Words from a Wise Woman: Living in three Different Countries, Starting from Scratch and Sharing her Secrets to Life

Hi everyone!

Welcome back to this segment where I interview people that have a ton of inspiration and positive advice to share with you all. I’m very excited for you to read this post!

Before I dive into this week’s interviewee, I would like to make known two things: First, I am aware that some subscribers through MailChimp were unable to view last week’s post about Your Fall Reading: A Mix of Justice, Perspective, and Humor. Click on the link to check it out. Secondly, check out my first interview with poet, feminist, and activist Virginia Kane (you definitely should—she’s amazing!). Click on her name to take you straight to that interview.

Today, I share with you all the completely life-changing story and rich advice of Carmenza Nevia, a dear second-mother to me who has lived a truly extraordinary life. From leaving her native town Sopò Cundinamarca, Colombia to making a living in Bogota at age 18, living in three different countries, and leading an active lifestyle at age 82, she truly exemplifies someone who’s optimistically followed where life has taken her with extreme grace and faith in God.

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Carmenza Nevia. Photo taken where she currently lives.

How can a person encapsulate all the events, all the memories, all the advice, and all the graceful gentleness of Carmenza in one post? Between several interviews, coming back to her to ask more questions and elaborate on events, eating my breakfast as I see her multi-task (her advice on this is found below), I attempt to convey what I have discovered: that at the heart and soul of Carmenza is an everlasting faith and trust in God.

As this interview was conducted in Spanish (she does not speak English), I have translated our conversation. To shine a greater light on how the words of wisdom she shares have painted the unique canvas of her life, I include little segments about her life and follow-up information between questions. She recently has returned from a two-week trip to Colombia where she visited her family.

Carmenza, born a few years before World War II, started her life in the town of Sopò, Colombia, where she spent her days living on a farm and under the care of her aunt and uncle, along with her four other siblings. She attended school up until fifth grade, just learning to read and write well and do all the basic math skills.

“In that time, learning to read and write was enough. I had to help my family, too,” she says, when I ask her why she stopped school early. “I would have liked to continue school.”

At age eighteen, she officially moved to Bogotà, where she began different jobs to obtain an income, always living with different families in the city. This is the start of where she found her work as a nanny and later worked as a cook in the United States Embassy. Through the latter job, she found a family of which she stayed with to become a nanny and traveled with them to different countries, as the father of the family was a U.S. Diplomat. Reaching her late thirties, she officially moved to the United States with that family, where she continues to live happily to this day.

What do you say about perseverance? How has that helped you in life?

Always continuing, always wearing a positive face will help you. The only time that I encountered a moment [that perseverance helped me] was when I came to Washington, D.C. for the first time after living in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and I got the flu during the winter. I asked myself, “Oh my goodness! Who let me leave my country?”

What do you say about faith? How has that helped?

In every way [faith has helped me.] Absolutely everything. Having faith and always knowing that there is another tomorrow. Always having faith. For me, I believe in what I was taught about my [Catholic] faith. There is no other way for me. To love God and the Virgin Mary.

Have faith in what you are doing. Have faith in people. Have faith in your country. Something will always get better.

Throughout our interviews, I found that she often returned to her faith as a rock to the craziness of her life; thus, I found it helpful to ask a few follow up questions relating to her Catholic faith. She has always been Catholic and was raised in a Catholic household. 

How do you pray?

Mentally, or talking by myself. Well, I always talk to myself.

When do you like to pray?

When I’m walking, when I’m working, when I go to sleep. There’s always some moments when I just call out to God.

What is a quote(s) that has helped you throughout your life?

Have confidence in people. Have faith in people. I always think that if today wasn’t good for me, it will be better tomorrow, along with thinking positively. I don’t look to what’s happening bad around me, only what’s going well.

This has helped me when I’m scared of something. For example, when I was young, I was scared to go around a certain mountain because I was told that the devil lived there. We would always run and never go by ourselves. So, I would go another way. I’m also scared of snakes.

I do not think that Carmenza exactly understood my question. Despite me giving certain examples about how quotes have helped me, I’m not quite sure she got fully comprehended; nonetheless, she has great advice and a funny anecdote, which is why I included her full answer.

What has helped you be active throughout your life? (Individuals who know Carmenza know that she is a do-er and is never still).

I like to always am doing something to keep my mind and my body busy. I always do the chores that I have to do.

Is there anything you would like to impart with readers?

Always remember that tomorrow will be better. I have loved what I have had. I continue to enjoy myself. And I only ask God that when it is time to take me, that he does so peacefully.

That last part was quite morbid, but I left it in because I thought that gives a good sense of her wit and her humor. She loves to make comments like those when talking to her, but she’s very a positive thinker. 

What is something that is often overlooked about Colombia? What place would you recommend a tourist definitely not skip over?

Go to Monserrate. I have never been there. Also, the salt mines in Sipaquira, Cundinamarca.

To find out more information about Monserrate, click here. It’s a historic sanctuary on a hill. For more info on the salt mines, click here.

I hope that this interview has sparked some thought and inspired you! Carmenza has a peacefulness and calm to her that makes it easy to speak to her. Feel free to let me know in the comment section below what your take away from this was. It was a privilege to be able to get to know Carmenza like this, and her deep faith is definitely a role model for me to follow. 

Have an incredible week, and I look forward to talking with you all soon!

All the Best,

Victoria (@talkbyvictoria & talkbyvictoria@gmail.com)

Quote of the Post: 

Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself. -Harvey Fierstein.

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