustrate why it's all so great, soon enough.
I thought I might be able to ignore this unpleasant aspect of my life, but it is the catalyst for my being here, and I've found myself having to explain to people why exactly I a) have no future plans at all and b) why I keep saying "I'm here to start a new life." Like one of my new friends said to me recently, my divorce is never going to be something I look back on and think "Wow, I'm glad that happened" but I will be able to see it as a necessary stepping stone to something wonderful. And speaking of wonderful, let me tell you how brilliant Colombia is. LET ME.
1. THE COUNTRY IS GORGEOUS. Australia is beautiful and I don't think anywhere else can quite beat it, but Colombia is pretty much Another Australia so I think a tied first place isn't unreasonable. There are mountains everywhere. There are peaks upon peaks. Coffee farms and banana plantations sprout from the hillsides everywhere you look. And there are some really pretty birds and interesting bugs all over the place. Feast your eyes:
COR, LOOK AT ALL THAT STUFF!
2. THE PEOPLE ARE SUPER FRIENDLY. True story time: myself and two of my new friends (also teachers, whom I'm currently sharing a place with) visited a picturesque mountain town called Cordoba and walked up a mountain road. On the way back down a jeep pulled over (with two blokes in it) and they offered us a ride back down. My friends are American women in their early twenties so there was some hesitation, but since we outnumbered them we decided "Why not?"
Cue a lift back, not to the town, but our actual city (Armenia)! The driver, John Fabio, relished telling us how much he was enjoying learning English, and told me a few new words in Spanish (both my friends are fluent) and it was a thoroughly enjoyable hour's journey. My friends didn't feel unsafe at any point and, obviously, it provided us all with a really lovely experience to share.
Here's another! I visited a small cafe and had a really nice cappuccino. A chap sat nearby realised I was English and came over to talk to me. I said the coffee was very nice and he said the best way to truly savour the blend was by drinking an espresso - so he bought me one!
And one more! My friend (a male teacher) and I got lost on the way to our friends' apartment the other night, so my friend asked a group of young women if they knew where we needed to go. Not only did they know, but they offered to give us a lift! So there we were, crammed into a people carrier with seven women. I cannot imagine that happening anywhere else in the world. I cannot imagine any of the above situations happening anywhere else in the world.
3. THERE IS FOOD EVERYWHERE. People apparently just take it upon themselves to set up food stalls whenever and wherever they want. It's a health and safety nightmare, but it does mean you can grab a fresh fruit salad literally every fifty paces. It's BANANAS, ahh hahaha. There's a lady on my street who makes and sells arepas right next to her house everyday, for example. Food is also, generally speaking, pretty bloody cheap; you can get a decent lunch of rice, beans, egg, soup, meat and plantain for less than $5 AUD. nb. rice and beans are staples of the Colombian diet. I'm surprised I haven't farted anybody to death yet.
4. THE KIDS ARE ACE. I work with existing Colombian teachers to teach a bunch of English lessons for 9th, 10th and 11th graders and they are all super lovely. They do struggle with my accent compared to my other co-teachers (who are generally all American) because mine isn't straightforward 'British', but the upside to this is they love hearing me talk. There have been numerous occasions already where students grab me as I'm passing just so they can practice their English on me, or hang around after class to talk to me. It's nice that I can already see how my presence is making a positive difference, and from chatting to my fellow teachers they're experiencing similar situations.
Now, I'm not so starstruck by being involved in something new that I'm not aware that I'm bound to have less than stellar experiences, whether they're at school or just out and about, but it's hard to imagine right now as things are going great guns (sort-of; I do get an awful lot bugs in my room at night, arrgghh). Frankly, after going through what was without a doubt the worst experience of my life, and still dealing with my ex-wife's unpleasant behaviour, I can't possibly suffer anything else quite as negative. I'm now constantly surrounded by positive people, I feel appreciated, and we all share the same core desire to make the most of our lives by seeing and doing as much as possible (and help teach kids English at the same time).
I'm not going to end with some naff "life's too short" nonsense, but I am going to state how (before I was married) my personal motto was 'the future is not yet written' ie. it's a bit daft to plan for it when anything can happen. My life is a case in point. I made a ton of plans with my ex and, obviously, none of them can happen. So I'm back to taking each day as it comes and seeing where this current path I'm on leads me.
All I'll say is, if you've ever fancied doing something different, whether it's teaching/travelling or something else, give it a go. Don't let yourself get caught up in making excuses why you can't; make actual plans and put your money where your mouth is. If you truly do want to do it (whatever it is) then you can't fail, because by actually doing it in the first place you'll already have succeeded. If you want a less rosy outlook, think of it as "even if I don't end up enjoying it, or do it for very long, at least I gave it a shot, which is more than most people do."
ps. to end, here's my personal theme tune at the moment: