by Christopher Gordon
This is our fourth installment of the “Never Going Home” series that highlights Peace Corps volunteers who have served in Colombia and decided to make it their home. “Turning Points,” was written by Peace Corps Colombia volunteer Margarita Sorock, who began her service in 1964.
The turning point in my life came in 1964, right after I graduated from college at 21. I joined the Peace Corps and came to Colombia. It was a time of lots of “firsts” for me: first plane trip and first dormitory living (in Peace Corps training) to mention the newest experiences. I worked in two different places in the Department of Huila (a year in each), south of Bogotá, with warm climates and warmer people. Those two years changed my life forever. In 1981 I returned to Colombia to live, this time on the Caribbean coast. The university opened my mind to a big world and Colombia and the Peace Corps allowed me to experience some of it.
I had success early in my working career. After a year of getting to know the ropes in Colombia, I was able to be effective. The first year taught me about new people, their language and their culture. I had a lot to learn, since I was working in a program that had the broadest of definitions: community development. It was a program for which I had no preparation whatsoever. It was frustrating in many ways—money we thought we were raising for neighborhood projects often ended up in the pockets of local leaders—but very realistic. In my second year, in a more rural setting, I worked with community groups to found a secondary school for women, both younger and older, to help them acquire skills that would lead to income and independence. It was an idea whose time had come. Since then, I am told the school has grown and prospered.
Since 1981 I have been living in Cartagena, a world heritage city on Colombia´s Caribbean coast. Although I expected to become involved in community development, life turns funny corners. To my surprise, I have found myself in cultural and academic settings. My work is related to language—spoken, written, and translated. It is very varied, including everything from Millennium Development Goals to authors and artists of the Caribbean. I am constantly reinventing myself and I have the freedom and support to be able to do so.
In 2005 I assumed another of life´s challenges, one I was preparing for all my life. I brought my younger brother to live with me. He has multiple handicaps—some from childhood and others more recent—and I always knew he would be my responsibility someday. The experience has helped me to learn and grow, to have patience and compassion (but not as often as I would like). My brother is a good companion and my life would never be the same without him. He is an example of ¨how to make lemonade out of the lemon.”
So, I conclude with a big HOLA to all. “Never going home” is not my situation. I am home and I am delighted to have been able to make that choice. Estoy a sus órdenes.