Angelica Richardson is a Returned Practical English for Success (PES) volunteer who served in a pueblo in Magdalena, Colombia.

Resiliency in the pueblo

Throughout my service, I’ve had difficult moments like other volunteers. I found myself struggling to cope because I did not have the available coping options as I did in the States. This led me to search for answers. Though the difficult times hurt, they gave me an opportunity to learn more about myself and to grow. Below are the actions that I took to shine brightly when I was experiencing some darkness.

1. Integrate

I began paying close attention to activities that really made me happy. One happened to be integrating with Colombian counterparts. Every few days, I would go to a Colombian friend’s house to sit and talk. It was a great opportunity for me to practice my Spanish and be around genuine people. Sometimes I would get invited to lunch which ended with me getting my nails painted (Costeña style).

2. Dig deep into work

At one point I felt that I could do more for my community. I thought about my students and how I could help them be successful adults. I then realized that I could help prepare them for life after graduation. I decided to do more sessions in class that emphasized key values and how they are applicable to everyday life. In one session, I introduced students to the Girl Scout Law (Yes, I’m a Girl Scout Lifetime Member). I put aspects of the law onto pieces of paper and students had to choose one then act it out so that others could guess. This game of charades allowed students to have fun while encouraging them to do the right thing. When my students are having fun, I’m very happy!

3. Workout
When I became overweight from dealing with a lifestyle change (moving to Colombia). I was in a desolate space. At some point, I knew that I had to commit to working out. I gave myself a weekly minimum of 3 days to workout. Luckily with my determined personality, I was able to stick through long enough to see the changes manifest. Being confident in your looks changes not only how you feel but how others feel towards you.

4. Cook
It’s said that 80% of weight loss is done in the kitchen while the other 20% is done in the gym. Well I had to learn how to cook in the heat because I could not bear to continue to eat the food that was causing my weight gain (rice, juice, potatoes, etc.) I knew that I had to prepare my own food. I cooked eggs or oatmeal in the morning. Protein, salad, and a light starch (quinoa or cauliflower) for lunch. And protein with salad for dinner. I researched recipes to find creative ways to add some spice to my basic food plan. Learning how to cook so many healthy recipes and committing to it helped me to see the physical changes in my body thus leading to happier days.

5. Listen to Uplifting Music
Gospel Music from the 90’s has always been my jam. Whenever I’m down, I just go onto my Spotify playlist ‘My Help’ and listen to it for a few minutes. Always puts me in a better mood.

With all of that being said, know that hard times will come no matter what. But you have the choice to do something about it. Sometimes we learn the most about ourselves when we have to step outside of our comfort zone

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