by Lizzy P. '20
Apparently, we walk too fast. I have never considered myself to be a particularly fast walker. In my family back home, I have often been the one trailing behind, almost running to keep up with the pace set by my taller and more efficiently-minded family members. So I was rather surprised when one of the first conversations I shared with the members of my host community was prompted by a comment that we—the students from Seattle—walk too fast. As we settled back into the pace of our host family members, it felt slow, and not just in the sense of a comfortable, relaxed walking speed. Rather, it felt slower than I could ever imagine to be sensible. To me, it seemed, there was no reason to ever take that much time getting from one place to another. I couldn’t imagine why this would be the accepted norm of moving from place to place.
Over the past few weeks in-country, I’ve come to appreciate this walking speed for what it really means. It’s not really that the people here just walk slowly. It’s that they seem to treat walking as an activity unto itself, as opposed to just a manner of getting from Point A to Point B. Along the way, they might stop to admire a nice view, slow to chat with friends or family members spotted on the side of the road, take a moment to point out an interesting feature of the landscape, or—most likely—all of the above. At home, though I may not be the fastest walker on the sidewalk, I do tend to look at any extra time spent walking as time taken away from doing whatever I plan on doing at my destination.
This fits with one of the most often repeated observations about the culture here on the coast of Colombia: here, there is a drastically different concept of how people move through time. Many students have mentioned that, at home, there is a constant need to be occupied or feeling productive. Time spent doing nothing is time wasted, and we always have something to do or somewhere to be. Here, things run on a much more relaxed schedule. The time of day doesn’t have much bearing on anything, and there seems to be ample time to stop and enjoy the little things and the small moments. Compared to the pace of the day here in the village, it feels like we move through our lives in the United States at a headlong sprint.
So, maybe we do walk too fast. Maybe we walk too fast from one place to another, and maybe we move too fast through our lives’ happenings. Moving forward, I’m going to try to take a leaf out of the Colombians’ book. With only six days left in our host community, it feels more important than ever to make the most of the moments doing what may feel like nothing. Especially as we move into the final week of our time here, I want to do my best to walk a little slower and make sure to enjoy the view along the way.