EVS Volunteer in Colombia
“The best teacher is experience and not through someone’s distorted point of view”.
Rome, Friday 16th June 2017
Far from being just another sententious quote, this is drawn from one of my favourite novels: Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. This simple, short sentence perfectly represents that impulse underlying my motivation. EVS in Colombia is an opportunity for exploring, by living a direct experience and plunging into a diverse community. My expectations are a messy mixture of imagination, envisages, desires, energy and emotions, which is hardly describable. Let’s give it a shot:
I expect to go through a growth experience
I expect to learn from each other and to act as a group
I expect to develop a constructive program achieving significant results for everyone involved
I expect to familiarise with the local community
I expect to enjoy people, the places and the nature
Some say fears are mostly composed of conjectures and self-deceptions, nevertheless it would be abnormal not to feel any uncertainty! As every change and every adventure is a source of uncertainty too, I feel it in a way but it does not scare me. I believe difficulties such as language, different habits or possible misunderstandings can definitely be overcome.
Can’t wait to be there!
EL MES DEL DESCUBRIMIENTO
One page is not enough to report all the events occurred during these first two weeks, neither the feelings nor the discoveries. That Air Europa flight brought me to another dimension, another world living seven hours in the past. 15 days of shifting changes, as we arrived in Bogotá everything was going a thousand time faster, our tongues were suddenly speaking differently. We got to know each other, within volunteers (Carmen and Margherita) and Liliana, who’ll be my supervisor in a week or so, we appreciated a cold shower, we shared a room as if we weren’t strangers, bizarrely ready for a brand new day. The day after, Bogotá looked even bigger, coming and going by bus and taxies, at a point we were up on a panoramic street and the city appeared spread over the entire plateau. When Marta arrived, we were complete and we could leave the metropolis, towards Guayata, the real starting point of this exiting experience.
If I have to choose three words to describe this first intensive staying, then it would be people, coffee and… ants. Let’s start from the ants, we ate them, and they attacked me. The “hormigas culonas de Santander” are a delicious appetizer if you dare to try them, except for the little crunchy paws. By the way, Carmen owns tapes to prove our courage, and our enthusiasm obviously. The other part of the story is way less funny (or maybe not), it deals with my passion for ant’s nests. The first I stepped on was the lethal one, hundreds of ants biting my ankle while I was jumping and throwing my boots, as if it was a shark attack. Soon after, it was all over, although my feet persisted being fatally attracted by every nest on the path.
Coffee, coffee and coffee. Coffee trees, coffee factory, cafeteria. El Café Fonzaque is a unique product of Guayata, our visit at the “Finca” was amazing, as we learned about the stages of the production process, we tasted it and made a discovery: Coffee is NOT black, not before its roasting! That same coffee is the one we have tasted every day in Cafeteria Fonzaque, managed by Benjamin, a cheerful, proactive man, with a past tied to the Colombian complex history, a bright mind and a positive attitude. Coffees. We drunk 5 during one lunch, at the Finca of Don Armando in SutaTenza, where we met all the actor tied to GAL Valletenzano, enjoying a great time and a warm, warm welcoming.
Here’s the moment of the people. Paola and Quique did a great job to integrate us in the local context, also spoilering what Marta and I would have found in Garagoa and Santa Maria. We deepened our knowledge of EVS, Younic project, GAL Valletenzano and got all the logistic information. We finally met Mario, manager of the GAL and our only kind – of- mythical contact with this Colombian adventure up until a couple of weeks ago. We met Jehiner, coordinator of Arraigo project. Moreover, I met my host Nelly, my mentor Karen and Liliana again, who took me in Santa Maria to my new home. As I write these lines, a week has passed since my arrival in Santa. Nelly’s family, my host, welcomed me so warmly, with a cup of aromatica, a rich dinner and some Guateque’s craft beers we got on the way. I met Eibar, an associate of Descubrir ONG, who taught me the first notions of the local wildlife and a beat of indigenous history. The day after I got to know Santa, strolling the streets and meeting Karen’s family, which is giving me lunch and a great time every day. On Wednesday the 28 th I had my first encounter with nature, the very early awakening definitely worth the touristic walk given by Descubrir for a group of three hikers from Antioquia. Together with Liliana and Carol & Dayana, two 15 YO treinees from the school, we guided them to the
awesome waterfall “Cascada de la 70”, to the “Embalse la Esmeralda” house of the Chivor Hydro Plant and finally to the “Cristalina”. The week ended by cleaning and settling the new NGO’s office, a wide space with a great aggregating potential. For the weekend the volunteers’ team came together in Bogota, to enjoy a crowded, heated journey made of heavy metal concert, busy buses, street food, hipster urbanity and a super hosting from Jehiner’s family in their apartment.
In a nutshell, June was definitely the month of the discovery, o sea el mes para Descubrir!