Category Archives: Experiencing Colombia

Stories from living in Colombia during May of 2017.

An Unfortunate End to My Colombia Trip

As of May 24th:

To my (extreme) dismay, for the first time in my life I may actually have to leave a trip early due to a medical illness  After an amazing weekend in Cartagena, I unfortunately contracted a pretty severe ear infection where I lost the hearing in my left ear, which led to a series of visits to Clinica del Country (one of the best hospitals in Colombia) and more visits to two different specialists. We were hoping that after a procedure with the second specialist, my ear infection would get better – and it did, for a short period of time before I caught a pretty terrible cold that now is giving me inner-ear vertigo while my original ear infection is starting to get worse again

Summary: Unfortunately I won’t be making it to NYC for the UN conference I had planned on attending, and it’s very possible I will have to fly back to the US this weekend… Not the best outcome (I was really looking forward to spending my 24th birthday in Cartagena!) but like I always say: ‘Nothing is good or bad, as long as there is a story’ and ya’ll – I got some INSANE stories out of this whole experience.

As of May 25th:


When I was treated by the specialist on Monday, we agreed that my hearing should return to normal by Friday. Unfortunately, it is thursday night and my hearing is still impaired… So today I made the difficult decision to return back to the US tomorrow to seek further medical treatment with the doctor who has previously treated my ear infections. Which really sucks because I’ve barely been able to see Colombia

I would like to point out two things though. First of all – I am forever grateful to the amazing doctors here in Colombia who have gone above and beyond to help me (one doctor even opened his office at 9am on a Sunday just for me; you would never see a doctor in the US or Canada do that for someone  ) It is a common misconception that developing nations have poor medical systems, and that is true in some countries, but Colombia is not one of them.

Second – I really don’t want people to think that because I got sick somehow Colombia is a dirty or dangerous country. Honestly everyone I have met here has been super kind, and this is a freak infection (if anything you could say the Hilton is a dirty place, since I got an infection at one of their resorts. But again, it was a freak infection.) And once I am well (and have the money to return), I am definitely coming back to explore more! Everyone else should too – this country is freakin’ beautiful.

Summary: My trip is getting cut short… but the Colombian doctors who have treated me have been incredible, the people here are amazing, and everyone should visit Colombia! I definitely will again!


Because Fear of the Unknown Affects Us All

To be honest, before every long trip (and even some short trips) that I’ve taken, I get a little nervous. My heart starts fluttering – have I made enough plans to make sure I have a smooth trip? Is it going to go as planned? Will I like it? Will it be worth it? I’m traveling to a completely unknown area, and I am all alone, is this a good idea? Should I just cancel? If my flight gets delayed or cancelled, is it a blessing in disguise? Should I just stay home?

These thoughts have consumed my mind before every trip I have taken; when I was 14, flying off to 8 days in Japan with my middle school, I was so nervous I thought I would do something terrible wrong and cause an international incident. No joke. My mother spent hours calming my down from a full-out, crying-so-hard-I-couldn’t-speak freak out. But, just like mom said, I did not actually cause an international incident (would that even have been possible? Probably not).

The thoughts happened when I flew to Greece and Italy a few years later, and when I went to Australia the year after – and the year after that. They happened when I flew out to UBC for the first time (although, let’s be honest, who doesn’t freak out a little when they move all the way across the country, into a totally different country, where you know absolutely no one?) Even when I was going to Europe in October, my heart was fluttering. As I was rushing to the airport, wondering if I’d be late to my flight, the thought crept into my mind – ‘well, if I miss the flight, I can just stay here. Thats a lot less scary than two months, alone, traveling all across Europe.’

As I laid in my bed last night, the thoughts crept back in – ‘What if the fake-gun-fiasco (as I have now named it; if you don’t know what I mean, read my last blog post) means I can’t fly? Then I’ll just stay home. I might kill my parents after, but 6 weeks here is a LOT less scary than 6 weeks in place I have never been…’ But despite my heart beating rapidly and my mind nervously wondering what the next 6 weeks have in store for me (and despite the fake-gun-fiasco), I boarded my flight into the unknown, defeating the anxiety bubbling in the pit of my stomach, and started my next Grand Adventure!

Fear of the unknown affects even the most seasoned travelers, but giving into that fear means you miss some of the most exciting adventures the world can offer!

Grand Adventure Summer 2017!

A common question I get nowadays is “Lena, why are you leaving Vancouver again? Where are you going now?” Well. A lot of places. Because staying in one place is overrated, right?

SO: In the next two days I’ll be taking off on my next giant adventure, traveling to 3 continents in 3.5 months!

