ORiGiN: CLEVELAND, OH
SCHOOL: THE OHiO STATE UNiVERSiTY
Anila spent a month in Colombia this summer, and came back with a lifetime’s worth of memories. While she was there, she had the opportunity of meeting many of her family members for the first time. Her time in a different country, one where half of her family is from, has changed how she views many aspects of her life. As Anila shares her experience with DRiP, she urges all young people to try to visit at least one foreign country in their lifetime to gain knowledge about different countries and cultures.
DRiP: What was life like growing up in Akron for you?
AW: When my family first moved to Akron, we lived in Joy Park. We left all of our family in Cleveland and only got to see them on the weekends. My brother Anthony and I grew up playing basketball in the recreation center of Joy Park, and ever since then, sports became a huge part of my life. Things were hard financially, but my mom always found a way to provide for all of her children and for herself. It was pretty cool to live in Akron and make friends that eventually turned into family.
DRiP: You are part Colombian, so what differences are there between the American family and the Colombian family?
AW: The volume of my family is at least 10 time greater than that of an American family. Ha! The fun thing about the Colombian family would have to be the culture. The food, the language, and our customs are not an everyday American experience. The amount of pressure is also a lot greater than that of an American family. My brothers and I are only second generation kids in the US. We have a greater weight to bear to show our grandmother she made the right decision.
DRiP: When did you take your trip to Colombia and for how long?
AW: We left May 15th and stayed until June 15th.
DRiP: Where did you say while you were there?
AW: We landed in Medellin, Colombia, and we stayed in a city named El Poblado.
DRiP: What were some things that you saw and experienced there that you would never experience here?
AW: Honestly, I saw community. The people of Colombia work together and prosper through one another. My aunt, Elena, lives in a city called San Pio, and as she sat in the doorway of her apartment, people from the street would come and check on her to make sure she’d eaten or just to see if she was okay. The lady who lived above her would come down and sit with her all day and help her take care of her handicapped nephew without ever asking for anything in return. You don’t see that kind of selflessness in America.
DRiP: Did you visit any important landmarks?
AW: Absolutely! Two that stick out in my head are Pueblito Paisa and la Piedra Del Penol. Pueblito Paisa is a large pueblo (town) that has been turned into a museum that shows what pueblos in Colombia used to look like. If you go a little further up, you can see all of Medellin. Medellin is a city built in the valleys of mountains so you see enormous mountains all around you. The sight is unforgettable. La Piedra Del Penol is rumored to have been a giant meteor that fell from the sky that was never moved. It is now a monument with over 700 stairs leading to the top.
DRiP: How would you describe the scenery?
AW: Breathtaking. Everything around you is beautiful.
DRiP: What is the culture like?
–Food: Flavorful! There were so many new things I tried, Bandeja Paisa, Pandequeso, Mondongo, Sancocho, and so much more. Bandeja Paisa is a large plate of rice, beans, steak, avocado, chicaron, plantains, and an arepa. Colombians are famous for Arepas. Mondongo is tripe soup and sancocho is a soup made from anything you can find in the kitchen! Colombians use every part of an animal for meals.
–Music: Absolutely beautiful. The music was filled with guitars, and a lot of the music we listened to was more traditional.
-City life: The city we stayed in (El Poblado) resembled California! There were huge malls everywhere. And although the fashion was not as up to date as American fashion, the people wore regular clothes just like us.
DRiP: Did you learn anything about yourself while you were there?
AW: I learned that I was angry with my grandmother. All my life I never knew any of my family, because she swore she would never go back to Colombia because of how dangerous it was there. Colombia has changed so much she would hardly recognize her old life. I also learned that you need family. No matter how much people think they can do things on their own, family is honestly everything. Even though I didn’t know the family I visited personally, they welcomed me into their homes and took care of my every want and need without question. They didn’t need to say they loved me out of their mouth. I felt it with every hug or kiss on my cheek.
DRiP: Did you meet any family you never knew?
AW: The entire trip was spent meeting the family I always heard about but never met! It was hard to adapt to only speaking Spanish and a lot of visits were very quiet for me at first, but once I became more comfortable they couldn’t get me to stop talking! Everybody loved me even though I was quiet. And my family is hilarious from ages 5-85.
DRiP: Top 5 best things about living in Colombia?
- The weather! Perfect all the time.
- The culture and pride of their country.
- The welcoming feeling all around and true sense of community.
- The generosity.
DRiP: Do you think other young people should travel and learn different cultures?
AW: ABSOLUTEY. 100% yes. Young people need to see what life is like outside of the US to truly understand their privilege. In Colombia, some roads were still just dirt, and some homes didn’t have running water or lights. Not because they were cut off but because that’s just how they lived. The resources weren’t available. Also, there was no hot water or air conditioning in almost all of the homes.
DRiP: How do you think this experience has affected the way you view life?
AW: I look at life so much differently now. I have become much more grateful, not for material things, but for my relationships with people. I got to meet my family that I’ve always heard about. I only had a month to bask in the love they waited so long to give to me. To build such a strong relationship with the family you’ve always wanted, and then have to say goodbye without knowing when you’ll ever see them again breaks your heart. It makes me cherish the time I have with the people in my life now.
DRiP: Can you compare Akron and Colombia?
AW: “Este joven dia a dia se diespierta con el sueno de sur alguien en la gran ciudad.” This means,“This young man wakes up every day with the dream of being someone in the big city.”
DRiP: What makes you proud to be Colombian?
AW: The sight of the smile on my grandmother and grandfather’s face when I see them. To see them and know their story makes me the most proud Colombian you will ever meet.
DRiP: Do you plan on going back? Do you plan to travel to other countries?
AW: I’d love to go back every 2-3 years if possible! And of course. I am a huge culture fanatic, so I want to travel all over the world.
DRiP: Describe your experience in 3 words.
AW: Beautiful, Eye-opening, life-changing
DRiP: What is the most important/dear thing you took away from your time in Colombia?
AW: Love is priceless.
PHOTOGRAPHS OF ANiLA BY: KHRYSTiAN McCALiSTER
PHOTOGRAPHS OF COLOMBIA BY: ANiLA WALLACE