After traveling 19 hours on three planes, I’ve finally made it back to my guest family, public school and fellow volunteers in Barranquilla, Colombia. After being medically evacuated from my Peace Corps site last month, I spent three weeks in and around my home town of Woodward, Iowa, where I saw five doctors, got more blood drawn than a vampire can drink, and got a clean bill of health. And as an added bonus, on my way back I checked two full bags and more carry-on luggae than any normal person would dare to attempt. I brought back camera equipment, Twizzlers for my fellow volunteers and two musical items that should make the next two years well worth the $70 extra bag fee.

While never attracted to melodic instruments until recently, I think it’s safe to say I’ve always been musically inclined. When I was in elementary school, I remember gathering some of the assorted two-liter bottles that always littered the floor of my parents’ trailer home to make a drum set. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew it was fun and better than just dreaming about the drums I had seen on tv or my town’s high school band concerts. I wish I had taken a picture. Or had a camera to take a picture.

What’s the connection between now and then? I no longer have to daydream about cool drum sets I could use during my time in Colombia - and neither will any of my students.

I’ll post a blog entry here in a bit that better describes the medical side of my time in Iowa, but the gist of it is this: I got sick in Colombia, side effects of medicine I was given made my symptoms worse, and then it all more or less cleared up when I got to America and stopped popping pills. Needless to say, I’m very disappointed I had to leave Colombia for something that could and should have been prevented.

Iowa was cold (but quickly got hot), most of my friends don’t live in the area anymore (I haven’t lived there myself since 2005), and those that do remain might have kids, a job, and or tend to drink a lot. It was good to see everyone that I was able to get in contact with, but it wasn’t the greatest of times; I was stuck between Peace Corps Volunteer and unemployed sick person. But, as you may have seen on my favorite childhood tv show Family Matters, or experienced for yourself (as ’90s television show anecdotes can actually exist in real life), things we wish didn’t happen can set us up for new opportunities. Like my recent double shot of 50 pound checked bags. And lots of carry-on luggage. And a personal item the size of a purse. While it was no fun to be sent back home after only four months in Colombia, it gave me a chance to bring the things that couldn’t fit my first time around.

Enter the final piece of my checked luggage puzzle, a 32 year old fellow alumnus of Woodward-Granger High School’s Jazz Band named Adam. He and I both played drums for the band, myself back in 2005 when we were state jazz champs, and Adam some years before while both my sisters played in the band. I remember seeing him play drums when I was in elementary and middle school, thinking that if I could be as good as he was, it would be about the happiest day of my life up to that point. Years after moving away from Iowa, I reconnected with Adam and a few other people around his age on Facebook. Six days before I flew back to Barranquilla, he answered this post I left on my Facebook Timeline:

Anyone in the Des Moines area have cymbals or other drum stuff that they’re looking to sell? I’m

most likely returning to Colombia soon and looking to bring back a ton of stuff

Adam had just the type of equipment I was looking for, only he wasn’t out to make a few bucks by selling some used percussion equipment. This guy, this dude who I barely knew save for a few mutual high school experiences (and the love of hitting plastic stretched over wood with sticks), sent me a message letting me know he’d like to give me his drum set so I could take it back to Colombia. An ENTIRE drum set. For free.

Drums In My Barranquilla Home

If Adam ever needs a kidney, he knows where to look.

To make the whole trip just a bit more musically inclined, I also bought a”backpack” guitar that has a lot of sound for the small design seen below. I hope to use the drums to start a music club for some of my older students, while I’ll use my guitar to play English songs and games with my elementary kids.

Guitar In My Barranquilla Home

I think ten years from now, when I look back at this whole medical evacuation experience, the first thing I’ll remember is what Adam did for me and how the students at my public school were able to reap the benefits. Then, I’ll remember how sick I got and the thousands of miles I traveled when all I need to do some just stop taking some pills. But mostly, I’ll remember the day when I pulled into a Casey’s gas station parking lot, saw Adam pull up in his car, and gave me a drum set to bring back to Colombia.