Cuba Libre

“How was Cuba?” they ask. “What was it like?” And I struggle because I can’t distill the trip into a brief and pithy summary suitable for cocktail conversation or breakroom chitchat. Because now, even a few weeks later, Cuba is still a mosaic of discrete moments and images that I cannot make a story out... Continue Reading →

Flinging Yourself In

The minibus driver pulled out without looking, just as my twelve-year-old passed on her bike. Two taxis, caught behind her, began call-and-response honking. She sped up, but so did the minibus driver, drag-racing my little girl on the traffic-choked streets of this dusty Colombian town. My husband and I had assumed the English-speaking bike tour... Continue Reading →

No One Told the Bakeries

Communism had fallen, but no one told the bakeries. It was the early, hopeful years of Yeltsin (before he devolved into a bloated drunk) and the news agencies were reporting that Russia was flowering, backed by B-roll footage of the first McDonalds near Red Square. I was 21, my first passport stiff in my money... Continue Reading →

Worst-Case Scenarios

In honor of the one(ish) year anniversary of Eric's free-diving accident, here is the full(er) story. I am in a taxi on my way to Hospital Mar Caribe.  It took longer than usual to find a taxi because it’s Good Friday, which appears to be a shut-the-city-down kind of holiday in Colombia.  The beaches have... Continue Reading →

Some Advice to My Past Self

Dear January 1st Becca, Tomorrow you leave on a six-month trip to Colombia.  I know you are both heart-poundingly excited and sleepless with anxiety.  What will Colombia be like?  How will traveling as a family go?  Will you be able to write?  You have conflicting visions of how this crazy plan will go down. In... Continue Reading →

Old Life, New Eyes

“As surely as there is a voyage away, there is a journey home.”  -- John Kabat-Zinn One of my most vivid memories of my college summer in Russia didn't occur in Russia at all, but instead on my first day back in the United States.  I had flown straight back to my unfurnished apartment and... Continue Reading →

Cue the Llamas: The Inca Trail

The Inca Trail is not for wimps.  Forty-four kilometers long -- that’s a marathon -- it begins at 8650 feet, climbs over two 13,000-foot-plus passes and arrives four days later in Machu Picchu.  And those Incas didn’t do switchbacks.  No, those bad-ass mo-fos saw a cliff face and said, “You know what sounds fun?  Let’s build... Continue Reading →

The Quest for Culinary Diversity: Island, City, Mountains

The food in Santa Marta is delicious: fresh, accessible, flavorful.  But it's also a bit monotonous, an endless parade of fried fish, grilled chicken, patacon [plantain pancake] and arroz con coco [coconut rice, which locals in their charming, final-syllable-swallowing accent call arro-co-co].  Of course the universe of fruits is vast, with mangoes, papayas, avocados, lulos, guanabana, guayaba and coconuts,... Continue Reading →

Tidbits of Everyday Colombian Life

Sometimes, it isn't the famous sites or grand adventures that highlight the differences in culture, but the little, everyday things.  Here is a loosely curated list of what's different in Colombia.  Some good or fun ideas, some not-so-good, and some that continue -- even after almost five months -- to completely baffle us... We could learn from this!... Continue Reading →

The Season of Invitados

For almost three months, we were a self-sufficient four-person unit: Karpinskis vs. Colombia.  We ate, slept, studied, shopped, cooked, cleaned, watched Modern Family, did everything as a foursome.  It was both awesome -- we could complete each other’s thoughts! -- and occasionally painful -- we could complete each other’s thoughts!  Then late March and Eric’s... Continue Reading →

The Doldrums, plus Poems of Homesickness

As we tried to channel our longing for home in a productive manner, poems happened. TWO-VOICE POEM by Retta San Diego                                                   Both                                               Santa Marta You grew up with me You’re experiencing with me I am newfangled I am native I am here, I am waiting I can teach you I can comfort you I can... Continue Reading →

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