It’s hard to wrap my mind around all that has happened these past few weeks. It’s been such a whirlwind. A beautiful, exhausting, exhilarating whirlwind. I’ll start with one of my last days of having free time.
Last Friday, I took advantage of my free day to explore the historic center of the city–La Candelaria. In just a 20 minute walk, I arrived in the famous Plaza Bolívar. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen so many pigeons in my life. I spent the next few hours weaving up and down the cobblestone streets, visiting the Botero Museum (Colombia’s most famous artist), the cultural center, and the original home of author Gabriel García Márquez.
That night, I traveled back to the northern part of town to attend and help out with the Cine Foro. This is a new program for the foundation and consists of a movie night for the teenagers in the neighborhood followed by a discussion. I got to pick the movie and chose “It’s Kind of a Funny Story” (dubbed in Spanish, of course). It’s a great witty drama that focuses on universal issues of depression and anxiety, especially for teenagers. We followed the film with a great discussion about the difficult themes and of course, a quick game of soccer.
The next day, I started a new adventure. I have the opportunity of traveling to Pacho (the town up into the Andes Mountains where we held Supervacas) every Saturday. I wake up bright and early, take a bus to a taxi station and grab a cab that makes the beautiful but not so comfortable weaving drive up the mountains. While there, I will be teaching an English class in the morning, meeting with some of the youth during the afternoon, and developing another Cine Foro for the teenagers during the night. On Sunday, I grab a cab, take a bus, and make it back just in time for church. Though a tiring journey to make every week, I’m so thankful for this opportunity to work with the youth in Pacho and deepen these relationships as well as the foundation’s influence in this beautiful town.
Sunday was a very special day. Because of timing issues, my work with the Alturo family ended the day before their daughter, Laura returned home from the hospital, healed from her brain tumor. For this, I never got to meet her. But on Sunday, the family invited us over for dinner and I got to meet Laura for the first time. After a long hug and trying to hold back tears, the weight of what we did for that one month– though sometimes tedious cooking so many meals and spending so much time in the house–hit me. What a blessing to be able to hold this girl who was so close to death but is now so full of life!
On Wednesday, we took advantage of the holiday and planned a welcome home/block party celebration for Laura. What an incredible opportunity because the neighborhood in which Laura and her family live is another area where the foundation wants to begin more programs in the future. To put it simply, it was a beautiful day. In Colombia, you don’t need to send invitations to a party. You just need a couple of speakers to blast music and the whole neighborhood comes over to check it out. And that’s exactly what happened. We hung giant banners, made some finger food, brought out the sidewalk chalk, and of course, blasted the music.
This week also began the tutoring program. Tuesdays and Thursday, kids from the neighborhood come from 3-5 to get help with their homework. We plan crafts, snacks and games for those who finish early or don’t bring work at all. Lucky for me, the majority of the kids have English homework so I haven’t yet had to deal with tutoring math in Spanish.
This week has also been full of teaching private English lessons. Currently, I have four people who I meet with on an individual basis, to help them with English. It’s a blast getting to work with people at all different levels of English.
I’ve also been meeting with several girls in the neighborhood, just to talk about life. I’m excited to grow these relationships and maybe even get these girls more connected with the foundation.
Also a quick language update: I can’t believe how quickly my Spanish has improved. One day I realized I was having conversations effortlessly (definitely a new experience) and I even found myself beginning to translate for other foreign visitors. It’s such a freeing feeling being able to communicate without the struggles I had before.