Almost five years ago to the day, I arrived in Managua, Nicaragua for MCC orientation. Equal parts anxious and excited, I did my best at making awkward small talk with my new colleagues and trying to figure out how I could best fit into this strange new world.
I had no idea that I would still be here today, not in Nicaragua, but continuing with MCC. I’m still not good at small talk and have regularly scheduled moments of self-doubt and feelings of never quite knowing how I fit with everything that is going on around me. I do, however, subconsciously make the peace sign in meetings with Canadian civil servants, so something must be going right.
When I first arrived, I used to have competitions with a colleague over who had done the most random jobs before MCC. Accountant, server, barista, librarian, receptionist, researcher, fudge chef. The list goes on. What I didn’t know was that, although I have spent five years with the same organization, part of the richness of those years would be the number of random jobs I would accumulate. Here is the list, just to show that I am now officially the true winner of the random job competition:
Giant community event planner. From nonviolent marches to commemorations, I can plan out food on an excel spreadsheet, sleep on a hammock or a concrete floor and organize breakfast, meetings and slogans with the best of them.
Displacement paper work consultant. As the only person with a computer, my home became the reparations control centre as I verified names and data.
Radio producer. Almost every Wednesday for the past three years, I have learnt about the fine art of radio and I love it, both for the chance to hone my production skills and learn about the Colombian context on Sintonizate con la Paz.
Event photographer. I starting out taking photos on the streets in Mampujan to because I didn’t know what else to do, and ending up being the designated official photographer for multiple, random activities. The act of photo documentation, of beauty and chaos, is still a delight. Even more delightful is seeing those photos on display.
Subcategory: Taking pictures of people taking pictures of Mampujan. Documenting the increasing fame of Mampujan was a whole job itself, not only through photography but also in attempting to understand how Mampujan used that fame for the betterment of their community.
Official tweeter (and super smartphone user):Smart phones can be used for so much more than just selfies. We freed Jhonantan, partly because of our #hashtag and it was awesome.
Coffee farm snob: No description needed. I live in Colombia.
Conference presenter: It was not until I was in Canada last month, conferencing with the best of them, that I realized how many of the local experiences throughout Latin America that we accompany need to be shared. Their stories provide the local expertise needed to address large scale issues.
Workshop facilitator: From Honduras to Guatemala, it is a privilege to learn how to provide spaces where people can discover and share their passions and knowledge with each other.
Quilt admirer: Everywhere I go, there are quilts. From Mampujan to the National Museum to the MCC Canada office, learning and sharing the stories of quilts and community has become second nature.
Journalist: I tell stories, hoping that some of the events and people that matter to me can also matter to others.
Guide: I take family, friends and learning tours around the country, in buses, planes, motorcycles and boats. I know all the best washroom stops from Bogota to Sincelejo, which is no small feat. Along the way, I get to share my life and the beauty of Colombia.
Blogger: Thanks for reading five years worth of ramblings as I try to process this experience through words and photos.
Accompanier: This has been a constant responsibility and something I am still trying to figure out. What is my role in Colombia and in the broader region? How do I provide tangible support and facilitate spaces without taking control? When do I listen and when do I speak? I still don’t have all the answers, but I do know that vulnerability is part of what it means to walk alongside.
Art collector. I think the main reason I have stayed in Colombia so long is that there is no way I will ever be able to get my art back to Canada. This is a problem.
Gringos who carry things. Up and down streets, in buses and on motorcycles. I can transport just about anything, from 15 kilos of dead pig to giant soup pots, to anywhere.
Toilet repair: Did it once, don’t really want to do it again. But I can!
Dance instructor: The proudest moment of my life so far-teaching Elizabeth May the Russian Mennonite dance.
Witness: I only gesture with the peace sign thanks to the opportunities and people I have encountered and experienced. I am so thankful for the chances I have had, to not only nurture and develop skills, but to do so in the company of those I walk beside here in Latin America. I am a witness to incredible courage, ready laughter and unstoppable hope every day. I’m surprised I don’t make the peace sign more often and incredibly grateful for the past five years.