|Happy Chanukah from Colombia|
Two factors conspire to determine the level of enjoyment that Lori and I experience on the volunteer missions we undertake – the physical locale and the other individuals who have signed up for the ride. First things first. The vibe offered up by Colombians in general and the denizens of Cartagena has been overwhelmingly positive. Warm, friendly, attractive and polite; all with a lovely Latin flavour. In fact the only thing warmer than the people is the mercury. Temp hovers in the low 30’s, dropping to a semi-freja 27 as I write this at 10PM. The countryside, what little we’ve seen, is green, coastal, and hilly. The city is undergoing an exponential growth spurt with new hotels, condos, and infrastructure popping up at voracious speed.
Saddled with the well deserved reputation as the lawless bastion of Narcos, reality is far removed from the legend. It will take many years for the casual observer to reconcile and realize that today’s Colombia has shed its notoriety and is seeking a prominent position in the South American sphere of influence. Political stability seems to be the order of the day. The massive levels of corruption, anathemic to us North Americans (because we are so pure) are at a medium level in this part of the continent. Compared with issues facing neighbours such as Honduras or Venezuela, Colombia is a panacea for decency. But enough Poli-Sci for now. Let’s get gritty.
The fifteen member volunteer corps sharing our mission have coalesced instantly and amazingly. The uniqueness of shared purpose has engulfed the spirits of all. Barely 24 hours into the gig, to a person, there is a sense of community, love, and respect that transcends normal perceptions of time and space. What could take years, if ever, to develop, has occurred in an instant. As diverse as we are in terms of geographic is how united we are in thought and deed. Lori and I experienced a similar sensation during our first vol mission to India a decade ago. But even with that remarkable group, we grew into our collective being over a couple of weeks. Here it’s been a couple of hours. These are my first impressions. More details to follow in the upcoming 3 weeks. Among the countries represented are Australia, Italy, Brazil, England, Mexico, Switzerland, and us Canucks.
Great Watermelon. Volunteers shopping at the local supermarcado
BTW, thank you Justin – the world is smitten by him and by extension us Canadians, always a popular folk, have been riding his coattails to glory. Sort of like Roy Moore and Donald, but the opposite.
Today is the conclusion of work detail #2. Yesterday our time was spent working with children and a few adults from one of the poorer barrios in the area.
We are teaching English and communicating with them through some of our volunteer group who are
Lori doing what Lori does
Classroom with great natural light
Future posts will expound on our experiences but since this is just an intro, suffice to say that the children are currently on a 2 month Christmas break from school. Yet there are 20 or so shining faces attending class on a purely voluntary basis while on holiday.
Our leader, Monica, is a force of nature imbued with kindness, passion, and a long and large streak of conviction. Her story is a legend in progress. Much more of her to come in the days that follow. She has arranged a last minute program for tomorrow. It being Saturday our new family had decided to head to one of the nearby Caribbean beaches for some R&R. Monica presented us the opportunity to meet up with 35 children and their parents who are taking an 18 hour bus ride from Bogota tonight. They are amongst the poorest of the poor and have never seen a beach or an ocean. Instantly and unanimously, it was decided to shelve the beach plan, and instead we will be blowing up balloons, welcoming the families and just making them feel welcomed. This is going to be extraordinary, folks.