Saturday, March 28, 2009

a natural colonialism

In my almost one-month stay in Colombia, I have come to recognize quite a few stand-out qualities. For one, Colombians love poodles. Now, there are plenty of other kind of dogs roaming the streets, keeping you up at night with their constant screeching, but poodles outnumber the majority (and the yuppy ones still wear sweaters). There are an abnormal amount of adults who wear braces. Seriously, you would think it's a fashion statement the way they sport the metal...including an actress on one of the country's beloved soap operas. The current hair styles of modern teens and cooler twenty-thirty somethings is a male fauxhawk or a rather unattractive rat-tail-like concoction, and a female 80s rocker mullet. Chips are a far more acceptable food item for a meal, and it is common to have 2 cups of coffee and 2 cups of hot chocolate everyday. My salt and sugar levels have been rather unhealthy this past month. Of course, these trite observations are accompanied by the facts that Colombia is spectacularly beautiful. The land I saw by bus and truck is so similar to that of Nepal, but even more luscious due to its more consistent rainfall.

Colombia is a fine place to get an extra ten days on earth. Even though Jorge, Ginny, and Matilde were all incredibly ill for the past two weeks, we still managed to have fantastic movie nights. Jorge would hook up the projector and we would enjoy films like Australia (I mainly just enjoyed Hugh), Gosford Park, and Son of the Bride (an Argentinian film that was the best thing I've seen in ages). The weather was rather gloomy and disagreeable in Bogota, but time spent watching those movies with G & J or The Cosby Show with Suzie and Jonny were comforting moments of community and laughter.

I was able to help G & J with more technical aspects of their ministry such as updates on their website, a newsletter, and their expansive list of contacts. Thrown in the week was a day with Suzie when she took me downtown to the local markets. You don't see many tourists flocking toward these small vendors selling everything from toilet seats to the most beautiful jewelry on earth. But before I was to leave for Costa Rica, I wanted to seize the opportunity to explore a little more of Colombia....Villa de Leyva, specifically. We were going to all go as one big family, but the Enciso illness kept them at bay, and so with some extra convincing to Jorge, I made the decision to head off to the small town outside of Bogota by myself. And so it was that I awoke at the crack of dawn Thursday morning (too many crack of dawns lately) and caught my 10-passenger van to VdL.

It is considered to be one of the finest colonial villages of Colombia, and when it was named a National Monument in the 1950s it made sure that the architecture would remain unspoiled. I worked at Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park, Montana, a few summers ago, and it is known (except to those yuppies with sweater-wearing poodles) as a historical hotel because its architecture resembles the time period in which it was built (finished in 1914). Think of an entire town that is maintained this way. It is entirely romantic; its large cobbled-stones hold many secrets of generations that have come and gone, and changes in footwear in the past 500 years. It is pristine not only for its architectural preservation, but also for the nature that surrounds the small pueblo: mountains to the north, desert to the south and east, a mixture to the west. So I wandered that first day. Wandered. Sat on benches, drank coffee, read, prayed, thought, wandered even more, and shared some Henri Nouwen lovin'. For me, it was perfect. And the surprise arrival of Jonny and Suzie around 10pm just capitalized my emotions of joy. They are moving to the States in just a couple weeks, and thought it was the perfect time to enjoy one last Villa de Leyva adventure.

After a late dinner and a parting for the evening, we awoke on Friday to brilliant blue skies and big billowing clouds. The three of us met in the plaza, I climbed into the Bronco beast they had borrowed from G & J, and we scurried off to La Periquera, where waterfalls are the wanted attraction. We hiked to the first and largest fall trying to find a reasonable place to cross the river for more hiking, but the recent amount of rainfall and the fact that a girl died last week trying to cross kept our more dangerous instincts at bay. We spent a few lazy hours laying in the sun next to the noisy pounding of the Periquera. This would be the trend of our day: spend lazy hours in good conversation, under calm weather, enjoying the tranquility of our moment. From waterfall, to cafe, to a pool of natural springs, we made it last til the sun was starting to go to bed. That was our cue to buy some food for dinner and head out to our campsite. I haven't camped since last August, so you can understand my giddiness to do so in Colombia. We pitched our tent, started a fire, sang to Jonny's guitar, and ended an already emphatic day with a starry sky.

