The best summer job of my life involved sugar, coffee and the CBC. I worked making fudge from giant boxed mixes containing corn syrup solids and powdered cream. When I got bored of the kitchen and its accompanying sugar rush, I would walk down the street to a small coffee shop and brew espresso and make sandwiches. If the caffeine high got to be too much, it was back to the fudge kitchen. It was glorious. The best part: listening to CBC Radio One every day while inventing new types of fudge and ingesting sugar.
There were times would I would have to stop stirring chocolate and lean against the counter to listen more fully, such as when Karen Armstrong spoke about compassion. I would bike home and drive the people I was living with crazy, as I quoted all the things that I had learnt at work, from current events, to books, to any new idea that had caught my fancy during the day.
My father told me to be careful or I would end up liberal from too much CBC. This made me even more determined to listen and to absorb. There was something about the plethora of ideas spinning through the air that refused to allow me to be the same. I did not have to agree with everything I heard to realize, once again, that the world was so much bigger than just the inside of my head. Ideas, Tapestry, Q, the Current. At the dial of a knob, I was connected to a universe outside myself, full of people and their lives.
When I was a little girl, I would record my own radio shows. I discussed books, current events and shared recipes. I may have just liked the sound of my own voice from an early age. I believe, however, it was a desire to communicate, to join in the sharing of ideas and words, to send my voice into the abyss and to see if anything would come echoing back to me.
Of all of the things I was expecting for my new job in Bogota, working on a radio show was not one of them. Yet here I am, echoing my past, as part of a weekly radio show where we talk about current events and try to connect the reality of the regions with Bogota and the peace talks. The mandate is large and we are only just beginning, but I am a firm believer in the power of ideas to create change and that creating channels of communication can open up the world.
Carl Sagan once said that we make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers. Listening to the radio gave me the courage to ask questions and I continue to seek answers, which is part of why I came to Colombia. Yet mass media rarely discusses the reality of this place. Additionally, throughout my time here especially in Mampuján, I have seen the failure of Bogota to ask good questions about regional situations. It is easier not to ask, to continue on with centralized programming and to arrive at a pre-planned conclusion. In the best case scenario, nothing changes but more often than not, damage is done.
Good communication and the ability to openly discuss ideas are hallmarks of democracy; as we work on building bridges between regions, I hope that we can facilitate a frank discussion that goes beyond pat answers. I want people to talk about the reality of their lives, about conflict, about peace, and about the policies necessary to create lasting, significant change throughout the country, not only the capital.
The magic and mystery of radio is forming an idea and then setting is loose, through the airways into the world. There are many things to keep in mind: ensuring the validity of sources, avoiding misrepresentation, allowing space for discussion and following cultural sensitivity. Yet in the end, you never know where your idea will end up. Maybe in the fields in the Montes de Maria. Maybe in a car in rush hour in Cali. Or maybe in to the back room of a fudge shop, right into the ears of girl on a sugar high.