Colombians love hot dogs.

Certainly there are more insightful observations one can make upon landing in a foreign land, but this is something that somehow stood out to me. Fried with dough, topped with eight kinds of salsa, eaten with soup, topped with Mac’n’cheese, etc. You can find them at burger joints with fries, specially grilled versions at coffee houses, traditional types as a school snack, food for dancing outside a club late at night, etc. Go to the grocery store and there you will pan your eyes over half of the refrigerated section full of all types – chicken, beef, pork, veggie friendly… Apparently you have to think one can not leave the store without choosing a hot dog of choice, and that the cashier will have some view of the type of person you are based on the flavor you have chosen.

Yes, I’m a gringo. I’m busy stumbling and bumbling my way through town trying to convince someone to take my money to “recarga” my phone with these strange 10,000 peso bills so I can use my apps again (newsflash: you can’t use Google translate unless you have data, so don’t count on using it to help convince the person at the phone place what you want to do!). Frustration, laughter, and embarrassment abound, all similar things I have felt as I have traveled in the past. I feel more immersed in language here than East Africa for sure. Most Kenyans and Malawians speak decent enough English that you almost don’t have to learn any Swahili or Chewa. The language immersion is something that jumps out in a different way than the cultural differences in East Africa, but each has its level of discomfort that makes one grow from the challenge. You either adjust and embrace the challenge, or fight it until you come to a breaking point. That breaking point gives the impetus to finally take that Spanish course, or …dive right into that new version of hot dog!

So while I haven’t had a hot dog yet, I know it will eventually come to be a snack I will eat and think of my time in Colombia. It will be one of those things to grab people’s attention as I talk about my time in Colombia. I’ll have a favorite hot dog at some point, I’ll have “this Colombian dude I met while eating a hot dog” story, I’ll even have a drink that I enjoy most while eating this Colombian delicacy.

And so, many of our experiences doing community service and athletic things on a STRIVE Trip are similar to this. The rich experiences that ensue often come from the place you least expect it. One day our interns in Kenya were invited by the students to their church choir practice. None of our interns were big on going to church or singing for that matter, but the experience they had by showing the students they were interested in what they love to do meant the world to them. They wrote about this spontaneous uplifting of voices as being more impactful than all the “scheduled” things. Indeed, when we least expect it, there’s usually something so strange and out of the ordinary that will later become part of the deepest held memories that we will keep with us forever.

So, everyone, hold up your “Perro Caliente”, and toast… to Colombia!