A day and some work
The sound of the rain soothes me and right now it is pouring outside. It is the “wet season” in Colombia and it rains at least once a day. It surprises me every time because it always comes unexpectedly and when it does it is aggressive, forceful and almost greedy, longing to fall down from the sky. It feels like a relief.
I usually wake up in the morning, not from sounds of rain but from sounds of construction work (so much more less romantic) that is going on outside of the building that I live in, and when I have to go to Casa Karah it only takes me 15-20 minutes to get there by metro. In order to get to Casa Maren, I need about 1 hour in the morning with 2 metros and 1 bus. Once I get to work there are usually activities involved and I tend to have 1-6 classes in one day, working from 8.30-4.30, though I just recently changed my schedule for Tuesdays so that I will start working at 12.30.
At Casa Maren it is more “organized” in which I almost always have the same groups of children to teach; however, at Casa Karah I have yet not had one single group of children with the same constellation, this obviously requires more creativity and structure but I will be honest – I find it very difficult. How come? Well, there are certain activities that are compulsory in their programs and sometimes some children simply do not show up. Also, they do not really prioritise English here. And I understand, with so many children (approximately 90) it is difficult and as I always talk about consistency, they need teachers on a regular basis or actual classes set in their program. Nonetheless, this makes me feel that my choice of going back to grad school and taking on a TESOL course online is the right thing to do so that I can make bigger changes in the future.
A small reminder
I am having a wonderful time, because I am doing what I want to do now to see, learn, share, teach, give and appreciate but I want to tell you all that it is not always easy either – at times it is thouroughly challenging and I can almost compare it with times when I had my own business – from morning to night, you carry all of these thoughts and challenges. Do not get me wrong, I love it and it challenges me but…it is not easy or a walk in the park. Yes, there is a lot of love but there is also so much hurt and pain and despair that is not always reflected in my texts and this is because I always want to stay positive. It is important to me that you understand that the children I work with – yes, they are more privilaged than many other children who do not even have shoes to wear; however, these children experience so many different forms of abuse everyday but are then cleaned up, as appearance is so important here in Colombia, especially in Medellín. Even I can have moments of oblivion because they are mostly “dressed and clean” but then you see the bruise in a child’s face, notice the odor of a child who has not showered in a long time, see the clothes with holes and dirt that has been tried to be washed off so many times and most importantly, see how they act and when they do not smile – the seriousness and lack of light being reflected – and these are in the eyes of children who are 6 years old and older – in which, in my opinion, the only thing that “should” be reflected is innocence, joy and playfulness with hints of curiosity. Of course, amongst these 130 children there are those who have not been abused sexually or physically and they are not the most poor in Medellín, but still – I think you understand what it is I am trying to tell you. Pain, hurt or such experiences cannot ever be compared because it is in the body and memories and emotions of each individual in that person’s reality. Basically, just because you cannot see it, does not mean it is not there. Also, children process certain events very differently than adults.
The reason for me writing this is absolutely not to try to gain more attention in any way, please note that but as I do have free time during weekends and also post happy, smiling faces – it is easy to forget that this is not an amusement trip or vacation that I set out to go on and I am not experiencing that either. You choose what you do with your free time and you choose what you want to show and now I choose to remind you of the reality that I actually am experiencing here as well – every day.
After work and weekends
On my way home from work I usually stop to buy some fruits and vegetables (well not as often as I should but sometimes) and it is cheap to buy that here, the other day I bought avocados, mangos, coriander, lettuce and tomatoes for less than 2USD! By the time I get home I am exhausted and I suppose it is the difference in working with abround 60 children a day rather than 6 or 12 and add on to that trying to understand all of the Spanish going on and the cute little ones sighing in despair when I clearly do not understand what they are saying when they at times say something so fast and not with clear words
When I get home I can still enjoy a bit of daylight coming from my window – yes, I have a window here in Colombia and I appreciate it tremendously. Taking a shower is luxurious which I can enjoy every day here and most often if not always – I have hot water. It is not unusual that there is a cockroach or two in the shower with me. I am not sure if I should be worried that it hardly even bothers me that the cockroach(es) is swimming around by my feet when I am in there. After the shower I enjoy my very thin “camping-towel” and always send one loved, longing thought to my “real” towels packed in some box back in Stockholm.
I am hardly in the kitchen here which is also a shared kitchen but I try to remember not to go in to drawers or leave food out and turn my back on it since my friend(s), el cockroach makes quick appearances here as well. One thing that I am very happy about compared to Costa Rica is that there are not as many ants here – so I am getting away with skin that is starting to heal from the feast the ants in Costa Rica had on my body. With that said – I got 3 bites on my arm the other day that now seem to be experiencing an allergic reaction, blah!
Apart from spending time with ants and cockroaches after work I spend a lot of time in front of my laptop – planning and working on getting things better for the kids at the Monastery in Nepal, do you remember that I am still volunteering for them but from a distance as the Education Co-ordinator? We will see by the end of this year if it has made things better or not. I am also trying to get a lot of things together from a distance back home in Sweden before I move to California – thankfully, I have amazing friends who despite their very busy lives help me with all the things I need. Let me not forget that a lot of time is spent on Skype and Facebook as well – thank you creators of SKYPE and FACEBOOK!!
Language and things
I am learning more and more Spanish and having a lot of fun with it as well. I mentioned once before when I was in Costa Rica how I love the word Bombero or Bomberos – we should also have a word like Bomberos for firemen – supercute and always makes me giggle though I suppose firemen do not want to be referred to as supercute?
