Culminate the Great(ness)

A recent post regarding Five More Things to Love About Living in Colombia, prompted several readers to ask about living abroad and maintaining a “normal” life away from your family, customs, country, and all that has been familiar for many years. With more happy days than sad, there are several methods which, when practiced regularly, often culminate into genuine satisfaction in living abroad.

1. Wake up wonderfully

It’s no secret that how we start our day often impacts how the rest of the day will go. One factor that may weigh in on the waking is what we wake up hearing… is it an offensive, beeping alarm? A loud bell or a shrill tone? Keep in mind, this is first sound your conscious mind hears after several hours at a much slower momentum.


daaaa I’m awake now.  photo ©

My iPhone alarm is set to Fonseca’s Beautiful Sunshine, with a second alarm, thirty minutes, set later to Jimmy Cliff’s I Can See Clearly Now. The logic is that if these two songs don’t put me in a good mood, the day is probably doomed; so far it’s working favorably. Fonseca’s song is a brilliant, tinny blend of guitar and accordion with the Bogota-born singer’s mesmerizing voice.  Jimmy Cliff’s song conveys his carefree spirit through poetic lyrics set to an upbeat tempo, triggering happy reminiscences of childhood days in Antigua, British West Indies.  Now, does picturing Caribbean blue seas and golden sunshine make the day seem doomed? Exactly.

Good Morning Sunshine. photo ©

Good Morning Sunshine. photo ©

2. Have Joy in Your Job

Another trick to happier days is discovering a joyful existence in what you already have, even at work. For some, it’s being personally satisfied with the job they do and relating well to those with whom they work. While it may not be their dream job or exactly what they would like to be doing, those who choose to do a job well and are actively engaged, and thankful to be employed, find that this is enough.

Enjoying gifts from my school on Dia de la Maestra

Enjoying gifts from my school on Dia de la Maestra

For others, this idea goes one step further by feeling present, that is, conscious and appreciated in the workplace. Even when the job is difficult, for example, as a teacher in a foreign country, how you choose to view the work can often make a world of difference in what you actually do, and naturally, in what comes as a result of this choice.


It’s all part of the job… Dia del Idioma at school, with award-winning Vallenato artist Dyonnel Velásquez and his band!

3. There’s No Place Like (My Temporary) Home

Finding solitude and comfort in the space where we live can have a tremendous impact on how we go about our days. If we aren’t living in a place we enjoy, or simply consider it comfortable or like being there, then how can we exist among others in communal places? Having lived for years outside of my native country, it’s apparent that one of the big secrets to staying happy is having a place to call home. Even if “home” is a rented apartment with a view of the ocean, a private room with a loving host family, or a sunlit studio hidden away near the airport, a familiar place to retreat to at the end of the day is critical to sustaining happiness.


UNO championship table under the mango tree on the patio

4. Make Mantras, Even by Mistake

Mantras seem to be everywhere these days, even when they are in disguise. Can a mantra be resembled as a meme? Not the goofy ones you see on 9gag, but maybe the deeper ones, or even just the text-on-images Instagram posts. Are they really that different? Some mantras are made by mistake, like a gift from an outside source asking for attention. “Una época para estrenar. Todo los días. Un mundo de alegría.” translates loosely to “A time to release. Everyday. A world of joy.” This was created from a department store flyer, while waiting for a laundry cycle to end, without knowing exactly what it meant: a happy accident, a Mantra by Mistake.


5. Create Reciprocation for Inspiration

Teachers are often recognized for their ability to inspire students as growing young adults – encouraging them to achieve more, or explore who they are and what they want. But what if the students, and the teaching, are the real inspiration: an inspiration that depends on reciprocation? Even when teaching high school feels really difficult, it seems beneficial to try and find the one Inspirational Moment of the Day.

11th grade girls portraying Gabriel Garcia Marquez and friends

11th grade students portraying Gabriel Garcia Marquez and friends for Dia del Idioma

Was it the chatty 7th grader who asked for ICT activities that are more “didactic”? Or perhaps the discovery that Flubaroo really can help manage 200 student grades in just a few mouse clicks. Whatever your vocation is, try to find something that gives you motivation to aspire for more, and thus, the opportunity to return the inspiration. Consider it a win-win for all, even if the game being played is UNO… for the 10th time this week.


Book reviews and cake… another day of inspiration!