Going to Colombia

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I can’t believe it. In two months minus one day, I will be on a plane, heading for two years of what I’ve being calling my master degree of real life. In other words, I’m going to Colombia, folks!

Every activity that I have been engaged in the last few weeks has had a condition attached to it. This is the last time I’ll _______, for the next two years. The blank has been filled with a number of activities.

-experience snowfall

-travel across Canada

-eat Ethiopean food

-spend time with family and friends.

The list goes on. Somethings are sad, some, like snow, are not so sad. However, all invoke the ideas of transition and change, the need to prepare myself for a new place and new ways of understanding the world. I’m trying to mentally get ready, to embrace new opportunities and situations,  to deal well with change. My new manta is that this is an chance to excel, not to fail. It’s a place to learn, not to have all the answers.  This is hard for an over-achiever, over-researcher like me. But it’s necessary. And it is good.

I just spoke to the coordinators of my program on skype this morning. In Spanish, which is another challenge. But again, a challenge that I am looking forward to excelling at.  And there will be ample opportunity where I will be! I’ll be working in Mampujan, a small Afro-Colombian village of around a thousand people on the Caribbean coast. The village was displaced about 8 years ago by a group of paramilitaries, and has since been going through a process of reparations with the federal government, with the eventual goal of returning to their original location. You can read the story of the village here. I’ll be doing social development with a local Anabaptist organization called Sembrandopaz, which works with a number of communities throughout the region.  Part of my job will be accompanying the community throughout the process of reconcilliation, as well as helping the community figure out strategies to deal with life after development. Additionally, I will hopefully get to help organize a women’s network throughout the region! These are huge projects and challenges, things that I don’t feel fully equipped to carry out. But I will learn, and probably fail a few times, but I will also get an opportunity to fly.

What a gift to be part of this! Jes and Alejo, my coordinators, mentioned that I will be famous in the village, as I will be the only long term foreigner. The kids will follow me around and the adults will be over-protective.  How can I reach out in return, offering my own gift of friendship?

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