“Jesus, really Lena? Whhhyyyy??? Hoowwww??? WHHHEREEE??” WELL! To answer your questions:

On Tuesday, April 18th I head back to North Carolina to see my family, only to pretty much immediately jump in the car and road trip up to DC with my mother for the March For Science on Earth Day [April 22nd]. (Super excited, will make sure to take plenty of photos and make a blog post!) But once the march is over, Mom and I pretty much immediately jump back in the car to make the 5 hour trip back to Raleigh since I fly out again on April 25th. Only this time I’m gone for over a month and I’ll only have two days to pack… (Because that won’t backfire on me, right?)

From April 25th to April 30th, I’ll be utilizing my International Relations skills as an NGO-Representative for the Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean, while also exploring Mexico City with my amazing Mexican friends! And also learning how incredibly inept my spanish actually is, despite 6 months of practicing…. Bright side – it’ll make some awesome stories? Or I may get stranded in the middle of nowhere and struggle to find my way back (cough cough repeat of every freakin’ day during my EuroTrip cough cough). But either way, stories. So we’re good.

On April 30th, I fly off to meet up with my super awesome GBFF, Carlos, in Bogota, Colombia! I may not be spending a full year there like planned, but I’ll be spending a month traveling around the country and attempting (and probably failing) to become fluent in Spanish! Just like Europe, my dad thinks I am going to get kidnapped and die. So I once again will be required by parental decree to make blog posts every day or face my father calling the US Embassy thinking I have met a terrible fate (when let’s be honest, I probably will just have been curled up in a ball hungover from the past night’s fiesta. Because Latins party HARD, and my liver may not survive their standards. AKA I may die. We’ll see. But again, stories right?)

After a month of adventures in Bogota, Carlos and I (and any friends who want to join!) jet off to Cartagena for a week of Lena’s birthday celebrations! So from probably about May 30th to June 3rd, I will not be sober. Should I be sober during this time, I have failed at life. Because really, when you are in Cartagena for your 24th birthday there is no reason to be sober. At all. Ever. Never.

On June 4th my South American adventure will unfortunately come to an end…because I am flying up to New York City for the UN’s OCEAN conference! Another week in the UN doing what I love, and being reminded why there is some semblance of hope for the world despite there being a narcissistic carrot making its mark by disgracing the title: ‘Leader of the Free World.’

On June 12th I’ll finally return back to Raleigh to recuperate (AKA allow my liver to detox). And for three weeks I’ll have some quality family time, including my first state-side July 4th in three years (YESSSSS!!! Being by the pool all day, drinking copious amounts of beer, watching awesome fireworks, making my liver need to detox again. Oh how I have missed Independence Day in the USA!)

Sadly, immediately after, I’ll be leaving again – this time for Europe! On July 5th I fly back to Amsterdam, 9 months after I last was there. And from July 6th to July 9th I’ll be re-experiencing the city – but this time not in a Christian Hostel in the middle of the red light district. Because dear lord I never want to do that again. Weirdest. Experience. EVER.

On July 9th I say goodbye again to Amsterdam, and head off to the Hague for the Hague Academy of International Law for three weeks of learning about the UN and public international law from experts! Which is basically the UN nerd’s version of Mecca, because ya’ll know Imma be nerding out for the entire three weeks that I have access to the largest library of International Law in the world. It’s gonna happen. No doubt.

And when my nerdy three weeks of heaven sadly come to an end, I have a week (maybe more, if I decide to stay longer) to explore more of Europe before heading back state-side and calling my three month adventure to a close.

So yeah – those are my adventures for the next three and a half months! This is gon’ be fun ya’ll!!!


An Ode to the Colombian Peace Treaty

A few years ago, during one of the many Model United Nations conferences I have attended, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting a wonderful person named Carlos Arango – a Colombian native who has since then inspired my upcoming move to his native country.

Because of our friendship, over the years I striven to learn as much as I could about his country, once even writing an entire paper about its longstanding conflict between the guerilla groups (primarily the FARC) and the Colombian government. And one of the things I was most looking forward to with my upcoming move was being able to live in the country during the days after the signing of the peace treaty ending the bloody 50 year war. Unfortunately, though, today’s referrendum towards the peace treaty has ended with the Colombian people voting against it by an incredibly slim margin – an extremely unfortunate turn of events.

In honor of today’s failed vote, I would like to use this week’s blog post to highlight a paper I wrote two years ago on the conflict and the impending peace treaty in the hopes that it may inspire at least some of my friends or family to become more familiar with the topic. Here is the paper: an-ode-to-the-colombian-peace-treaty.