• Dustin C. Kinard

Ode to the People


Friends from around the world.

(Photo with the beautiful Silvia, both inside and out)

Rural Tamesis is a place that pushed me. As the only English-speaking, white American in the entire town, I stuck out thanks to my blue eyes and blonde hair. I couldn't be missed as a gringo. There were moments that I felt completely dumb, completely helpless, unable to order a meal- start to finish, or give a proper conversation to a passerby. However, in a situation where words are not enough, hugs and smiles tend to go a long way.

Part of traveling is being uncomfortable. The joy of being uncomfortable is that it makes you try new things, it allows you to push yourself, and teaches you valuable life lessons. You're able to see the world through others' eyes, and experience a lifestyle so different than your own. You meet people you would have never met before, and develop friendships all over the world. Love and acceptance is what makes the world go round, and being able to open yourself to someone so different, so distant, is really love at its grandest.

Colombia is the first place I've traveled where English isn't well known. Where telling a cab driver directions involves typing down an address in your phone and pointing to the screen. This journey, so far, has been the ultimate lesson in "actions speak louder than words." Unable to verbally communicate with most people- it's watching and focusing on their actions, their expressions, and their passions. In return, it means carefully and thoughtfully choosing how you react. It may be that you give each other gifts, or that you embrace each other strongly, or where games of charades show care, humor, and gratitude.

The people of Colombia have embraced me as their own, as the mute guy who never talks because he doesn't know much Spanish. Instead, I've learned to listen and observe. I've learned to smile. They have fed me, given me gifts, housed me, bought me drinks, guided me, and transported me. It's had to be one of the most hospitable environments I've ever encountered, and one of the most humbling. They never expect anything in return, and they give and give out of the goodness of their hearts. They attempt English phrases to connect with me, and we laugh at our small conversations.

Having to tell people goodbye is one of my worst traits. It's hard to create these meaningful connections with people who live so far away, because it means you ultimately have to go back home. It's wishing with your full being that you could talk to them and get to know them on a deeper level. But, in the short amount of time you're able to spend together, you learn so much about one another. I will forever be grateful for the love that is poured out on me when I travel, and I hope that ANY person visiting my home, and my country, will feel that same acceptance, love, and attention that I have received.

Our differences make us unique. They make us special and interesting. Our differences foster conversation, exploration, and stories. Our differences create colors and patterns, dialects and cultures. They mold mindsets and create growth. Differences ultimately create connections and thrust us forward as individuals. May differences never be a reason to exclude or abandon, to degrade or gain superiority. May our differences be the beauty that resonates from our being and creates the incredible backdrop for this complex and intriguing world in which we live.

It's back to Medellin for me, but thank you for the adventures, Tamesis!

Stopping for some drinks and snacks at a fonda after a long hike in the mountains with Alberto, Rodrigo, and Guillermo.

Exploring waterfalls with Juan Pablo


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