We returned to Bogota this morning as I re-packed for a supposed departure early in the morning. In my mind, I'm not in Costa Rica until I have a good sunburn and hippy paraphernalia. The weather here was the most splendid it has been since my first few days, so we made an afternoon visit to the park where Ginny, Matilde, Junior, Juan and I enjoyed the sun, threw a frisbee and football, and I out-raced JR and Juan (except for the time they both cheated). Later in the evening we went over to the church where we joined a good group in cheering on Colombia's national team. They beat Bolivia 2-0, and I enjoyed my momentary surge of Colombian patriotism. It was only appropriate that eight of the neighborhood boys were playing street soccer in front of the house when we returned. So Laura and I joined in for a good bit--quite the way to say ciao to Colombia.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

fibre amarilla

Yellow fever.  Raise your hand if you've ever had this vaccination.  I imagine that will be quite a few of you with the amount of friends I have who have crept into the Amazon or Sub-Sahara Africa.  Now, raise your hand if you've ever been inside a country that didn't require the vaccination to get in, but required it to get out.  I think I may be the lone girl back in the corner with puppy-dog eyes and a slight frown holding her hand high.  That's me.  I can't leave Colombia.  Last Thursday, I walked unassumingly into the Bogota airport, presented my documentation, and then began the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I realized the woman wasn't kidding when she said I couldn't enter Costa Rica without the vaccination.  Okay, so I'm kind of the fool that had no idea, but I'll just get the shot in the convenient store of shots located in the airport, and be gone the next day.  Oh no, the similar smugness entered the shot nurse as it had the airline ticket master of a woman, and I was informed that I would have to be here for ten more days...ten...diez...10.  

Yes, the technicality was indeed frustrating, but the reality could have been scores worse than it was; for instance, Jorge and Andres had already escorted me inside the airport to see me off and they single-handedly worked every supervisor they could find to make sure there was no working around the system, and then they took me back home to Ginny.  I could have been stuck in the middle of nowhere South America without a friend or shelter.  And Britta could have been waiting for me in Costa Rica by herself.  Instead, she had Amanda, Emily, and Chelsea to greet and hang with this entire time I'm on quarantine.  But, that's the one major bummer of this ten day window...I won't see any of these three ladies because they leave the day I will arrive.  Bummer.  

But Colombia is still here and still beautiful.  There is a plethora for me to do in Bogota and in a few towns surrounding, and several things I can still help with in the neighborhood, church, and for Ginny and Jorge.  I spent Friday afternoon and evening downtown going to a few museums that, similar to DC, were free.  Any city with access to art, public transportation, and books is a premium city in my mind.  I bought a beautiful necklace made of seeds from a great guy on the street, told him I was from Canada (for kicks...and as a safety precaution), and helped him out with a little English.  Afterward, I drank a cappuccino while reading A Severe Mercy and watching people.  Perfect evening.  

The next few days are up in the folks and sisters are trying to do a little black market/CIA magic with an old vaccination card I have in the States a la Catch Me If You Can to see if I can leave a bit sooner for my pals in Costa Rica, but if not, I will let you know of my extended adventures in Colombia.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

photo shoot

This past Monday, Ginny, Jorge and I spent the day roaming around his old college, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, where we met up with Laura, a sweet 17-year-old hipster who stays with G & J every weekend, plays guitar in the church's worship band, and is studying to be a dietician. It is always fascinating to visit different universities, but particularly in different countries. Universidad Nacional prides itself for being very radical best seen in their Che (Guevara) plaza, the overwhelmingly amount of grafitti and signs posted for a cause, and the fact that they are closed several weeks out of a semester for an arrangement of protests. It was so charming to hear the stories of how Ginny and Jorge met, how he clumsily asked her out, and about Jorge's idyllic days of studying law and being a revolutionary (brought sweet memories of my own days at Lipscomb...minus the Che plaza, of course). We left Laura to her Chemistry lab, and piddled on down to eat one delicious Corral burger and spend the afternoon reading and talking in a coffee shop. The following are some favorites from the day.

what the first one says.

he wishes...

young kids on the block

There are loads of kids in Ginny and Jorge's neighborhood. They ooze out the windows and doors to play futbol, ride bikes, play in the be kids. Bogota is basically one giant grid that conveniently keeps each level of class in their own corners--similar to any urban city, just more logistical. Here in their neck of the woods, it is known as a Estrato 3 (the higher you get, the wealthier), being our equivalent of lower middle class/working class. The neighborhood's steadily becoming more commercial with salons, supermarkets, countless bakeries, and a long street of knickknack stores that look like all the unsold items from yard sales exploded within. Their house in nestled in one of those corners with a park next door that provides a quieter hum than the overall noisiness and busyness of the streets.

