5 Years of Making the Peace Sign

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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.

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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:

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Taking a soup break while planning a commemoration for twelve years of displacement.

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.

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Hard at work!

Displacement paper work consultant. As the only person with a computer, my home became the reparations control centre as I verified names and data.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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From ripe cherry to bean to cup.

Coffee farm snob: No description needed. I live in Colombia.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Journalist: I tell stories, hoping that some of the events and people that matter to me can also matter to others.

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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.

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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.

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Haitian craftmanship

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.

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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.

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Toilet repair: Did it once, don’t really want to do it again. But I can!

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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.

 

 

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