“But it turned out that she sent me far enough away and often enough that I became aware of what the vast world had to offer me even if my immediate world seemed so small.”
For as long as I can remember, it was my dream to pack all my things, leave home, and become an international woman of business. My humble beginnings as the youngest daughter of a broken home in Miami, Florida left plenty to be desired in the world.
Being a first generation child, both of my parents had an immense fear that I would fully assimilate into American culture and lose my Hispanic roots. At the same time, things at home got so out of hand that my mother just wanted me to have a break from the horrible things happening in our day-to-day life. So she sent me away. Away to Barranquilla, Colombia where I could reconnect to what home really was, away to Aruba to taste some of the finest chocolates a kid could hope for, away on a Bahamas cruise even if just for the weekend.
My mother was always fighting with my father throughout my childhood and sending me away was flat out an easy way for her to feel less guilty about having me witness that. I think she really was trying to climb out of a deep hole. She just wanted to send me away to a better place even if only for a little while. She certainly didn’t make the active choice to instil a lifelong dream of an international career into her youngest daughter. But it turned out that she sent me far enough away and often enough that I became aware of what the vast world had to offer me even if my immediate world seemed so small.
I had worked relentlessly for five years when faced with financial hardship often tied to receiving an education. I balanced completing a Bachelor in Business Administration simultaneously with managing a local multi-million dollar Williams-Sonoma store, independent catering gigs and overnight Burger King drive-thru shifts. I always knew I wanted an international lifestyle, but I had no clue how to begin in general, much less as a poor girl from Miami.
One night, I had the lucky fortune of venting to an amazing friend who suggested I apply for the Peace Corps. I dared to dream and stayed up all night filling out the application. Never in a thousand years would I have thought I was worthy enough to embark on an honourable adventure such as this. But within six months I was cleared for my service!
Much to my family’s dismay, I accepted the invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in none other than Colombia. Embarking on this 27-month service started a very important chapter in my life, one where I could be free of all existing external variables of my life.
Through this experience, I have been able to see my value as a global citizen—an identity that once caused me much struggle. I have been able to understand the lesson of humility, and not to hold anger in your heart when the world does damage to you.
The experience has also inspired me to try to understand my fellow Americans who serve with me abroad. In every sense of the word, I am American, but I have always lived in predominantly Hispanic/Latin regions of the world: Miami, Los Angeles, Colombia—and I am, for lack of a better word, ignorant when it comes to the American midwest, northwest, north-central, etc. As you might imagine, the demographic for the Peace Corps is primarily white. This is the first time I have had time to really get to know Americans (my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers) from other parts of the country and try to understand their point of view on political issues, ethnic traditions and all around general way of being. I think it is really important to say this because there is so much diversity in the USA, and it is a conversation that many Latinx citizens are scared to have.
Interacting with my co-workers who are serving alongside me interests me so much, even if they confuse and frustrate me more than I like to admit. My current boyfriend, whom I met while serving and hails from Buffalo, New York, has been open to discussions on many questions/curiosities I have about White American culture. I admit my own ignorance as part of the Latin community, who had to undeniably work much harder to achieve similar goals as my white counterparts. This new perspective had taught me to move past the frustration and hate I had in my heart for all the things I had to do to get to where I am and try to understand what I can do to move forward.
Most importantly, I have learned how to love others and how to love myself. I am enough to achieve my goals. I am enough to put others before me. I am enough of a woman to celebrate the parts of my culture that make me feel empowered and shed those that make me feel small.
Embarking on this trip to Colombia for 27 months is a memory that will consist of many small anecdotes: many of them adventurous, some of them frustrating, and all of which opened the door to who I really was and fought so hard to be all along.
**The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Colombian Government.**
Author - Yadezi Abreu
Latina, First Generation American, Chef, Business Woman and Peace Corps Volunteer (Not necessarily always in that order). You can read more about her here-> www.yadezi.wordpress.com
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