My name is Gabriela Mejía Caicedo and this year i had the privilege of being the only Colombian RYE in Poland, specifically from the world capital of Salsa, Cali. I came from what from my perspective is the most incredible place on Earth, and believe me, it is not necessary to travel around the world to feel it. Making the decision to go to an exchange, crossing the entire Atlantic ocean to leave what you have been used to all your live for a time that seem to be extensive, it is not a decision that in my case comes overnight and more when you know how much you fought for it, and this is what gives you the strenght to always keep going. This is the opportunity to challenge you as you have never done, of course you built a person before traveling, but, good or bad, you will have to rebuild it again and it will not always be easy, the good thing is that being irreplaceable the previous one, you will subtract and increase good things for yourself. It’s time to realize if you really built so much.
You will fly as much as your imagination desires, which is why my goals will be my greatest virtue. I chose Poland as my first option to carry out my cultural exchange because I have a great fascination for the history that the world has resorted and the transcendence that it has in our present and what will happen in our future, and a majority of the most important events for me happened here. I wanted to experience and even learn what it does mean to have your parents away, your friends, what does mean to fend for yourself, I want to learn as much as I can about everything here and also I wanted to know how much it was waiting outside for me, that multicultural world which need to be discovered to teach me and allow me to teach how much my country teaches me.
A new culture opened its magical doors to me on August 12, 2019 at 3:25 a.m., where my counselor, my YEO and my brothers would be receiving me. And this is what such as my family, that every day strives to make me become part of them, as this country have taught me:
Around the first days of May I received the news from my host sister that Krakow would be the city where I would make my exchange and I was definitely not mistaken when I felt the luckiest to be here, a city with a whole history to discover, the real capital of Poland.
In Colombia I live in an apartment where we do not have the privilege of having a garden as vast as in my host family, a garden that managed to catch me from the beginning, even on my second day here my mother made me participate in a contest to the best bouquet of flowers, i should say that I had never had such closeness to nature, since in my house only my grandmother is the one in charge of taking care of all these. And it was something so beautiful…That same day in the town center were settled a endless of stalls selling pierogi and my host mother made me try as many of them as she could, undoubtedly, one of my favourite things here also with cheese and potatoes.
I was kayaking with my host dad, a very relaxing activity, outside the city, where you only feel the nature.
I celebrated my 17 years on the first day of the meeting in Warsaw and when I arrived my family had prepared a great meal to celebrate it and they even gave me a special gift, which has been very useful here. After this, to make me feel at home, they organized a birthday celebration where I prepared something that I really like to eat in Colombia and all the exchangers came with their families to have a great time.
My host family gave me the opportunity to travel with my classroom to Gdanks, one of the most beautiful places I have seen in my life and where I would love to return before returning to my country, I am conquered by its beauty, its people, its museums, the tranquility that I felt when I walked it alone sometimes.
Then I will show some photos. It was a very interesting opportunity since in my school in Colombia we only had excursions like this once and only to celebrate that we had finished our school, so it was a completely different plan and a way to say goodbye.
I have had a splendid relationship with my family from outside the home and repeatedly I have gone to Czestochowa, in the first instance to know the city with my sister, her boyfriend and my cousins and in the others to family gatherings that have been beautiful. I met Jasna Góra.
When I was little, I lost my grandmother from Dad and I consider it has been one of the strongest blows I have ever had in my life, I feel so part of the family that feeling that I have my whole grandmothers again is an inexplicable feeling . I will leave a picture of the day I met her in person because once I achieved to talk to her by video call.
I have had the opportunity to participate in a guitar class, although I could not continue, and weave a bookmark in the company of my host mom since she knows that I like to do all kinds of things even if I don’t know how to do it very well and she always leads me to know and learn about as much as she can, same as my whole family.
In these past months I have had the opportunity to meet the president of the Rotary Foundation —-, which was very enriching and interesting since Rotary has been part of my daily life for almost 3 years, I made my presentation of Colombia and i cooked something typical of my country at home, although i am not so good at kitchen, although here I have learned some things, with the help of my two parents.
Since I was a child I have always had a special interest in the Holocaust, its significance and history, those events that should never be forgotten and Auschwitz-Birkenau for me was the clear proof of the facts, I studied, read and informed myself as much as I could and a few weeks ago I had the opportunity.
Neither the stories, the videos nor anything could even buy what I felt in this place, but I learned a lot and I will fight for that something like this not to have an opportunity to repeat it again.I also had the opportunity to go through what was the old Warsaw ghetto, the heroes square and the Kazimiersz tour, the Jewish quarter, where I resolved all my doubts and learned more than I imagined, without a doubt the best tour i have ever done in my life. I was in the Wieliczka salt mine, in the place with the best view of the city, I met wadowice and I met the house of Juan Pablo second, I was in Jasnnowo, I enjoyed the independence day of Poland, i was in Zakopane where i achieved one of my dreams of knowing the snow. I would also like to add that before I came, one of my dreams was riding the bike as much as I could and although my physical condition is not the best, my hostility strives to improve and I can not imagine how this makes me happy. My host dad strives for me to improve and you can’t imagine how this makes me happy.
And I had the great opportunity to be able to live a day of the saints or Zauski, one of the most important events during the year in Poland, a day in which families get together and together they will visit the different cemeteries where they are resting their loved ones decorate their graves with flowers and candles which help to dispel the shadows of the death. That day I visited with my family 4 different family homes that are not usually visited, I visited different cemeteries, attended a concert in which various songs were performed but could not be applauded for the respect that day should be had. It has really been one of the most incredible and interesting experiences that I have been able to live here, unlike the western culture of America, where the day of the dead and Halloween are celebrated with great joy and fun, in Poland the day of the saints is a day of respect, family and commemoration.
I have learned a lot from me in these three months, much about the potential that I have as a person and much of what I lack as well, I have learned to see with another look what is happening in the world and not only from my point of view, I have learned to appreciate the little gifts of life, those little details that bring so much happiness and that were previously unnoticed, I have overcome challenges or that is what I am … from cooking, how to learn to live with 20 degrees Celsius less than in my hometown (and that we go for more) and fears that in my comfort zone I would not have been able to and I have had a thousand chances to learn things for which I had not had the time or the opportunity before. It has been difficult months on many occasions, but every tear and despair has also been worthwhile, I have an eternal gratitude for my parents, who fought and continue to give me this opportunity that I saw impossible many times, to my host family who strive to make this my best experience, to this country that opened its doors to me and of Rotary that gives me the opportunity to fly, because everything you build here will take you forever with you wherever you go.