Written by Francesca D’Arista, (Williams College), Student Correspondent for CET Colombia, Spring 2020
The night I flew to Colombia was both bittersweet and exhilarating. I realized I was an adult when I was the only one, between me and my mom, who could carry my luggage down my apartment stairs. We argued over it from the third floor, and it was the last quarrel we had before I moved to another continent.
“Mom, I’ll take it.”
“No, I can do it.”
“No, it’s too heavy. Let me.”
“No, you can just take one end, let’s walk it down together.”
“Mom, please, I can do it faster.”
And so the exchange went before I tug-of-warred the 50lb bag out of her hands and bustled down to the taxi. My mother sat next to me and soon confessed that her back was feeling strained after attempting to carry my luggage. It’s time to lift myself, I thought.
Our goodbye at the JFK terminal was a cycle of hugging tightly, pouting openly, taking a step away from each other, then reuniting to repeat the same sequence. But after many reassurances that I would text every day and video call when I could, I made my way past security, waving goodbye to my mom until she was out of sight. My heart could not decipher what it was pounding from.
About nine hours later, I woke up from the red-eye flight a couple thousand miles away from NYC. Cali’s heat reverberated through me as soon the plane’s wheels touched ground. New York City winter was peeled off as I removed my layers of long sleeves and let down my curly hair. The sun penetrated my skin and I thought of my mother. I wondered if this was how she felt as a child in Honduras – enwrapped in warmth and distant familiarity.
I met my fellow classmates and roommates and was greeted with nervous smiles and excited chatter. My English easily transitioned into Spanish as I bit into my first Colombian empanada. And once I sufficiently unpacked as much of home as I could, I slept a deep sleep on top of my bunk bed.
It was hard not waking up to my mom calling me a sleepyhead, or to the sound of my cat snoring beside me (yes, he snores). I realized that my mother would not be here to say goodbye to me before leaving for work; I would not be softly nudged at 5 a.m. and told, “Adios, Tesoro. Love you. You’ll probably still be asleep by the time I’m home!” I stared outside my window to see palm leaves shining in front of a turquoise pool instead of busy Queens traffic. I thought about how my mom never learned to swim. And despite how heavy my luggage was coming here, I thought about how much I wanted to bring back to her.