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 →

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 →

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 →

Halfway There: Reflections

We are at the halfway point, the apex of this journey.  For three months we’ve been climbing up from our monolingual, baffled-by-everything starting point, and now we’re teetering at the top, starting the long slide toward our return to “normal” life.  In the grand tradition of Buzzfeed, where every article is “26 Male Celebs With... Continue Reading →

Cartagena and the Road Through Barranquilla

Cartagena is a strange stew -- one part Rodeo Drive, one part the seedier section of New Orleans, and one part quasi-third-world nation.  The juxtaposition is startling.  Painfully picturesque, but smelling vaguely of urine and sweat. Toothless men push sloshing handcarts of dodgy limeade past gorgeous arrays of high-end handicrafts gleaming behind spotless plate glass... Continue Reading →

A Stranger in a Foreign Land

For all of us who have lived outside our own culture whether by choice, by necessity or even by accident of birth, this: Everyone stares.  Your skin is too pink, or too brown.  Your hair is too bright, or too curly.  You are too tall, or too curvy, or too something.  Little kids squirm in... Continue Reading →

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