Reflections on Visiting Colombia

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Lucy prepares a chicken for soup.
Lucy prepares a chicken for soup.

I’m happy to introduce my first ever guest blogger, my mother Lucy, who shares some reflections on her recent visit to Colombia.

Together with our daughter Bonnie and her husband Jonathan, Jack and I had the privilege of spending three weeks in Colombia visiting Anna. We spent some time doing “touristy” things but mostly traveled to remote rural communities where Anna and some of her MCC co-workers are living and working. We saw a Colombia that most tourists never see, not only the beautiful rural scenery but also interacting with the local people and understanding a bit more of their lives. The communities we visited have all been affected by violence between the guerrilla and para-military forces, many having been displaced from their homes. Some have returned, others are still waiting to return and others are making a new life for themselves in a different location. Here are some of my observations about our time in Colombia:

Talking to Ricardo at the Sembrandopaz farm
Talking to Ricardo at the Sembrandopaz farm

• There are so many kinds of delicious fruit in Colombia that they do not even all have English names. But they are most delicious when a neighbor takes you to his farm at 6 AM to pick fruit right from the tree.
• Our warm welcome in remote rural communities shows me that Anna and her co-workers are doing an exceptional job of working cross culturally.
• The solid yellow line in the middle of the road when going up hill and around a corner is just a suggestion.
• Many Colombian farmers work hard under the hot sun but still struggle to feed their families. When they were displaced, they lost all their animals plus their land was not farmed for several years. In the jungle,
growth is fast so the land needs much work to bring it back into production. In comparison, I do not work very hard for every dollar I earn.
• The first step in making traditional Colombian soup is to catch the chicken! And clothes need to be taken to the river to be washed on the rocks. None of our modern conveniences here!
• Colombian women do not shave their legs 🙂
• Q – What time does the bus/taxi/boat/chiva/truck leave? A – When it is full.
Q – When is it full? A – There is always room for one more, even if it is on the roof.
• Reparations money can never pay for the loss and the suffering of the people (can you imagine living in a school room with 6 other families for 3 years while waiting for a place to call home?) However, it gives
the opportunity for families to rebuild their homes and their lives. Promises of schools, roads, and health care need to be fulfilled.
• Fourteen people plus cargo can fit in a jeep that seats 8 uncomfortably (if 2 are standing on the back bumper holding the door shut as it does not latch properly). But why should that surprise me when 7 people can fit on a normal motorcycle?
• Free range chickens and roosters wander during the day but all come home to roost in their own tree at night. Roosters in Canada crow when the sun comes up but in Colombia, they crow all night long.
• Rural Colombians have the best insurance policy: If I have today, I will share with you. If I am in need tomorrow, you will share with me.
• It is possible to eat deep fried food and rice 3 times per day.
• The best way to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve is to rent the biggest speakers you can find, set them up outside of your house, and compete with your neighbors to see who can play their music the loudest. Start at about 4 pm and continue until 10am.
• Money does not buy happiness although having enough to feed your family certainly helps. True happiness comes from spending time with family and friends, like going to Old Mampujan with the community for a traditional New Year’s Day swim in the creek and sharing soup cooked over a fire on the shore. In this hot climate, it is easiest to bring
the chicken along alive!
• It is surprisingly comfortable to sleep in hammocks outside under a thatched roof. It’s the bats roosting and pooping overhead that make it a little harder to sleep.
• There is no air conditioning in rural Colombia. I have never been so hot and sweaty before, nor enjoyed cold showers and swimming in the creek so much.
• Faith in God is not destroyed by trials in life. It is the churches in some communities that are leading the fight for justice.

In Old Mampujan
In Old Mampujan
A big thank you to Anna and her friends for a wonderful 3 weeks!

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