The Chaos, the Grace and the Just Plain Weird: Normal life in Mampuján.


As I prepare to leave in just under a month (yikes!), I am trying to enjoy, or at least recognize, the frantic chaos, the moments of grace, and the just plain weird that encapsulate this community. Here are some examples:

Playing dominoes while waiting for a meeting to start.
Playing dominoes while waiting for a meeting to start.

Frantic Chaos: Mampuján is generally in a state of chaos, but this week has been even more intense than normal. There is an interview team in town, which I somehow ended up being the point-person for, who want to interview at least 35 people a day from different families about the justice and peace process. Juana, with the help of all of us, is writing a book sponsored by the USA Embassy, so we are frantically trying to meet publication deadlines and work with dying computers and lost archives. A government institution is here to provide some sort of capacity-building by teaching people how to make pizza (don’t really understand that one). Some group from Europe is planning on coming to talk to land restitution recipients. Payment dates keep on being scheduled, so we do all the organizing, and then cancelled. The ladies from the church are having an activity that involves prayer and soup. A team of psychologists are coming and want to meet with 50 people from the community. The lady working on the return from the Unidad de Victimas should be here today. Another government group was here to inscribe people in different courses about business management, sewing machines, and small motor repair. All the kids in the community got dressed up and then drenched in a rainstorm for the Day of the Afro-Colombian. My supervisor was here for a long day of evaluations. I have been helping Gaby and Alex send and label photos of all of the different agricultural projects. I’m sure other things happened too, I just can’t remember everything.
Day of the Afro-Colombian.
Day of the Afro-Colombian.

All dressed up for the Day of the Afro-Colombian.
All dressed up for the Day of the Afro-Colombian.

Moments of grace: I am finally realizing how much trust the community has in me and it is a beautiful gift. In two years of change, I have been a constant and that is reflected in the way people greet me, gift me mangoes and set aside lunch for me at every single event, whether I want to eat rice or not. When I enter a meeting, people are happy to see me and ask me how to open bank accounts. My neighbour Juana has been making me dinner every night. I receive unexpected hugs from ladies on the street as we greet each other. People make me hold their babies. I was there to celebrate with a friend when she finally received her government issued ID after waiting for five years. I am grateful.

Breakfast, Mampujan style and lunch, US Embassy style.
Breakfast, Mampujan style and lunch, US Embassy style.

Just Plain Weird: Someone threw a dead cat in the farm in front of my house. It did not smell good and some small children still walk past my house with their noses plugged. Then, I found three dead baby mice in my sink one morning. I am still trying to figure out the connection is between the cat and mice. There are ants in my bed again, and live mice have started racing from the corner of the bathroom to the corner of my bedroom. Then there was the entire strange juxtaposition of eating a breakfast of fried fish and yuca at a Mampuján-run restaurant by the bus terminal in Cartagena and then a three course fancy lunch (with multiple pieces of silverware!) with the US Embassy at an elegant hotel in Cartagena. And of course, the constant audience of small children who always want to know what I am doing and watch me do it and also explain all of the pictures on my wall as I bandage their scrapes.

Don't even try telling me this isn't weird.
Don’t even try telling me this isn’t weird.

Through it all, I am trying to be present, to be alive and to be aware. Wish me luck!

2 comments on “The Chaos, the Grace and the Just Plain Weird: Normal life in Mampuján.”

  1. anna, “hay cerveza” – is that philosophical, pragmatic, or practical? made me smile. I enjoy your musings.

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