Out in the All of It captures, through a series of vignettes, those first days and months faced by the author, Chris Honoré, after arriving in Colombia, South America, as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Though the Peace Corps puts every volunteer through a robust training program, including intense language preparation, nothing could have fully prepared him to face the exigencies of living in a foreign country of such profound and startling contrasts. While at times harrowing and demanding, the experience proved to be immensely rewarding and, in the end, altered his view of the world forever.
I had been in Cartagena only two days and already I was enchanted by its beauty, stunned by its poverty, finding it a place of startling and unsettling contrasts. Early in the morning of my third day, eyes gritty, sleep elusive, I left the Plaza Hotel at first light and made my way along the narrow streets toward the ocean to a cafe' I had noticed the day before. i carried a tattered copy of Time magazine under one arm and a paperback novel pushed down in my back pocket, my shields against a growing sense of isolation and loneliness. The cafe' was spacious, wood frame, painted green, its tin roof rust-stained, canvas window coverings rolled up and tied. Inside were a few tables and chairs. A bright yellow and green sign hung above the doorway. Entering, I noticed two women in the back, each wearing a light blue bib apron, ironing what looked to be white table cloths. I sat at the table nearest the front, looking out at the empty street. It was still early and there were few people and little traffic. I listened to the muted sounds of the women ironing and talking, the irons hitting the cloth with muffled thuds, their words spoken softly. I sat for a time, reading, waiting, anticipating strong coffee, warm bread, eggs mixed with onions and sausage. I was famished. The morning light grew sharper, the sun now well above the horizon, already dominating the day. Across the street a dog came around a corner, moving slowly, pausing to stretch first one hind leg then the other, the walked stiffly over to a bush and sniffed. Finally, unsteadily, the dog lifted its hind leg. Looking around the cafe' I noticed there were no menus, no napkins or flatware. But this was Colombia, and nothing was as it seemed.
Chris Honoré, is a freelance journalist based in Ashland, Oregon.