Buenos Días Mi Gente! This post is brought to you from Guatemala City, where I will be spending the next ten weeks…well, nine now!
Please forgive me for my MONTH-LONG break in not posting…I was preparing to move my life to another country for the summer. But alas, I’m back and I’ve got more amazing stories on living this young life of mine after surviving the senselessness of terrorism!
LET’S GET TO CHATTING…
As many of you know (or will now read), I received an amazing fellowship opportunity last year that will lead me into a career in USAID’s Foreign Service upon graduation. However, with this new career path comes the potential to be sent to some dangerous countries. Even after all of the congratulations that I received in the receipt of such an amazing blessing, one of the number one questions that I received from friends and family after returning from thwarting a murder attempt from al-Qaeda was “Why would you ever want to go back abroad after what happened to you?”
While there are a million and one reasons why I continue to travel the world despite my harrowing experience, there are three explanations that truly explain my rationale to completely go against my own instincts to remain safe.
NUMBER 1: One bad experience is not indicative of all of the experiences I will have in traveling!
It is very important to recognize that there may always be uncertainty while traveling anywhere, not just internationally. If you’ve looked at the news lately, there seems to be more of a risk in a child heading to an American public school than me taking a 5-day vacation to Medellín. However, in my opinion, you gain much more than you lose in taking that risk. There is beauty in experiencing new cultures—food, language, historical sites. You have the potential to learn and grow from meeting people different from you. Traveling helps to broaden your worldview and inspires personal growth in thought—and this is something, quite frankly, that I’m not ready to forgo.
NUMBER 2: I believe in the power of cultural understanding and education through hands-on immersion!
In my opinion, one of the key reasons violence is so prevalent around the world and among human beings is because lack the ability to understand our respective differences. When you don’t understand someone’s actions or way of life, it is very easy to want to change it to what YOU find as acceptable.
It is very important for individuals around the world to learn more about others because knowledge helps develop both understanding and tolerance. When you are introduced to cultures/ethnicities different from your own, stereotypes that you once held, have the potential to dissipate. I am such a huge advocate on traveling—even if it’s just outside of your hometown to explore different cultures, make friends whom are different from you and have the tough conversations about ideologies that you may hold. Whether you take the steps to educate yourself about issues through a formalized advanced degree or inquiring about the nuances of someone’s culture, that is how we can begin to eradicate hate and move towards peace, compassion, and compromise.
My advice would be to anyone who is nervous about traveling, start doing a little research about where you travel. Look at the news, find blogs and reviews from individuals who have traveled to that country, and consider what you want from your own international experience!
NUMBER 3: Last but not least, I refuse to let my perpetrators win!
Britannica defines terrorism as “the systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective.” Through the intentional attacking of civilian locations, it is terrorists’ goal to limit your life—thus pushing you into the depths of solitude and distressed captivity.
But I refuse to grant their sadistic wish. They will not constantly control my mind, leaving me overly paranoid with no remnants of spontaneity. I will remember all of the positive memories of making shea butter in the community, having a 120-person community talk in a circle at 11PM while they asked all of the women why weren’t we married, and the singing of Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” as we bid farewell to the village. Those positive interactions are something that my attackers cannot take from me, and it is those memories that continue to fuel my passion to see the world!
So while I might occasionally be fearful to eat outside in a foreign country, or jump at the sound of glasses or plates dropping, I know the future experiences I will have in seeing the world will amount to so much more than the one bad day I had on January 15, 2016! So for now, you’ll continue to see me jet set across the globe, while eating questionable street food until the day I kick the bucket.
Thanks for reading guys 🙂 I’ll be coming at you with another blog post every Saturday morning, so make sure you tune in! Besitos, xoxoxo – La’Nita