It is there where the children hover: the park, outside this door...waiting. Waiting for a chance to play American football, an open door to get help with their homework or maybe a glass of hot chocolate, but most of all they wait for their birthdays. In just the first year of living in this particular location on earth, Ginny and Jorge have made all sorts of effort to begin traditions, discipline, and consistency with these kids who lack one or all of the three. And so it is that they have made it a point to focus a load of attention and celebration for each child's birthday. Like most children, each one counts down from day 75 until it's their time to eat cake and party, so the day is much-anticipated in general, but even more so when they know that a family that is not their own blood family will make food, play music, and bring out the ping-pong table just for them on their special day.

And so it was Esteban's day out of the year to bare his shy grin, open his eager eyes just a bit wider, and blow out candles only after making the wish of a 12-year-old living in his shoes on these streets in Bogota. For hours last Saturday evening, the kids used sidewalk chalk, puzzles, cards, boardgames, and, of course, ping-pong, for their constant entertainment, and everyone was given a piece of the cake made by Ginny, Matilde (see photo above), Junior, and decorator extraordinaire, Lorena. Long after sunset, with several pieces remaining, Jorge walked up to the man and woman picking up the recycling with horse and buggy to give them some chocolate cake covered with icing and sprinkles. Love means including all: the overlooked, the brat, the time-consuming. Saturday night was putting action to a theory. The theory that Christ did, in fact, desire the children to come to him, and that he loved the least of these, those, them.

This is why I came. Not for any specific effect or project, but to see two people who I respect and consider kindred walk in love. To live where you work and work where you live is, unfortunately, a rare thing these days. It takes courage and sacrifice to disregard absolute privacy and to exist for others. A heart yielded toward compassion is the foundation of this house, in this Estrato, bordering these childrens' lives.

I am thankful for the gift of comradery and union of friendship that the past few weeks have been for me.

that's who I is.

me with the birthday boy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

the boulevard is not that bad

This might be exhaustive. Consider yourself forewarned.

This long week began with a 5am wake up call from my otherwise useless cell phone. Jorge and I left at sunrise to pick up Eliana for our 5-day adventure to the mountain town of Medellin. Eliana is the 17-year-old intern at Jorge and Ginny's church, and is a-dore-able. Seriously, if I packed her in my suitcase for the States she would get an immediate vocation as Target's model for all Mossimo clothing. Her English is a chunk better than my Spanish, and so with our 10 hour bus ride, we spoke little except to explicate the absolute beauty of the Colombia's green, mountainous frontier. It was starkingly similar to long bus rides throughout Nepal; however, since Nepal's rainy season is isolated to a few months in the summer time, Colombia's year-long dampness makes it that much more luscious this time of year. And to calm any nerves early on in this post, there was not one sign of danger our entire journey to and fro. Sure, the military men with machine guns were regular on the sides of roads, but the two nuns that were our neighbors on that first leg of the ride were a sign from God that no one would mess with us.

Arriving in the early evening, Jon, our contact and a friend of G and J's, along with the entire staff of JUCUM (Jovenes Con un Mision...Youth With a Mission) welcomed us to Medellin and their work there. That night, Jon gave us a look at Colombia through his literal lens, as he went through hundreds of photos of outreaches and cute kids. Similar to Ginny, Jon was raised in Colombia as a missionary kid and after a stint in the US came back to Colombia to work with street kids and displaced families. He was in Bogota for the better part of three years, and is going on his second year in Medellin. He has a grand vision, a desire for conflict resolution within the church and the country of Colombia, and reads Henri Nouwen and Dostoyevsky...solid individual.

