I Ate A Sweet

So as the title plainly states, I ate my first sweet in a little over a year in a half. For all my friends and family back home, yes that’s right I caved in. For my fellow YAVs and site coordinator (Emily, Sophia, and Sarah) who were with me in Bogotá, Colombia when this life altering event took place, yes I’m seriously writing a blog post about it 🙂 And don’t you all worry, of course I took a video of it:

In the hours after this video was taken I felt beyond terrible. Not because of the sugar (although that did result in a blood sugar crash) but because of the fact I had eaten a “sweet.” All the negative aspects of eating sweets were spinning in (figurative) circles around my head as I lay in bed later that night pondering whether it was a mistake and I should go back to my no sweet eating, with this as a lesson. Or are there indeed some valuable reasons for me to eat sweets.

It’s worth mentioning that a valuable reason is not just to eat good tasting stuff. It’s not hard for me to deny myself some sugary dessert. But what is difficult is to deny the gift of generosity from a Colombian friend who’s trying to make me feel welcome and at home by treating me to something sweet:

Fake icecream
Eating ONLY yogurt with some friends in Bogotá (pre-sweet eating)

Initially, when weighing all the positives and negatives in to eat, or not to eat, sweets, the negatives were the only thing I could see. However, for some reason I felt as if God wanted me to eat sweets again, if even just for this year in Colombia. I know that sounds funny saying God wanted me to eat sweets, and I’m sure most all of you reading this right now wish you would get that same mandate, but for me that was actually something extremely hard to accept. But as I looked back over my past week in Bogota, it was blatantly clear that’s what God had in store.

For starters, upon settling into the apartment where we’d be staying for our 9 day retreat, I told my fellow YAVs I was going to throw in the towel on sweets sometime during the retreat.

RE Camera
The street we were staying on in Bogotá

Furthermore, I was put in many situations where I had many “positive reasons” to eat sweets (such as accepting a popsicle from a girl at the project, or sharing some deserts with friends after a day of being show around town). But of course, being the stubborn young man I am, for every situation I encountered throughout the week I had an excuse. I convinced myself that I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go ahead and eat sweets again. And somehow, it was never the “right time,” things needed to be better for me to finally eat the “cave in” sweet.

God just kept pulling at me though, offering new and improved situations. Until finally, it was the 2nd to last night of our retreat, and we were at my favorite chain restaurant here in Colombia, Crepes & Waffles, and I was with everyone from my Colombian YAV group (like I had wanted to be), and they serve some bomb.com ice cream (like I had wanted to eat), and I had made the commitment I was going to cave in, so I did.

Anyway, the video shows and explains the rest from there.

Back on track, as I laid in my bed just hours after eating my first sweet, having realized that God was calling me towards that Banana Split, I wondered: why did God want me to eat that? Was it indeed for a lesson that I shouldn’t be eating sweets and I was becoming weak? Or was there something more?

It was then that the culture here surrounding “sweet eating” popped into my head. Simply put, eating sweets here is part of the culture (in my experience at least). It’s not like the US where you tell your host: no, you wouldn’t like desert because you don’t eat sweets, and they completely understand, and most probably congratulate you on your feat. Instead, here I get hammered with question after question about why I don’t eat sweets, until the conversation ultimately ends with the other person thinking I’m a weirdo and don’t like the taste of sugary delights for some reason. Whereas in the states we view chunky people as unhealthy, numerous times I have heard people here say that it means you’re well fed and healthy if you have some fat on you. Furthermore, people here do not keep sweets around the house. When they eat sweets, it’s either for a special occasion, or it involves going out to buy the dessert to make a little outing of it. As with so many other aspects of this great culture, sweet eating is a time of bonding and sharing (compartiendo for those of you who remember that lesson some blog posts back), and so it is custom to take part in it.

After some journaling that night as I laid in bed distressed about my decision, and having made the above realizations, I came to the following conclusions: Is eating sweets the best for my health? The truth is no, it is not. But is it worth that small sacrifice in health to reap the positive benefits of sweet eating? Yes. And so I realized the message God was sending me with breaking my “no sweet eating”: sacrifice is required in order to adapt and share with another culture (and at that, it doesn’t stop). Sometimes those sacrifices are easier, as they’re for adaptations you’re interested in making, such as learning to speak a new language. But sometimes, that sacrifice is something you hold quite dear. For myself, eating as healthy as possible (aka no sweets) was an aspect of my life that was quite important to me. But making that sacrifice to further adapt to the culture here helps me dive that much deeper into my understanding, and ultimately admiration, for the Colombian Culture.