In Colombia they also use the word Ya all the time which indicates so many things: ready, done, finished, already…such a simple word so easily used. Then we have the words that mean a “bad thing” and in other meanings not a bad thing. So, in Costa Rica I learnt an expression/word which is “Que Chimba” meaning “how cool”. Entonces, a 7-year old boy, Elkin does a funny thing so I exclaim “Que Chimba Elkin!” and he looks at me – HORRIFIED and tells me that I cannot say that word because it is so bad. And I tried to say Noooo it means How Cool! in which I repeat it again and he puts his hands to his ears and shakes his head at me. Well, later I figured out that amongst adults, especially in Colombia this does actually mean How Cool or Great! BUT children do not know this – they only know the word Chimba as the name for the female genital –ehhhr, poor boy having his teacher being all excited about a trick he made and yelling that at him. As if that was not enough, today I told a boy “your blowjob” (pardon me for writing it out) instead of “your mother” because I pronounced the word mother without the accent and you would think that I would know how to say mother correctly by now..Well, can I just be irresponsible and blame the word creators for this, I mean – blowjob and mother with one intonation on the last letter – Really?!
Fear not – there is more. I had pronunciation class with the kids one day and chose PEACH as one of the fruit words to work with. Practising pronouncing and listening to the difference between PEACH and BEACH – yes, why not? Except for that the P-sound is much more soft in Spanish so PEACH sounded like BITCH and when I told them that P is pronounced mas duro, and one boy really did try though he was unsuccessful with the hard P and instead it sounded like this: BiiitttCCCCH! Ehhr. When he was told that it was a “bad word” which should not be learnt he got very eager to learn how to spell it in which I started talking about other fruits such as apples and trees and the number three to practice as well.
Actually, today one boy was annoyed and did not want to have class and was making all sorts of rude gestures and at one point called me a Bitch while turning away after having ignored me and refused to open his notebook for 30 minutes. And yes, I am rather sure that he was not calling me a Peach. Well, this is what can happen if you choose inappropriate fruits to work with in pronuncation class
Drugs and Violence
Are there a lot of drugs here and do you feel unsafe all the time and do you think you might get kidnapped or killed? No. Medellín is safe and I understand people have all of these frightened thoughts and worries about loved ones who travel to Colombia considering the civil war and drugs that is still kind of existing and that was so aggressive when it started around 1960 and even further back in time of course. But many, many, many things have changed in Colombia and are still ongoing. I will be travelling to Bogotá in a week and I have heard that in Bogotá I do need to be way more cautious and so I will try to remember that. From what I have seen so far, Colombia and its people are one of the most friendliest, nicest and creative people I have met. And the way they are growing as a country is cool to see and I am here for my first time now in 2014 – imagine expats or habitants who have been seeing this development throughout the past years.
Are there any contrasts?
Contrasts – yes, there are many. Living in a very populated, busy, active and smogged city you are yet never far away from the most beautiful nature where I finally after weeks of regaining energy and no more travels during weekends try to get out and spend my time in places like that. And then you have “high-life” vs very, very poor life and it can only be 40 minutes apart. From garbage recycling stations to so much garbage around every streetcorner that it makes you feel confused. Modern metrostation playing modern music (I feel most safe there, not that I feel that unsafe anywhere else here in Medellín but still) to streetvendors selling all kinds of snacks and food to mega supermarkets where you can choose between 100 kinds of canned tuna or 26 different kinds of syrups, for instance, and you can even buy – get this (yes, I love this) – already peeled garlic or onions.
Having dinner by the sidewalk on a Saturday night around 8 pm (or any other night for that matter) is common as well rather than spending hours in a fancy restaurant. From buying very cheap fruit and vegetables to very expensive other alimentations, such as soymilk for lactose-intolerant people. From the topmodern metrostation (again) to all of the buses that do not run on any schedule but seem to run all the time anyway and you can get on and off ANYWHERE you want – I really like that because it is convenient and slightly charming and it actually does not seem to cause much disorder in traffic here, at least not from what I have experienced (yet). If you travel uphill with a bus and then come down the same way you can be sure to get a ride similar to one at an amusement park – bumpy and at times swirly so you better hold on with both of your hands – hard!
Many other things also remind me of Nepal and China – I am not sure why but sometimes I see or hear things and it just clearly reminds me of places I have been to in China and then Nepal. It is also funny how people (well – some and including myself) in Sweden always make jokes about that Asian people eat so much rice when in a matter of fact people in Costa Rica and Colombia seem to have at least the same amount or more rice than Asian people. One day, I got fried rice for lunch and I truly missed the chilisauce – instead they put cream in this rice! Different
Time for bed
It is late now and it is time to sleep before construction work starts.
I would like to say good night by sharing with you what happened before I finished my last class today:
So, the boy who actually called me a bitch (and the one I said the different thing to instead of “your mother” to), we ended up having a “moment” in which he was telling me about his family. We were also trying to draw his family tree and it was..very complicated. By the end when class was finished and it was time for me to go home he said to me, “this, sshhh – secret, not tell anyone”. I respect that and will not tell anyone about it and promised him that as I also thanked him for sharing those stories and the tree with me. All the chaos and disorder during the day once again seemed to flutter away like a very distant memory when this boy looked me in the eyes and made me understand that he had really shared and given me something. A secret. What do you say to that? Every day is a challenge, surprise with very many things to experience and handle and I know changes do not come over one night but when things like this happen, I just know that the bigger picture is growing and becoming more and more clear with all of these details.
Humbled. That is what I am.
“Patience is not an absence of action, rather it is “timing” waiting on the right time to act, for the right principles in the right way.”
― Fulton J. Sheen