Besides Jon, my only other English translator was Luz. She is Colombian by birth, Dutch by adoption, and just 9 months ago moved to Colombia to do ministry, learn Spanish, and spend time with the family she has here. She was overwhelmingly hospitable, and took Eliana and I under her wing. And so it was that the following morning, we arose early to spend the day at the boys' home with Luz and another woman on staff. JUCUM's main focus in Medellin is with displaced kids. When I say displaced, it is meant to differentiate from street. The majority of street children, depending on the location, of course, means that they may be homeless and orphaned, or they're shelter is a mere cover from weather and their parents are either prostitutes, addicts, in jail, or a combination of the three. I am generalizing here, as one generally has to do when discussing such oppressive, non-objective, and complicated situations. So when I say displaced, I refer more to those who have known existing family (whether it be parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, or cousin) but who are unable to support the life of a child either physically, educationally, emotionally, or a combination of the three. JUCUM has been a constant presence in the city for fifteen years, and has a boys' home with 18 fellas from age 6-18, and a girls home with 16 ladies from a similar age range where they provide those resources the children would otherwise not have.

Eduardo, Jonatan y Felipe

So for a full day on Tuesday, we played 'Va Pescado' better known to us gringo chillun' as 'Go Fish',
Luz to the left
Eliana and Felipe

a memory game that put all us adults to shame (it is phenomenal how a six-year-old can embarass you in the realms of memory), practiced our shooting form with a form of basketball (really, it was a mop bucket placed against the wall and the ball is several socks wadded up...resourceful and creative mark the child devoid of video games), and helped with all the childrens' homework.


Every boy minus one goes to school at various times (either the morning shift or the afternoon), and the majority of the afternoon is spent keeping the child who prefers play-doh over mathematics accountable to his immense school responsibilities. But don't go thinking that the one boy who is too young to go to school just gets out of the same routine. Filipe, the six-year-old mixture of Secil and Ashish (a reference for whomever kept up with the children at Harka Orphan Home in Nepal) who is entirely too cute for his own good, spent over an hour with me that afternoon doing his 'homework'. He has a notebook which contains his daily homework of repetitive symbols. For instance, the day before he had to draw 80 triangles. This is more for him to get used to such a discipline more than to be particularly cruel and pointless, but the afternoon he was with me he had to draw 80 cats...yes, cats, gatos...however you say it, that is too many.
So after he finished his first two lines we started playing a game. Filipe would look at me with those knowing-how-cute-i-am eyes, charming smile and say, "Yo catorce, tu cuatro." (Me fourteen, you four). I caved in and helped him draw his cats while the other tutors weren't looking (I know, my potential influence was used solely to encourage cutting corners), and he continued his business guile by getting me down to a "Yo ocho (8), tu cinco (5)." That's as bad as it got, but by that time we were basically done with his homework. Filipe 1, Rebecca 0. But you look at this kid and tell me you wouldn't do the same.

It was 6pm, and as they sat down to enjoy their good behavior reward of Scooby Doo, we gave them all hugs and kisses and said good night after one long day of loving and being loved. What joy.

The following day Eliana and I went to her grandmother's home to enjoy a traditional Colombian lunch. Her cousin, cousin's precious two-year-old daughter, and uncle joined us for the occasion. I was in the dark for the majority of conversations but made out that her grandmother wanted me to come back and marry a Colombian (sounds good to me, I replied). I caught a glimpse of bead work on a desk next to our table and exclaimed how beautiful the bracelets were. Turns out her grandmother made them, and in typical, over-hospitable character, she gave me the most beautiful one as a gift. After such a generous meeting, Eliana, her cousin, Sandra, and I went to the pride and joy of Medellin, the Metro. Never have I been to a city where the metro is the number one tourist attraction (that and a singer and artist I'll get to in a bit). But considering the fact that it is the only metro system in Colombia, spreads throughout the entire city above ground, and connects to a cable car system that allows public transportation to the poorest of the poor (even though they most likely can't afford the ticket), it is rather impressive. Our destination was the aforementioned Metro Cable that is identical to a ski gondola but without the snow, skis, boards, steaming goggles, or nylon-shelled pants. It proved to be an enjoyable mini-roller coaster that gave beautiful, rainy views of the city, a glimpse into the levels of economic classes in Colombia, and time for two cousins to catch up who hadn't seen each other in over a year.