So yes, I now eat sweets 🙂

RE Camera


16 thoughts on “I Ate A Sweet

  1. Matt Meyer says:

    Hey there young man, love your Spirit … Shines through in your videos & blog! Funny the quite voice that God uses to push us forward … Nice job in saying Yes to sweets!
    Look forward to giving you a big hug in March when we see you in beautiful Columbia!
    Lots and lots of Love,


  2. Daina Meyer says:

    Alex- Have to say, I appreciate all the discernment that went into “To sweet, or not to sweet? That is the question.” This may be a turning point in your Colombian experience…you may be on to something big! I do recall your parting words on the subject: “Mom, the next time I eat ice cream will be….” (no spoiler alert needed), AND you were with three women…. just sayin :o)
    I love seeing you laugh, hearing your voice. God has big plans for you.

    Love you always- Mamacita

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m pretty disappointed that I couldn’t hold out to eat sweets until that point to be honest, but I figured the future gf will forgive me for that. Besides, there’s always time to stop eating sweets again in the US 🙂


  3. Christian Andrews says:

    Alex… that was an incredible video haha. Looks like you’re having fun in Columbia. Miss you man. Let me know when you get back in the states!


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Paul R. Frank says:

    Wow Alex! I just read your blog and don’t know what to say, but being a Frank, I will comment … First of all, I think that I will eat a Snicker’s bar so that I won’t get too tense thinking about what you will think about what I have to say what you think about sweets … I wish I had your type of worries. Please print your writing off and save and revisit about 20 years from now. I wonder if God is concerned about your eating sweets? Now that you have showed me a banana split and the fact that I haven’t had one in years, I may try one. Of course, I will blame it on you. Enough malarkey.

    I ate lunch with Dick Bancroft last Friday. This is Carrie’s dad. He is a very interesting man and very prominent individual to say the least! Dick is 88 years old and is having some serious health issues. He has been a friend of mine for many years, making numerous presentations to my classes. Dick is an Indian rights’ advocate and a photo journalist that has been a voice for indigenous peoples for many years. I hope you will make a point to make contact with this family. Have some more sweets on me without the guilt – moderation is the name of the game! Many blessings to you and your loved ones. Merry Christmas Alex!!! Your Great Uncle Paul


    1. Thanks for the post, glad you’re following along with my time here! I like to think that God is happy with me that I listened to his plan for me, even though it was against what I wanted to do 🙂 I have gotten over the guilt of eating a sweets now though, to my relief. Thanks for sharing about Dick Bancroft and a bit of who he is as a person. Seems like an awesome guy, and I’d absolutely love to connect with him. Merry Christmas to you as well Great Uncle Paul, eat a candy cane or another snickers bar for me 🙂


  5. Paul R. Frank says:

    MPR News A fresh eye on the news

    You Should Meet…
    You Should Meet: Dick Bancroft
    Bob CollinsBob Collins February 6, 2012, 3:19 PM 4

    If Dick Bancroft hadn’t come down from Saint Paul’s Summit Hill District as a young man, he might never have known the “invisible minority” he champions so fiercely.

    Bancroft, of Sunfish Lake, is a self-taught photographer who says his art informs “the washed” about the victims who are left behind. He was nominated for NewsCut’s You Should Meet series, by his daughter, Ann, who wrote:

    “He’s a guy who has always opened his home to others. Troubled kids, folks from overseas needing a pillow for a night or a few weeks – whomever. When I was in high school, a medicine man lived with us for a time. Every morning there would be a pile of wood shavings neatly on the living room floor in front of the fireplace where he had carved in preparation for services the next day. My dad is all about community. An old neighborhood guy, he will speak at funerals when no one else dares and he’ll visit you in prison even if he agrees with why you are there. When I heard your piece, I thought of him because he does this not to be noticed or written about. It’s just him. It inspires me every day to try and do the same. ”

    Bancroft is the son of an insurance underwriter and might well have lived the life of many old-timers in Saint Paul. “I’m uneducated by international standards,” he told me last week when we visited. “I didn’t make it through the university. I didn’t know what dyslexia was; I didn’t know why I was failing exams. I’m just a punk kid from Saint Paul.”

