I was born in Miami. The city where the heat is always on and people know how to party hard. Though I was born in this very vibrant “American” city this is not where my story starts. My story begins in another type of “American” city. In an America where the rest of the world has forgotten that it’s inhabitants are also part of the vast land that makes up the “New World”.
I grew up in a city whose horizon was beautifully constructed by the Andes Mountains and painted by the sun in colors that are too vivid for memory to blot out. I grew up in Bogotá, Colombia. I consider myself to be very fortunate, because I could have easily missed out on the beauty of my country’s mountains, its people’s laughter, the sound of the drum calling every hip to dance to the rhythm of cumbia and the accordion announcing the happy sound of vallenato. I very well could’ve missed out on a concrete jungle that can never be replicated anywhere in the world.
Growing up in Colombia was so much fun. My mom and I always spent the week-ends and holidays with my aunt, uncle and cousins. We spent Christmas in the beautiful Caribbean city of Cartagena de Indias, and week-ends in Paipa, Melgar, and Girardot. We had hot chocolate and arepas every time the rain would start pouring, drive out to San Jerónimo in Cajicá on a nice Saturday to eat ice cream and in August, during the windy season, we went to the park on Sundays to fly kytes. Colombia was true paradise for me.
Since a very young age I noticed that my family is passionate about travel, education, and the arts. I also noticed that my family has a tradition of passing down our history through story telling. These stories have inspired my cousins and I to travel and study.
Because we have this tradition and culture of travel imprinted in our way of life my mother decided that we would live Qutio, Ecuador, in late 1995. Quito was beautiful. I remember admiring its snow peaked mountains from the swings at school–this was my favorite part of each morning. We enjoying trips to “La Mitad del Mundo” (the Middle of the World) where we could actually claimed that we had stood on the bellybutton of the world and in two different hemispheres at the same time. We lived in wonderful Quito for 6 months before going back to Colombia and eventually the United States.
After a few more months we moved to ARKANSAS in March of 1996. I was eight and a half years old and the only English I knew was the following phrase: “Hi, how are you?” with a very heavy Colombian accent. Adjusting to life in AR was very difficult for me as people were quite racist. However, I still found a group of peers that I could call my friends.
Arkansas is the place where my mother met my step-dad and they had my brother and sister. Gorgeous twins that were born on my 12th birthday.
When I was 16 years old we moved to Tampa, Florida. I was so happy. I was attending a school that had students form all over the world; I felt welcome. Florida is also the place where I became an SDA Christian. I graduated at the age of 17 and was baptized that same month. Three months later I was off to Southern Adventist University.
During my time at Southern I decided that I would study abroad and chose France as my destination. From the minute I stepped foot in Europe I loved it and was eager to learn what it was to be European. My friends and I took every opportunity we could to travel and let the world change us.
After my year abroad I came back to Southern and graduated. I worked in the “real world” for a year and then decided to go back to France. This time I went to Paris as an “au pair” and lived with a family for eight months. I would not trade this experience for the world.
All of these experiences abroad have shaped me greatly. When I lived in Ecuador I learned to not just love Colombia, but the whole continent of South America. In Arkansas I learned that not everyone is accepting, but that I can do my part in showing the people around me that there is more to a person than meets the eye. In Florida I learned how diverse the United States can be and how I can actually be a part of that diversity. At Southern I learned to be Adventist. And in Europe I learned to love every moment.