¿Quien Somos?

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Life in Bogota continues, each day faster than the other! I’m living in what is known here as the Mennonite Barrio. Many of the leaders of the Mennonite Church of Colombia live here; I’m staying with the son of one of the pastors, while his wife and two-year old twins are in Canada for paperwork. Sharing the house with us is also a mother and her daughter who I have enjoyed getting to know over the last couple of weeks. Three other Seeders live nearby and everyday we walk together to the MCC and Seed offices, where we have meetings every morning. Every afternoon, we have Spanish classes. When not in formal classes, we are divided into pairs for conversation hours. Those whose first language is Spanish are being encouraged to learn English, so some of these are in English and some are in Spanish. The evenings are spent visiting each other’s houses, doing Spanish homework, and just relaxing and recovering from a busy day.

Each week, the mornings are spent exploring a different theme. This week, we have been exploring the question of who are we as individuals and as a group. How do our separate families, countries, and life experiences impact the work that we will do together?

We have been exploring this theme in a number of different ways. On Monday, we began with sharing our own life stories, telling about our families, education, work, etc. On Tuesday, we talked about the different between dialogue and debate and how we can use our own life experiences to share our perspectives on different topics in respectful way. Up to that point, things seemed pretty straightforward, as we began to acknowledge that we have both differences and similarities.

Wednesday, things got heavy. Two guest speakers led a two hour lecture and discussion on global citizenship, solidarity and human rights in Colombia. We had talked about the differences in our families and upbringing, but what happens when we acknowledge that the personal is political? We all live in a globalized world and were therefore were all connected to one another before we even arrived in this country. The country of Colombia, and human rights violations that occur within, cannot be seen apart for the connections between us all.

Each of us was challenged to respond to a number of questions. What does it mean to be a global citizen and a Canadian when Canadian mining companies operate within the delicate jungles of the Pacific coast region, often on territory that is only empty because people have been displaced? What does it mean to be from the United States, when Plan Colombia has caused the devastation of jungle land and the spreading of coca farming to areas where it has never been grown before? What does it mean to be from Peru, when Peruvian campesinos are protesting the activities of the same Canadian mining companies that are operating in Peru as in Colombia? What does it mean to be from Mexico, which has been described as Colombia ten years ago? What does it mean to be from Colombia and interact with all of us?

What does solidarity and global citizenship look like here? We were challenged to recognize our own privilege in even having the possibility to consider ourselves as global citizens. Only a small minority of the people of the world can travel to Colombia and even consider themselves global citizens. On the other hand, this group is a deliberate attempt to create a space for considering these ideas, challenging and examining what it means to be ourselves in relation to others.

The last couple of days, we’ve also been exploring Paulo Friere’s idea of praxis: reflection and action to transform the world, as a form of solidarity that challenges ideas of status quo, oppression and oppressor. We are attempting to put this education pedagogy into practice over the next two years. However, it’s easy to write all of these words, but the time has yet to come when I will be forced to put them into practice in my community. I’m trying to begin this process here, in Bogota, but the real learning has yet to begin…

2 comments on “¿Quien Somos?”

  1. What crazy questions you are working through! And even crazier (but amazing) that you get to act out the answers. Mennonite Barrio – does that have your name all over it or what?

  2. So amazing reading about your Colombian adventures, Anna! I love following your life – you are the antithesis of “youth being wasted on the young”. 🙂

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