    By the time he joined the Marines in 1945, World War II was about over. His dad, an insurance underwriter for The Saint Paul Companies, convinced him to enter the insurance business. That gave him the first opportunity to understand that there are two worlds.

    “In my selling of insurance, I reviewed the insurance programs of two settlement houses: Neighborhood House and Hallie Q. Brown. I ended up being educated by the people who ran those two organizations about what was going on beyond the Hill District,” he said. “Linwood was all white. The black kids lived in the Marshall area. There were no people of color in my classroom. The only exposure to people of color is when we took my father to Union Depot and a Red Cap (porter) would come out. ”

    “My last annual salary before I left (insurance) was $10,000 a year, and I was supporting a family of four kids, owned my own home, and had a car,” he said. But by the ’60s, the world was calling him to go in a different direction.

    “I was exposed to the life of black people by the people who ran these places and I ended up on the board of Neighborhood House. I got hooked by these people who were dealing with other people who were different,” he said.

    “I wanted to go to Selma for the march and these two ministers were trying to get me to go. Debby and I had our third child by then. ‘You can’t leave me here,’ she said. I should have gone. I would have loved to have been a Freedom Rider. That’s where I was part-time in my head, and I was still trying to sell insurance. It was a struggle, then you go home at night and here are these marvelous kids popping out and we have a marvelous family life. The leadership at Halley finally convinced me I’ve got to stop talking and start doing something. They said, ‘you need to live and experience another country.’”

    So he did. In 1967, he and his wife and four kids — the oldest was 12, the youngest was four — moved to Kenya to work with the Presbyterian Church. “If they’d been teenagers it wouldn’t have worked. These kids didn’t have that social life yet.”


    (Mr. Bancroft’s three favorite pictures occupy a prominent location in his Sunfish Lake home.)

    There, they experienced a view of the world — and of the United States — not available to the middle class of Saint Paul. He saw the war in Vietnam from a different angle. He learned more about what it means to be African.

    He left the country as a Republican. He returned as a Democrat. But he returned to an unchanged Saint Paul. “(My father) never got over the fact that my boss in Kenya was Negro,” he said. “All he could think of was red caps and Pullman porters. I never could convince him; he was getting old and it was all locked in. That’s the way it is for a lot of people; they’re locked in to their attitudes and experiences in their younger years, and it’s a threat to them to change. That’s their security blanket.”

    He wasn’t a photographer by training, but he started showing his pictures from Kenya to people in the Twin Cities. By then, he decided he wanted to become a photographer. He started photographing the peace movement, and started by photographing Minnesotans at a Washington rally for the Saint Paul Dispatch newspaper.

    “I gave the editor my pictures and he said, ‘We’ll do a whole page of these,’ and I got $7 apiece for the pictures and I decided right then and there, ‘I can’t make a living doing this,’” Bancroft said.

    But the peace movement was well underway and he wanted to be part of it.

    Another Direction – Trailer from Reel Nomad on Vimeo. See the film

    The times were changing Bancroft and his family. But it wasn’t until 1970 that he found his true calling. He was serving on a United Way subcommittee in Saint Paul when two fledgling organizations — the American Indian Movement and the American Indian Center — submitted funding applications.

    “I didn’t know any Indians,” he said. “So I went to see those people. For about a year we struggled to find, out ‘who are these people?’ They were the invisible minority.” Minneapolis has the largest urban Native American population in the country, and yet they were invisible.

    The application was approved and Bancroft asked an official of one organization, “How can I help?”

    “What do you do?” a woman said.

    “I take pictures,” Bancroft said.

    “Well, you better start taking pictures.”

    That’s how a 40-year association chronicling the lives of American Indians started. “And I became an advocate,” he said.


    “Indians have an oral tradition. And writing and photographing was not part of their culture. The oral tradition was when you sat down with an elder and you get the elder to tell you what happened. They were your teachers, but there was nothing written down. So taking pictures of all of this was sort of a modern concept. I was the only one who could afford a camera who was hanging around with these people. I started doing it and I never went back to a desk. The camera took me all over the place.


