What was your work at Colombia?

I was a teacher at a public school and at first I was afraid because I never taught children. It was from 6 to 18 years old, so I had to work with teenagers and with kids, so it was okay for me, but I was really surprised how differently they treat their teachers there than in Serbia! They really loved me from day 2, like, they were running towards me and kissing me blah blah. But what I didn’t know before I went there, was that it was a Christian School. I’m not religious so, I appreciate it, but I really don’t want to be involved in their Christian activities.

How was like to work at a Christian school not being a religious person?

They were expecting me to come every morning at 5 am to pray with them – and our classes start at 7 or 8. They had this little chapel next to the school, so I had to go there, and all the professors came and prayed, so I told them, “I’m sorry, I am not Christian, so if it’s okay, I would not like to come” and they were like “okay, okay, okay, but we saw on Wikipedia you are Christian in Serbia?”.

They searched on Wikipedia before I came, because I was super exotic to them, they had never met someone from Serbia before, so they googled and they were really excited to find out that people in Serbia are Christians. But, I’m just not religious, so. I told them “yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s right, but I believe in Mother Earth”

That was the first thing that came to my mind, and it’s partially true, so okay I didn’t consider it a lie. So, they just let me go, and I didn’t have to come to morning mass every morning. And then, one day after 2 months of me working there, I came to school and the kids were running towards me with this huge, I don’t know, something made of paper, and they were singing songs about Earth and I don’t know. So, I was like, “what is this?”. “This is for you! We were feeling so sorry that you do not have Christmas, so we made the Mother Earth Day for you!”. And it was Mother Earth Day, of course I didn’t know.

That’s amazing. So, you ended up celebrating Mother’s Earth Day?

Perhaps you know this but in Colombia they use every single opportunity not to work, not to go to school, so they made this kind of show just for me, nobody was going to classes, they were singing in a choir, they made food for me – I mean, not for me, for everyone – but I was like centre of attention because it was my religion, so it was Christmas for me! I was so embarrassed because it was all based on a lie, but still it was a nice opportunity to celebrate with them.

But then – I have a parallel story, because the person that inspired me the most to travel and go around, be free, whatever, it was my grandma. And, if you’re from Balkans, usually your grandparents’ parents, it’s a big chance that they were killed in World War II and that they were orphans. So, it’s a really big thing for us, when our grandparents are so free-spirited and so empowered, and then they travel and they are like happy individuals – which, my grandmother was. So, yeah, she was my power source in some way, and a few days after this Mother Earth Day, my grandmother died.

So sorry to hear that. How did you handle it?

I was in Barranquilla, so I was really sad, and I didn’t want to talk to anyone about this, but somehow, someone found out – I guess, the girl I was living at, she called the school and she told why I was not coming to Europe for a few days.

And then, when I came back to school, again, they were waiting for me with a big performance – it was a little bit lowkey this time – but it was like, “this is a celebration of your grandmother’s life, first we celebrated Mother Earth, now it’s Mother Grandmother, or whatever” and they all made me these little letters about my grandma and they never knew anything about her, but still, one of the professors even made a song. So, once again, it gave them opportunity not to go to school all day, but for me, it was such a nice thing.

It made it so much easier for me and made me see what Colombians appreciate the most, and that’s just, celebrating life, in any way, any kind, whatever opportunity they stumble upon to, they will make some kind of sad or happy celebration about it.