We heard this called out time and time again, every day on our trip in Brisas del Mar. Paola was our in-country expert, host and translator. She met us at the airport, guided us all around, translated countless conversations and interactions, and became a very dear friend.
She stood up in her strong independence when there were scenarios we Americans didn't fully grasp, and she brought so much laughter to our group.
I can't imagine what the experience would be like without Paola. Finding the words I want to share about this beautiful woman is difficult to find, much as most of these blogs I'm writing. But, I want you to have a small glimpse into the piece she brought to the team.
She would correct me any time my Spanish words were wrong, which I appreciated, and she would push me to get out of my comfort zone. Admittedly, it came to my attention by her that I did better when she wasn't right there because I wasn't looking for her to affirm my correct speech. (That's not a bad thing... it goes to tell you how much she meant to me!)
The people of Brisas love her and the children wanted to play with her all the time, and she was great at quieting them down when no one else could.
The youth respected her, all the while including her in their dances and their soccer. She would always jump right in.
When the first night of youth came around, we had 90 students roughly, where we had expected only 50. We were very excited about this, but I admit, to me, who was going to be teaching the lesson in their language, I was a little intimidated as well. Paola offered me such reassurance, and it went well overall, but due to the fact that so many were there, she eventually had to jump in to get them to engage a little more. She did it... she pushed them and prompted their responses. We made a great team. (We all made a great team together, I just say in that scenario it was so helpful to have her as my partner.)
She helped our team have a better understanding of her country, Colombia. She taught me to laugh at myself (HOYO.... total side note here, but see here for what the hoyo story is,. Paola learned it and never let me live it down), and she played a part in helping me rediscover confidence in myself. She helped me embrace how I look like I'm 12 and she looks like she's 30. (Where she is actually 21 and I am 33). She listened when I wanted to talk details of my life, whether we conversed in Spanish or English. She hugged me and loved me and made me feel at home from the moment I met her. Her English is superb, and her way of saying Dude and high-fiving made all of us smile.
Paola gave direction to our team with confidence and worked with us to truly know what we needed to be doing. She was like a ping pong ball going from person to person, and her voice was often dead by the end of the night. But, she always smiled and had some love and fun to offer. She stayed up late with a handful of us many nights, even when she was half asleep from a busy day, and those conversations offered much insight to her.
Really, there are many words and paragraphs that can go on and on to describe Paola, but I will share these photos to help you see her personality shining through. She helped my experience, and my team's experience, to be one to remember forever. She loves God and she loves people, and handles all kinds of crazy circumstances with grace and confidence. I admire her tenacity and her spirit so much.
|Paola and Me|
|Only Paola could wear these and still look beautiful!|
|Three Musketeers? Paula, Paola and Me|
|Me and Paola|
|Paola and Michael|
|Paola liked doing photos with "duck face". I still don't really know what that is, but she does it well... me, not so much.|
|The 3 Paulas and Me :) We were roomies for a night and stayed up forever enjoying each other's company|
|Paola translating for Ed|
Paola became a dear friend to me in the midst of just knowing her a few days, and I miss her like a family member.I am so thankful she was our translator in Colombia. For being only 21, she carries a lot of wisdom, and taught me many lessons.