PHOTOS: Salento, Colombia
I am getting very confused about my feelings about volunteering. There is so much money and business involved that at the end you don’t know whom you are really helping.
I have been feeling down for the past week. Since it’s a pilot project I am the only one here. It feels like I am going waste time and there is not going to be a continuation of anything.
Also, I haven’t really met people or gone out. Volunteering is volunteering but there should be time for fun. Our house is in the middle of nowhere. You can’t really get out of the house unless you want to pay $12-15 for a taxi. A bus is an option bus it takes about an hour to get downtown.
Gloria has been very nice and sweet taking me places and even went to the best salsa place with me till 2am, but I just can’t ask her to do it all the time.
The beauty of travelling is that YOU can decide whether or not to stay or to go. So, I have decided to move on.
SALENTO: Try the best trucha in Colombia!
With every place in Colombia I visit I fall in love more and more. As it’s said about Colombia, “The only risk is the want to stay longer.” Chivor wasn’t an exception.
For the past two weeks I have been volunteering with Emerging Voices in Bogotá. That involved working with blind kids, helping grandmas and working with homeless people. Teaching English in Chivor was organized by the group Vitaminas who is trying to promote tourism in the Minas of Esmeraldas in Chivor.
The main goal is to teach people English for about $12 a months, 4 days a week, 2 hours a day and give them $6 back if they attend all the classes. What can be better?
“So do you want to come and help teaching with us for a week while we are looking for a permanent volunteer?” – asked me Monica. “Free food and bed, beautiful place?”
“Free food and bed and getting to know a new place with minas and mountains? Lets do it!” I said.
When we arrived to Chivor, we were met by the nicest people who right away asked if we wanted anything to eat, drink, visit, etc. They also called me “profe.” I felt very important and respected.
The first day of classes we had to wake up at 5am, take a cold shower, eat a large plate of delicious soup and leave for High School at 6:45am. There, the director introduced us to two English teachers with whom I spent the rest of the day presenting myself, sharing Ukrainian music, singing anthems in French, Russian, Ukrainian and English, and teaching the kids basic English questions and answers.
In the afternoon I had classes at 2pm and 6pm for adults and a few kids. That was a blast. They loved the dynamics and teaching method of the classes. On the other hand, I loved to see how they were learning. The best thing was a little note written by a 5-year old girl saying “Profe, I love you.” Tears came to my eyes.
Between the classes someone would always ask you to go have coffee or a bandeja paisa, or a pastry, or a chocolate. If you wanted it or not, you were always around the nicest people and food in Chivor.
At the end of the week two nicest women took me to the mines of Esmeraldas. The idea was to walk from the house for the sake of exercise but the nicest miners driving pass us gave us a lift all the way to the final destination. There, almost in every little site we visited where live miners, we had a cup of coffee. I think I had about 10 of them.
On Saturday, before leaving to Bogotá, another nicest neighbor took me on motorcycle ride to visit the vicinities of Chivor and on a stroll in a ferry. It was fantastic!
What can I say? If you are in Colombia and close to Bogotá, it’s a MUST see place. And if you can volunteer there, it’s even better.
8am – meeting at the TransMillenio with Sebastian and taking a bus to a little town in the outskirts of Bogotá.
At first it was very unclear what Sebastian was doing and what Ahmsa was all about.
When we got there, he told me to put a volunteering jacket on to be safe. We walked through a dusty dry road into a very poor neighborhood.
The goal for the day was to teach a class about a disaster. The people of the pueblo live at risk. The houses are built on a mountain that is slowly falling down. The main street and most of the houses on the main road are destroyed.
Sebastian started the class. We had about 20 people, including kids. The main points were: Before/During/After the disaster and how to help each other as a community.
After that, we headed to the backyard where people received a free bag of dirt and compost to start planting trees and vegetables On the way out from the town, we saw a lot of houses full of plastic, bottles, and bags.
-What is it? I asked.
-Recycling shops, said Sebastian. People collect bottles in Bogotá, bring them here, process with a special machine and sell to the companies that need plastic.
-How did they get the money to buy the machines? I asked
Then we had a long conversation about the micro-lending and Mercy Corps that provides the funds to Ahmsa.
I learned a lot, took a lot of pictures and am really ready to head to Armenia to start a volunteering project there.
I finally got nine hours of sleep but walk up with a terrible cough. After a bowl of hot chicken soup with egg for breakfast we headed to Ivan’s apartment to meet with a group of volunteers. The VITAMINAS!!!
Vitaminas because they are helping the people in the mines. Isn’t that cleaver?
From there, we headed to a park to meet with a few Danish students who were working on a volunteer project in Bogotá. The main goal was to get all the volunteer together in one day and share love.
The project called 100 in 1 dia.
Si no eres tu, quien? If not you, then who?
Si no es ahora, cuando? If not righ now, then when?
Si no es aqui, donde? – If not here, then where?
From there, we got a taxi and went to a supermarket Exito to tell people about the Vitamianas.
– Do you want vitamins? – we would ask. Then pick a paper.
A abrazo (group hug)
D dulce (sweets)
F foto (photo)
And we did it for about two hours until we run out of brochures and candies. It was great. Even if people didn’t want to talk to us at first, or take a picture, of hug them, when we would make them, it would put a smile on their face and it all that mattered.
The day ended with a benefit of Vitamin water that calls beer.
It was a Thursday night and Margaret asked me to come over to the volunteer house of Emerging Voices for a trivia night with a group of military guys.
When I arrived I met Monica, the director of the organization. She herself volunteered in Kenya, Peru, studied in New York and then decided to go back and help her country. We talked and she asked if I would join her cousin in the coffee region and start a pilot volunteer project. “it’s a beautiful house, you will speak Spanish, and only 2 hours away from Cali.” – she said.
Then I met Gloria, the cousin, we made a tortilla soup and I absolutely loved her. After the trivia night with the military men, Monica asked if I would go get her car so we can talk. On the way back, she offered to join her at a volunteer conference in the morning, and that all lead to me going back to the hostel at 11:30 pm, packing in 7 minutes and moving-in with the rest of volunteers.
For the past two days I have been in a conference from 8am-5pm with a bunch of awesome people and delicious food. On Wednesday Gloria and I are taking off to the coffee region to do some good!!! I am excited.
Things sometime work out in a complete different direction but it is what it is and I am loving the journey!!!