Sundown; two hours ago

Not since our initial sojourn in India has the volunteer experience being augmented to such an astounding level as a result of our co-conspirators. A collection of global goodniks,  reflecting a plethora of ages, nations, languages, and talents have assembled under a roof that doesn’t leak, a kitchen that works, toilets that flush, fans that function (although A/C would be a nice plus), and bugs that chose to nibble on, rather than devour us.

The person responsible for this amazing confluence, Monica Sepulveda, is dedicated to helping the downtrodden. 

Her background is atypical of others who have run volunteer missions that Lori and I have participated in. She comes from a comfortable background, her family having been involved in the gemstone business. Her approach is come by honestly, her father, founder of the business and scion of the family spent time, money, and energy helping the downtrodden. Unlike most other programme operators Monica has travelled the world. Living, attending university, doing business, and visiting cities such as Paris, London, New York (NYU) has given her a global perspective on the ‘conditionne humaine‘, further strengthening her resolve to make a difference. Her dedication and desire to aid and abet those in need knows no bounds. She’s just a girl who can’t say no. Her overwhelming desire to help all reminded me of Mother Theresa, an image further validated as I accompanied her, acting a a burro. But instead of bringing sacs of cocaine, I carried 4 large bags of adult diapers to a senior citizens residence run by – are you ready for this? – nuns from Mother Theresa’s order. 

Monica is stretched thin as a result of her desire to do good, which causes a taughtness to her being. My concern is that she will implode as demands pile up. cleaning up the exploded residue of Santa Monica, however is not in the job description, so hopefully she can keep herself in one piece.

But the true binding force of this group, or shall I say the Krazy Glue that unites us is Juan Lombana. Juan, who was a teenager until three days ago, 

Juan blows out the candles on his cake from a little bit too close

possesses a confidence, knowledge base, sense of humour and charm that creates a charismatic package able to deliver the goods. Whether information as to restaurants, Colombian do’s and dont’s, history, the arts scene, or what excites the local talent, Juancho is a font of information.

Juan is exceptionally proud of his heritage; and rightly so. Possessing linguistic skills in English that competes with a government translator, Juan has been our guide, translator and endless font of ideas and suggestions.

The Lombana family have a rich and colourful history in both Colombia and Panama, where they took up residency for much of the first decade of the 21st century. Here’s a brief summary of the talents and accomplishments. Starting back a few generations, Great Grandma was a concert musician who also an influential music teacher. Next generation down Grandpa was by all accounts, Cartagena’s leading and best known artist. He was personally responsible for creating a host of the best known and most visible sculptures in the city. The reasoning behind the boots sculpture is interesting. The poet being honoured was a very humble and self-effacing individual. Hector Lombana thought that had he immortalized Lopez with a traditional statue, Lopez would have arisen from the grave and would smash the statue over the sculptor’s head.

Hector Lombana (Grandfather, not Brother)

Ironic Homage to Luis Carlos Lopez, one of Cartagena’s best known poets

Grandma was a city planner. She was personally responsible for the layout of the city, for design of a multitude of buildings and as a force of reason limiting expansive and unbridled growth. The results of her efforts are now obvious. Since her retirement, condos have sprung up to notorious heights, blocking views and relegating the cities natural charms to the history books. 

Starbucks doesn’t have a chance here in Colombia

Juan’s cousin in Panama, is a renown musician and graphic designer who has created a series of videos which have met with critical and popular success. He has worked with the UN as well as the governing powers of Panama. That particular project was a group effort of the Lombana family. Members contributed to the sound, visuals, editing, and post-production.Mama Lombana is a creative force in her own right. She has had numerous exhibitions of her art throughout the area, is on a first name basis with most of Cartagena’s contemporary artists and fosters and encourages artistic development of her children. Juan’s cousin spent time in Ethiopia teaching cinematography, now an art teacher at York University in Toronto. Aunt Cristina is an on air radio personality responsible for introducing rock music in Cartagena. She is presently in hiding, trying to avoid all of the parents for having introduced loud noises and Satan in to lives of their children. She is presently broadcasting underground from Panama. Find her  on Radio Dies. In addition, her sculptural work is astounding. 

Brother Hector, who has joined up with the volunteers, becoming another member of our highly selective gang, draws, paints, works on videos and adds to the charm of the experience. Juan, an egotistical freak, sort of like other people I know, has recently been accepted to art school in visual communication will be carrying on the ‘tradicion familial’. Aside from being unable to walk down any street with him without stopping to greet the locals, Juan’s charm exudes and no lady of any age in this city is safe from it.

Found this great way to lose weight. The all fish diet.

More on the individual make up of the various components of the volunteer stew to follow.

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