Later that evening we departed on what would be quite the adventurous night. In addition to the full-time responsibilities of both boys' and girls' homes, Rosita, a woman on staff with JUCUM in her forties is in charge of their weekly visits to street children and the homeless. Though their more focused efforts are toward the displaced children as I explained before, the need is still overwhelming to love the homeless and destitute in Colombia (as it is everywhere). Therefore, every Wednesday night, Rosita, a few other staff members, and a couple of the older boys pile two 10-gallon Igloo water coolers filled with hot chocolate, garbage bags filled with loaves of bread, squeezable jam, and bags of suckers into a couple of taxis and go to what is known as the Hotel. In the heart of downtown lies an abandoned hotel that now houses (the mere shelter from weather kind of house) over fifty children, mostly mothers, and a few fathers. The majority of women are prostitutes and their preteen daughters dress as if they will follow suit. It is with a consistent schedule that Rosita and crew show up around 8:30pm, play with the absolute over-energized children, listen to the women, sing songs, tell a story, and pass out the pan y chocolate. That many kids with such little structure leaves one exhausted after a few hours stay, but just before we left, Mauricio (32-year-old long-haired Colombian hippy on staff with a longing to go to India), Luz, Eliana and I took one of the cuter little boys up to his room. There his mother, his five siblings all under the age of seven, and aunt live in a space no bigger than 15ft x 15ft. Their skin and eyes prove their beautiful Colombian Indian race, and as the mother held Mauricio's hand she asked him to pray for her family as her husband is in jail and they are just trying to survive. So there we grabbed the hands of each child, mother, aunt, and prayed that God would give this family grace and peace, remind them that they are not forgotten, and that he loves them with a mighty love.

With one Igloo cooler drained, the other went on the shoulder of Andres, a Swiss staff member who has been in Colombia for more than two years and more recently brought back with him his new bride, Sarah, who together desire to begin a school for the street kids through JUCUM in Medellin. I was handed the squeezable package of orange marmalade that looked entirely unappetizing and filled with 99% preservatives, and my job was to partner with Sarah as she handed me the bread to be decorated. From 10pm to 1am we walked the streets surrounding the 'Hotel' where the vast majority of homeless were men that ranged the ages of fifteen to sixty-five. Apparently, they have a few other boundaries that they rotate serving, one with mostly working prostitutes and the other with elderly men. It is very difficult for me to describe the three-hour tour. Never once did I feel uncomfortable or fearful, and this is not without grand awareness of where I was and what we were doing. I mean, this was similar to skydiving--you don't tell your mama you're doing it until after you haven't been splatted on the ground. However, the company I was in with both gringo and native alike, had spent a long, committed time building trust amongst such a crowd. That, coupled with the fact that there is a human heart that longs for belonging beating inside every teenager huffing glue and calloused-foot man living under the stars gave me a quiet, observant confidence in why God calls his followers to love the least of social standards. I watched Mauricio walk in the Spirit of Peace as he comforted the addict so violently shaking he couldn't eat his own food, Luz's smile bring smiles to others, and Rosita's confident tap on the blankets of sleeping men making sure no empty stomach missed out. It is in nights like tonight that the usual whispers of God's love and presence become grand bellows of assurance.

The exhaustion that comes with such events made us sleep a little too soundly as we awoke to our last day in Medellin with much to do. Besides the Metro, the other two claims to fame Medellin possesses are the pop sensation Juanes and the modern artist Fernando Botero. To all Colombian women's dismay, I had to admit that I had never heard of Juanes (this is a man who Eliana would most likely give her firstborn child to in order to just gaze into his eyes), and even Botero sounded unrecognizable until I saw some of his paintings. It is to Botero that we dedicated our last afternoon (to the disappointment of Eliana, naturally) as we found our way to two different parks with his fat statues (obesity is his signature in the realms of art)

and the Medillin art museum that celebrated an entire floor to his work. Thanks to a suggestion by Jon, the second park we hiked to was by far my favorite. Botero was quite incensed by the amount of power and violence the Medellin drug-traffiking cartel brought to his hometown, and in efforts of peace donated a beautiful dove statue to the downtown park. In June of 1995, a guerrilla group who claimed Botero's sculpture as a symbol of oppression, planted a bomb at its base killing twenty-five civilians. In a rather powerful statement, Botero kept the maimed sculpture as it was in honor of those killed, and created a new dove to stand beside it.

After being filled with local art, we spent the rest of our afternoon/early evening with the girls. Since they were just finishing up their homework, and the rain decided to hold itself off for a few hours, we took a basketball and headed to a local court. The younger girls enjoyed the jungle gym, but I was with seven girls with the average age of twelve and together we played the most disorganized game of basketball I have ever witnessed. It was more a mix of American football and futbol with a goal and net thrown in just for kicks. Oh, but we had fun. A handful of the boys joined in later and we switched to the more local sport of choice, futbol. We ran around freely until darkness settled over the mountains and headed our separate ways.

