Arrival

Sybelle VanAntwerp is a Community Economic Development (CED) volunteer serving in Magdalena, Colombia.

Just get to your community, I tell myself.

First quietly, inside my head.

Yet as I continue my morning tasks, time seems to melt around me, becoming viscous. I wear it around my neck. My heart quickens.

I say it again – barely audible, a force of breath between my lips. I whisper, “Just get there.”

Pigs squeal on my back porch, desperate and hungry. My host mom rambles loudly in the kitchen, fussing over the stovetop as she prepares tinto and arepas for her grandsons.

I pull my jeans on, searching for longer socks that will protect my scarred, mosquito-bitten ankles. My mind wanders through my schedule for the day, vacillating wildly between action points on my to-do list. I take a breath.

Just get there reverberates against the clamor in my brain, my silent driver. It propels me out the door with my bags in tow. I make it to the side of the road to wait for my daily bus.

A hint of cool breeze brushes my face, a welcome contrast to the static air of my bedroom. I finally feel my heart slow. My civilian world is almost behind me.

I work with an indigenous community, the Arhuacos, just 15 minutes from where I live. Since starting my work, I’ve had many stressful mornings related to this commute. I wasn’t sure why, until it dawned on me; I’m not a person that likes transitions. I get stuck between moments.

Each day, I need to take care not to get “stuck” between my civilian comforts and the indigenous cultural wonders that lie just a buseta away.

Once I’m on the bus, relief sets in. This moment is my bridge; I cross it triumphantly.

As I walk down the worn embankment leading to the patio of the Arhuaco home, something changes. A tide of calm starts to ebb and flow, mirroring the constant ocean wind that nestles in the palm trees.

Azi me’zare bunsi minchanao, gwati bunsi?

They ask me how I felt waking up this morning and give me sweet coffee. We sit around quietly together, my Ikü family and I, the ones who chose to include me. Simply being in their presence has become a form of self-care.

They murmur softly to each other in their language, and the women sew woolen cross-shoulder bags. Suddenly, I have nowhere else to go, no other tasks to complete. With facial expressions and Spanish small talk, we coo at ever-present babies and gaze at the family’s clumsy chicks, sleeping puppies, and scraggly cats.

This has become my place of reset. It’s where I find my slowest heart each day. As I settle into the Arhuaco world, I relinquish control. I’ve arrived where I am supposed to be, and I am enveloped in the freeing fabric of their community.

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