Wow, one week in here in Colombia….doesn’t even seem possible. You’ll have to forgive me because there are a zillion stories I could already tell, but I recognize that to put them into one blog post would be a little too tedious for y’all to read. So, I’ll just put them into separate posts, and you can read any (or all) of them at your leisure. I guess for this one, though, I’ll give a brief overview of the week.
So, to begin…I got to Colombia last Monday (Labor Day) night at around 9 pm. I was worried all day that I wouldn’t even make it out of the US because of bad weather in Atlanta due to the tropical storm passing through the golf coast. But I made it! I was in Bogotá – finally…but how in the WORLD was I supposed to find the people from my organization who were going to pick me up at the airport? Luckily, I was able to find them, and they got me to my apartment and I crashed for the night.
Tuesday, one of the co-directors of the organization came and picked me up in the morning, took me to breakfast, then brought me to the office, where I was able to meet the vast majority of the people who work here at the organization, including another volunteer from Switzerland.
On Wednesday, late in the morning, the Swiss volunteer and I went with the aforementioned co-director to a conference on unplanned pregnancy and abortion here in Colombia…I may write a more detailed description of the event in a separate post, but it effectively addressed the way that a change in Colombian law in recent years outlawing abortion in all but three cases (violation, endangerment of the mother, or problems with the health of the fetus that would severely affect the baby’s quality of life if it were born); the vast, vast majority of abortions that are performed in Colombia, then are not done through “legal” means, which means they are often in unsafe conditions, and then often women don’t seek out the medical attention they need afterwords, either. Anyway, the issue is far too layered to go into great detail here, but the conference was great and very informative, and we were able to meet some important leaders in the women’s rights movement here in Colombia (so many feminists in one room, must be what heaven looks like!). 🙂
Thursday was a little nutty; I spent most of the day running around the city with another co-worker trying to apply for my cédula de extranjería(which is an ID which the Colombian government issues to people who are here long-term). Had a little bit of a scare with my travel debit card not working in the Colombian banks’ ATMs (apparently it only likes the CitiBank ATMs…thank you globalization, and US economic imperialism). Oh, well…life goes on. I got my application turned in, and I’ll return this Thursday in order to pick it up. The place where I went to apply for it and where I will return to pick it up is one of the richest parts of the city (or possibly even the richest part); there are luxurious highrises and expensive shops and restaurants…the cost of living is clearly higher.
On Friday night, we had an event at CEPALC called “Fe y Café” (Faith and Coffee), where women (and this time, a few men, namely the pastor of the Methodist church that I’m attending here in Bogotá) from all different denominations (we had Menonites, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Catholics, Methodists, and possibly Anglicans, I don’t remember), for a time of both relationship-building and personal/theological reflection (this time’s theme was friendship, thinking especially about what friendship looks like to us. It was a wonderful time, and I met some truly phenomenal people there.
On Saturday, I went to a barrio (neighborhood) of Bogotá named Caracolí, which is an extremely poor barrio, where a large portion of the population was displaced due to the war here in Colombia which has continued for the last several decades. An interesting contrast to the barrio which I saw Thursday, which was full of luxury and (I would argue) excess. We worked with a group of 7 or 8 children who seemed to be approximately 8 to 13 years old (only a few of them said their actual ages), practicing for an upcoming radio broadcast over the internet which they will be taking part in. The broadcast speaks of their lives in Caracolí, their hopes and fears, their dreams and families. It was great to work with the kids and I can’t wait to hear their broadcast (watch my Facebook; I might be able to provide a link so you can listen in).
Finally, Sunday…I went to one of the two Colombian Methodist Churches here in Bogotá and had a phenomenal time getting to know the pastor better and getting to know the congregation. I will definitely write a more detailed post on the church soon, but in brief, I am extremely excited and extremely blessed to be able to work with a faith community that is so willing to be a prophetic voice for justice even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
Keep watching for more posts; I’ll probably have a few more tonight or in the next day or so, elaborating on a lot of what I’ve mentioned only in brief here. But that’s all for now from the city of great welcome and great disparity.