That night we packed in preparation for another early morning departure, Jon and I talked about our common love for The Mission and its oboe-led soundtrack, and we were left to three full days of images and moments that were new, poignant, and difficult to forget. That next morning we left Medellin, the city whose taxi's horn sounded similar to the Sesame Street Honker (you squeezed his nose, of course) horn I had on my tricycle and whose bus made the noise of a dying walrus. It was ten hours back to a welcoming Ginny and Jorge and an "hasta luego" to my partner-in-crime Target of a model, Eliana.

It is now Sunday, and it has been certainly a day of rest, but first came yesterday that, well, wasn't. It was Esteban's birthday, one of the boys in the neighborhood, and with that came a traditional neighborhood party that Ginny and Jorge have created with their kiddos. However, since this blog has turned into a gypsy's small dissertation, I will save such a highlight for another post in the next few days.

But, before we depart one another's company, I will make it known that I went salsa dancing with G and J and several of their friends last night. Please keep in mind that I had received salsa dancing instruction only once before by Kirk Stephens in downtown Memphis two Septembers ago; therefore, I was in no shape to keep up with the hip-moving DNA Colombians possess. Thankfully, my two instructors this go around, Johnny and Jorge, were very patient and encouraging. And so it was that at a downtown Bogota bar with a small stage and pop-culture posters plastering the walls (from the Beatles to Taxi Driver), we danced to spectacular salsa music via DJ and later heard the music of a local Colombian band that used 3 1/2 ft long flutes, all kinds of handdrums, maracas and a clarinet to entertain the crowds. I have a new appreciation and attraction for any man who can shake the maracas with such unprecedented rhythym (:

Sunday, March 8, 2009

slated button of a nose

"Rebecca, what is your relationship status?"

It is the Sunday night before I depart for Colombia, and this is not exactly an out-of-character question from Jorge with Ginny giggling alongside.

"Um, that would be single."
"So is that a single single...or a desperate single?"
"Definitely a single single."

I laugh and throw my head against my Jeep's driver seat. I will be leaving for Bogota in just three days, and our final phone arrangements of what I can bring them from the States and what we should plan on while I'm there included Jorge trying his handful of male options to hook me up. Colombian hospitality at its finest.

One week later and I'm remembering new senses that have come with a new environment. I told Jorge that it had been a long time since I was 20, and therefore, a 20-year-old dude was just not going to work out...yes, his desperate option. Along with resolving such an issue, they both told me that we would go salsa dancing with a group of their friends here (still to come), and it was at this moment that I realized I was going on another adventure. I packed my bags, had good conversations with honest friends, and put myself, willingly, on yet another strand of planes. From Memphis to Charlotte I think I paid attention to the safety instructions for the first time. The previous 63 flights were spent in subversive rebellion as I creatively refused to buckle my seat belt. I did this time, as well as finding my floating device underneath my seat. Phew, good thing. Later on, I spent the night at the Miami airport. I made the wrong move to try and sleep on the marble floors, and awoke one hour later to a fierce chill. That marble made me have to go into the bathroom at 3am so that I could do jumping jacks and run in place just to raise my body temperature. I looked myself in the mirror and realized how ridiculous I looked. Luckily, I arrived into Bogota seven hours later to 70* temperatures.

Ginny got out of the 1982 Bronco jeep the size of a small tank with her six-month-old pregnant belly carrying baby Maya, we hugged, and climbed into said tank where two-year-old Matilde Lina was waiting with her bob haircut and button nose, and Jorge was grinning behind the wheel. Ginny, the blue-eyed beauty of a gringa, grew up in Bogota as her parents helped start a church and Jorge is the tallest, skinniest and most attractive (this last adjective was pressured by the subject himself) native around town.