    “In 1972, there was a motor caravan called the Trail of Broken Treaties. It was a protest to Washington. I took my car and headed for DC with four Indians in the car. It took us a week to get there and we occupied a building for 10 days. I photographed it in depth.”

    He’s visited Ireland, Nicaragua, Libya, South Africa and dozens of other countries. The theme throughout each one, he said, is the suffering of an indigenous people. “They sparked me to deal with victims in the broadest sense. These are people who are left out and don’t get a chance,” he said.

    “None of this would’ve happened to me if it wasn’t for the Indian experience.”

    In the 40 years of photographing Native Americans, Bancroft has never sold a picture. “They’re very sensitive to the white man ripping them off,” he said. “I was very fortunate that I did not have to provide for my family monetarily, which gave me a lot of leeway in what I was doing. ”

    He’s still photographing, but these days, he says, he’s mentoring young photographers, although he insists they’re mentoring him. “One of my mentors is a Hmong kid, who’s 25 years old, who’s already done a book on photography. He has stimulated me and I call him my mentor because he’s way ahead of me,” Bancroft says.

    “Because I’m dyslexic, I can’t remember what I’ve read. I was lousy in school. I just zeroed out. But I learned that I learn by experience and with Jesse (Hardman) and Danny, and many others like them, they’re my teachers because I’m learning from them and they think they’re learning from me.”

    Alex, I thought this might help you to know Dick better … Blessings, Paul

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Grandpa Wood says:

    Dear Alex, So good that you gave us all some insight on your life in Colombia. Grandma and I just read all your blogs on our new tablet. Thanks for giving your skills, laughter, and faith to the people of your town. You will leave a lasting legacy to all of them, especially the young. God bless you and your YAV group. Love and Prayers, Grandpa Wood.


    1. Thanks for reading Grandpa! I must admit Mom has told me about the new tablet the two of you have and about your little outing to purchase mobile internet access. Thanks for the encouraging words, I appreciate it. Love you too!


  7. Happy New Year Alex! I am impressed Alex!!! And how would I know? Today, I read your entire blog – pictures, video and all … I hope I get a trophy, treat or the like. Perhaps, if you go back to the beginning of your blog, you will realize the momentous change, although I don’t think you will feel that is necessary. Much of my teaching in World History/Geography involved Latin America and the unjust treatment (putting it mildly) of the indigenous people. I also used many videos (like “Romero”) and books to educate my students, as well as myself.

    Several years ago, I joined an international organization called “Sister Parish.” The headquarters is in Guatemala City. Travelling there twice made it all real. When Luke and Paul were home for Thanksgiving, we watched “Romero’ and I cried through most of the video. While teaching, for many years, I had watched this movie about 50 times and was deeply affected by it. But after observing firsthand the horrors that are experienced by these people, the movie really hit me.

    The second time that I went to Guatemala, via Sister Parish, I cried myself to sleep the first night as I didn’t see any changes from two years past and sadly, I didn’t think the future would foretell any relief. More importantly, what mattered much more, was how the people there viewed our efforts to support them – in Sister Parish, we call this solidarity. You are making a major difference! Look in their faces, especially the children and you will know what I mean … By now, I am fairly certain that you are ware of this. You are focused on what God wants … Yes, I am truly impressed and proud to say you are my grand nephew! Dios te bendiga Alex! Great Uncle Paul


    1. Haha Great Uncle Paul you most definitely deserve a treat of some sort for going on that blog reading marathon. It means a lot that you’d take the time to do that as well. I haven’t gone from beginning to end, though I’ve already thought about doing a marathon like that when I return to the states just to see the change throughout the year. I have no doubt that there is already a recognizable difference.

      I can relate exactly to what you’ve said. When I first came here I had the expectations and goals of realizing some real change in the lives of the people here. I expected to see some type of improvement. I’ve since learned that the little bit of help I’m providing over here is not at all going to be like that. Instead it will be small impacts in people’s lives that impacts them individually in significant ways. Thanks for the encouraging words! And Dios lo bendiga Great Uncle Paul 🙂


  8. LOL Alex, I just watched this – don’t know how I missed it. I’m gonna come back to this anytime I need a laugh! I love how you can hear me & Emily’s high-pitched laughter the whole time. Can’t wait to eat more sweets with ya in a few days!


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