Waiting is hard. Waiting is a special skill- it takes patience, understanding, and time. I am going to be honest and say that I am not a person that likes to wait. It is something that I have always struggled with and continue to struggle with. However, this year during my time with Seed, I have gained great insight into the importance and value of waiting.
This first year of Seed was a challenging, beautiful, and rewarding experience. When I reflect on my first month living in my community, I am a bit stunned to see how far I have come. My first month was full of anxiety, frustrations, language barrier difficulties, challenges handling cultural differences, and at many times I questioned what in the world I was doing in Pichilin (with a few moments of wanting to give up). However, I was able to overcome a lot of these things by going through a lengthy period and process of waiting.
When I arrived in Pichilin I wanted to do things quickly. I wanted to understand everything right away, to learn the language as quickly as possible, to learn all the community processes in Pichilin, to understand the cultural customs and the social dynamic. On some level I think I really thought I could understand and do all of these things in 1-2 months. I thought that because I came to Colombia with an intermediate level of Spanish and had a lot of exposure to different cultures that I would be able to accomplish these things in a short time. I think I thought that these things were relatively basic , simple and easy. I was not prepared to accept that this is not the case at all and that this was one of the most challenging experiences I have faced in my life.
When 2 months rolled around I still did not have a grasp on any of these things- I don’t think I had even hit the tip of the iceberg on any of them. I still could not have conversations with people, I could not express myself, I was having trouble relating with people and making friends, I did not understand my role or purpose in the community and I still had so much to learn. In general, I was frustrated, tired and confused. I was hit with the reality that these things take time and patience. So, I continued another 4 months of waiting and trying to understand my community and all the beautiful complexities of it.
At the end of the 4 months, I started to see many changes. I began to notice that I felt more integrated in the community, that I was making friends, that I could carry on conversations with people and that, for the most part, understood what was happening with the community processes in Pichilin. These changes happened because I decided to change my perspective, slow down, take one day at a time, and let the community teach me what I needed to learn as we did life together. Each day, community members taught me things as we found ourselves in different situations and contexts that allowed for various learning opportunities, for me to learn what I needed too. However, this was a process that took patience and time and it did not happen overnight. Personally, it was truly a daily personal fight to continue working through my frustrations and to want to start a new day in Pichilin.
My greatest takeaway from my first year in Seed is when we want to do things quickly we miss out on the beautiful, challenging and important moments that make us better people. For example, when I first arrived in Pichilin I visited the leaders in the community and asked them every single question I had about everything because I wanted to understand everything right away. However, what I found more effective for understanding things was slowly visiting every person in my community at their houses, sitting for hours with them chatting, without an agenda and drinking tinto (café). These visits took a lot of my time and energy. Due to the language barrier, a simple conversation took forever, and I had to learn what we could talk about, what questions to ask, what was culturally appropriate to do and many more things. It took along time for these visits to be comfortable, not awkward, and for me not to be frustrated with the language barrier. However, these moments in the end, were when I learned the most, when I invested the time to just sit, listen, and learn from the people in Pichilin.
This first year of Seed was absolutely full of learning opportunities. I am very grateful for every experience I have had, person I met, and everything I learned. I look forward to this next year with much anticipation.