They met when Ginny came back from Colombia after going to university in the States. They married, moved to Memphis, became good friends to good friends of mine, and three years later, bore Matilde and were making efforts to return to South America to pursue ministry once more. Their original pursuits of doing mission work in Peru took them down a long road that led, almost ironically, back to the very church that Ginny's father pastored. They have been here for over a year, and they have gone from a big vision as community workers to an even bigger one as that as well as pastors themselves (Jorge one of the teaching pastors and Ginny the children's pastor). My desire to come visit was for a lot of little and not-too-phenomenal reasons. The little time I got to know them in Memphis, I quickly realized that both of them are the kind that see. I mean that in the ee cummings kinda way. They're creative, love Christ, know beauty, manifest laughter, pursue people (the displaced, in particular), and are filled with humility (Ginny more than Jorge (: ). I had a great desire to see what they were doing down here. After 8 years of studying German, I grew frustrated that I never capitalized on my high school foundation of Spanish. I had yet to visit South America. And, finally, my almost obnoxiously flexible character has made me completely open to any corner of the world. The pseudo (as in, whatever and ever, amen) plan is to start classes toward nursing school in May and finish 2 years from that May. From there, I want to use those skills and my love to know folks and to be known in the vein of ministry somewhere...maybe Colombia. And so I come here as a kind of preview. To be encouraged by funny, soulful friends and see a new land and the beauty within...sounded like a good enough reason to travel to me.

Since Thursday afternoon when I arrived in sunny Colombia, I have been able to be a fly on the wall, an extra set of hands, and the bearer of trumpets and one clarinet (carried from the attic of 3116 Waynoka inside two thrift store pieces of luggage to the amateur trumpet skills of Jorge and the deafened ears of Matilde). G and J have had one full house since I arrived including Nayibe and her two sons, Javier (Javi) and JoJo, for my first night. Nayibe's grandparents live in Colombia but she has been in America her whole life, met her husband in the Airforce, and their family has spent the past 6 months in Bogota in hopes to adopt and see the hand of God. I liked her and her two unbelievably adorable boys immediately. Andrew, the husband and father, left that morning for a two-week hike in the Patagonia (needless to say, even in his absence I liked him immediately as well).

We spent that first day in the park outside the front door with several neighborhood kiddos (Juan, Esteban, Daniella, Ivan, and Junior) throwing frisbees and an American football.

Matilde and Fishy with Junior and Lucy Osito

Actually, I have spent every day since teaching the boys and beautiful Daniella the perfect Joe Montana spiral as they help me out with my painfully basic Espanol. I have come to believe that there are 3 universal languages with children: smiles, tickles, and John Cena. Yep, he's here too, and they love him. Being here just reminds me how effortless it is for children to need and trust and desire love. It reminds me to remember.

On my second day, Ginny, Matilde, Nayibe, Javi, JoJo and I took a trip to one of the larger libraries in Bogota. The architecture was impressive and the horizon held mountains to the East. Libros y montanas...the perfect world.

Javi, Nayibe, JoJo, Ginny and Matilde

Later that afternoon, Ginny, Matilde and I explored one of the more posh areas of Bogota with upscale shopping and your local Juan Valdez Cafe. Apparently, Starbucks tried to make their move on Colombia, but in typical resistance fashion, Colombians said a strong 'No' to *$s and created their own version with their signature mustached farmer and his burro. The coffee was much better. G left me to myself as I read and stared at people...I realized that every big city is alike if you find the right neighborhood. That is, they're all trying to look European. I found my way back in buckets of rain, and spent the rest of the evening with food and kids.

Yesterday was by far our busiest as "A Day in the Life of G & J"...meeting at church led to preparing a large lunch and transitioned into making an even larger onces (dinner) for their small group. I am truly thankful that I enjoy cooking and washing dishes. I babysat 7 children and just continued to embarass myself with my speaking abilities.

The exhaustion of hosting yesterday gave us sweet slumber for a full day of excitement which is ending as I type. I was able to be the photographer for their first church baptism where two of the teenagers that live around the corner from G & J in an orphan home, Crystal and Juan, made professions of faith in Christ. It was a celebration. We were invited over for lunch by two members of the church who have been there since Ginny's father started preaching, and stuffed our bellies with fried platanos...que rico. Our entertainment continued as we picked up G & J's closest friends, Susan and Johnny, and headed downtown. I more than enjoyed myself with such company, cobbled stoned streets, slated rooftops, and a thankfulness that I can, yet again, see, touch, smell and hear something new.

I have already taken way too many cute photos of this girl.

I leave far too early in the morning on a bus to Medellin, Colombia's second largest city 10 hours away surrounded by mountains. Ginny and Jorge have a friend doing ministry with YWAM there, so they thought it was a great way to see what's happening and see a lot more of Colombia. I enthusiastically agreed and have just finished being briefed by Jorge on how to avoid a Guerrilla kidnapping. We prayed. I'll let you know how it goes (: