Tag Archives: Colombia

Time

I have always wanted to experiment with something new; something meaningful for my life, something that changes who I am.

Moises Gomez, Photo by Vanesa de la Cruz

My experience with the CCI has been more than amazing. The people, culture, and the continuous learning experiences have been part of this journey that I call “life”.

During this process, I have become more receptive to the details and important things in my life. Before, I thought that I was living, but, I was just in a rush to obtain the things that I wanted. I was always focused on my dreams, and never enjoyed the journey to obtain them.

When I let go of my anxiety about the future, in that moment, and just in that moment, I opened my eyes. Before, I couldn’t see the things that were around me, and I totally forgot to live my life, because I was always trying to achieve my dreams no matter at what cost.

Being here has made me realize that the most important thing is to not only just achieve a dream, but, to enjoy the journey. Doing what I love brings happiness to my life. As Steve Jobs said “your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do a great work is to love what you do”.

This program, that brought me outside of my comfort zone, took me from what I know to the unknown, and helped me to realize that dreams can be achieved. The process won’t be easy, and maybe there will be failures and doubts, but, at the end, what matters is not how fast we can achieve our goals, it’s about how we live during the journey.

Your time to live is limited, so don’t waste it. Our life is full of options; what happens today happens because of what we chose in the past.

Post written by Moises Gomez, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Colombia

Finding Inner Light

Namaste. Tu kaise hei? Me teek hu. Dhanyavaad.

So I had to learn how to say some basics in Hindi because it seems that, for almost everyone who meets me by the first time, I am Indian. People literally have come to me and said “Namaste,” or suddenly start speaking in Hindi. I usually said “Namaste” as well, but then I explain that I am not Indian, that I am Colombian. Then they apologize, but what they don’t understand is that there is nothing to apologize for. For me, it is a pleasure to be call Indian.

With this, I do not mean I am not proud of being Colombian. In fact, I am a proud Latina and I would not have wanted to be born anywhere else in the world. I just like the fact that people think I am Asian. By the way, Indian girls are beautiful, why would I be upset by that? Haha!!

Before coming to USA, I was already really interested in Indian culture, traditions, religion, movies and music. I remember taking dancing classes where the music was Indian and watching movies of this handsome guy who cooks delicious Indian dishes. I never thought I was going to meet real Indians, and that I was going to be taken as one.

Each October, the Indians and some Pakistanis Celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, one of their major festivals. Since my friends knew I love immersing in new cultures, they planned to invite me to go with them to the temple. I delightedly accepted, I love the idea of “the victory of light over darkness.” But, they not only took me to the temple, they also made me look just like one of them.
The preparations started about three hours early. I first did not understand why would it take that long, but then I came to know. Nilo, from North India, provided me the Sari, some Jewelry and a matching yellow Kum Kum (that I still have kept in a safe place). Nimmy, from South India, took me to her room and we started the complicated process or making me look as close as a real Indian. Some baby powder here and there, little perfume, a nice makeup and pink lips, smooth hair and all the jewelry on. The Sari was the hardest part; I will try to describe it in two words: safety pins. Nimmy spent like 12 safety pins in my Sari, but she is just so good at it that she made it look perfect. It had some folds in one of my shoulders that fell down to one of my hips. After the Sari, minimal retouches were needed and we were ready to go. The night before,
Nimmy applied Mehndi in one of my hands.

While Nimmy, Nilo and Naveen (who is from Pakistan), were helping me to get ready (or basically doing everything for me), I felt like I was part of something bigger. They made me feel like a part of their cultures, they taught me how to behave, how to move, how to act. They told me stories of their lives and their cultures while we were alone. I felt really close to them, and the feelings I experienced are hard to describe: I was just so special but so common at the same time.

Then, the guys came to pick the three of us up. I was concern about how people were going to react. What if they did not like me acting like one of them? My anxiety was getting bigger the closest we were to the temple. Once there, we removed our shoes at the entrance, washed our hands, and went inside. I never saw anything like that before. It was full of colors, people wearing beautiful and elaborated clothes, smells, and representations of different Gods.

My friends always indicated me how to act, how to pray and what to say to people. I think anybody noticed that I was not and Indian, thanks to my friend’s instructions. We went to each God, we prayed sometimes and we sat on the floor for a while. I was feeling delicate and protected. I was comfortable with myself. Indians and Pakistanis are friendly and kind, they gave us sweets and a lot of smiles.

Once in home, they cooked some Indian traditional food. I did not want to remove the Sari, I wanted to keep it on because I was feeling so different; out of my comfort zone, but I was enjoying it. Eventually I did, and the process of removing was almost as hard as putting it.

I am sure my Indian and Pakistani friends do not know yet how meaningful that experience was for me. It was a real immersion. I am glad they made me feel one of them, because sometimes is good to be someone else. I feel bless to be able to discover and experience all these different traditions, and to learn from them. If you are reading this guys, thank you! That day was unforgettable, you may not understand how much, but it was. You taught me how big and open-minded love and friendship can be. This festival truly brought lights to my life.

We do not have to forget who we were to learn who we are, or to leave an open door to who we would be. I am Colombian, I like to be Indian sometimes, and I have no idea what would I be tomorrow. But I am willing to discover it. And my mind is as open as my heart.

Post written by Vanesa de la Cruz, CCI participant at NOVA 2016-2017, Colombia

The Opportunity That Changed My Life!

jeidiGrowing up as a young girl it has been my lifelong dream to travel to the United States and experience other peoples culture and way of education. I did not know how or when it would happen and stop being a dream to become a reality. Luckily for me, the opportunity was presented to me at the least expected moment. God surprised me in a supernatural way. When I received the wonderful news, I was the happiest woman in the world. Every day before the trip what more I  did was look at pictures of where I would live and the college where I was going to study. You can imagine how happy I was.

Challenge In America
One of my biggest challenges in the US was using my English. I was not used to speaking English as I have always communicated in Spanish. My English was not very advanced and I was afraid to make mistakes when speaking, and that people did not understand me. But my English was not as bad as I thought, most people liked it. However, people were very patient to pay attention and help me when I needed. Over the months my English was getting better and better.

Special friendship I made
It would be hard to name a few because I consider I had a good relationship with all CCI participants in Virginia. But I would like to highlight  some people who were always with me and I could build a very strong bond of friendship. Sandra Appiah from Ghana, she was my sweet roommate. She never missed a smile on her face. Sandra always cared of me and I cared for her. Moreen Kajuju from Kenya, with her I had a very pleasant time. We used to go shopping together, cook together, travel together, and sometimes advise each other. The other one is Melisa Múnera from Colombia (Medellin). She is a very lovely person, she was always there for what I needed. That person which dried my tears when I passed difficult moments in my personal life.
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Housemates
I could not ask for more. I had the best housemates ever. I’m very glad to have known them and have had them as my sisters during my stay in the United States. Charmaine (South Africa), Yuli (Indonesia), Luiza (Brazil), Moreen (Kenya) and Sandra (Ghana). They are the best.

jeidi-roommates

My Favorite Part
Every single day during my stay in the States were my favorites. Knowing I was living and experiencing a completely different life from mine including seasons, new people, new places, new culture and costumes, it just made my days very specials. I have had the opportunity to experience fall, winter and spring which was amazing. It was my first time seeing the leaves fall from the trees, the snow fall from the sky decorating the streets and seeing flowers bloom with beautiful colors, it was very enriching for me. During my time there (January 1st) was my first time of  being in a beach. Yes, my first time I was in Siesta Beach, Florida.
Lastly, I can’t forget to tell about of one of my last trip with my CCI family. We went to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg and I broke the fear of being in a roller coaster for the first time. Those ones, really were two of my best experiences during my journey! I had many more but if I write them down here I wont finish.

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Having such an amazing opportunity to have these experiences not only with American culture but also with thirteen different cultures from all around the world changed my life. I am grateful to all CCI NOVA participants and the two excellent coordinators Jaclyn & Kelly. Without them my experience in the United States would not have been as wonderful and unforgettable as it was.

Post written by Yeidy Daniela Rivas Carabali, CCI Participant at NOVA 2015-2016, Colombia

The Walker Soul

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” Ibn Battuta. My name is Vanesa de la Cruz and I am a walker soul.

I feel amazed by meeting new people, finding new souls in the way, discovering beautiful -and not that beautiful- places, immersing in different cultures… I like to see the sky from a new land every day.

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Photo by Moises Gomez

Although I have lived my whole life in the same house in one of the
humblest neighborhoods of the city, I never let the money to stop me from making my dreams come true. And my dream has always been to travel all around the world. Now, I can say that I am not a citizen of Medellin, Colombia, because today I have decided to be a citizen of the world.

And traveling is not only about going to new places every day. Traveling is about meeting new people in each occasion you have: talking with a new person in the bus, listening to someone’s ideas, reading somebody’s words… It is about going to some different place every day -it can be a new neighborhood in your city or another country in the other side of the world-.

For me, traveling is about learning. Because the world is so big and full of people living different realities. It is about understanding other people’s traditions, cultures and behaviors. It is about seeing the beauty in the diversity. It is about having an open mind (the larger it is, the most knowledge and experiences you can keep), because close minds do not allow the wonder of the world to come in.

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Photo by Cessy Anakay

I just started a new journey, the biggest in my life until this moment. The 18th of July I moved to Virginia, United States, to study during 10 months in a Community College.

This opportunity is bigger than studying. I am living away from home, without my family, with people from 11 different countries of the world. I am not only learning about United States culture, but also about Pakistan, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Ghana, South Africa, Cote d’Ivore, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Yemen and Turkey.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the
religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” – James Michener. This is what I keep telling myself every day since I came here. Because I also came to learn about myself. I am discovering new version of me, new behaviors, passions and likes. And I am obtaining abilities and skills during this process. It is not only abou
t independence, it is about mutual understanding, about being in the other’s position, about respecting and accepting the difference and finding the beauty in the diversity. This is all about making a better world, full of love, understanding and colors.vanesa-blog-post-1

Until today, I already ate rice with my hands (as Indians, Pakistanis, Indonesians and Africans do), I discovered that I like spices, I danced the typical dance of every country in the program, I celebrated 4 different independences, and day after day, I keep learning about my friends (who I can call today family), their traditions, behaviors and ways to live and love. It has been only two months, but I already feel complete and blessed for this opportunity that is changing our lives and our ways to see the world, forever. And, of course, sometimes it is really hard to understand why some of them act in a certain way and why the others do not; why they think like that; why they do not understand me and my culture. But we are all working together to make this work and it is actually working.

The Community College Initiative Program is incredibly hard, but it is totally worth it.

This post written by Vanesa de la Cruz, CCI participant at NOVA, 2016-17, Colombia