EVS Volunteer in Colombia
When I tell people than I’m Spanish and it’s been a month since I’m in Colombia I’m often asked the same questions over and over again. Now I can answer them properly. These questions are:
- What do you like the most about Colombia?
- What do you miss the most about Spain?
- What did you think was Colombia like before coming?
- How have you felt? (since you’re here)
What do I like the most about Colombia? It may seem a little silly but the first thing it comes to mind is banana. I didn’t realize how much I like this fruit till I came here and I found it fried or cooked in different ways everywhere, haha (see picture 1).
Other than that, obviously, it’s the landscape. Everywhere I go in Boyacá, there is a beautiful and green landscape.
Also I thank Colombia for making me adapt and tolerate bugs a bit more than I used to. If you don’t like insects, this is simply not your place.
The thing I miss the most about Spain is, again, the food. Here in Colombia you eat white rice and meat almost every single day. Some people would love that, but not me. I’m not that kind of carnivore person. Also, I miss olive oil so much. I can get it here but it’s imported from so far away… My environmental consciousness is punishing me…
Before coming here, I didn’t really take a moment to think what Colombia would be like. I guess I imagined the incredible green landscape and men in a cowboy hat riding horses. I got those ones right. But what surprised me was the huge amount of dogs walking around everywhere on the streets, getting into the stores, into the bars and restaurants and nobody seems to care about them at all.
How have I felt … since the very beginning I’ve felt … exhausted. I didn’t really know why I felt so tired constantly till I kind of figured it out: every single thing here is different. My brain has to adapt to the changes all the time. A lot of different kind of food, or the same food but named differently, a lot of new places and a lot of new people. I hardly remember the name of eighty percent of the people I met during the last month.
But little by little I’m adapting to my home and learning something new every day…
On my way to Bogota I have a layover in Paris. The first step is to take a bus from Huesca, my hometown, to Barcelona, where my flight leaves. I arrived at the airport at 9 pm on 20th june but the flight departure is at 6 am on 21st june. I should sleep for a while before the check-in. I really need to get used to sleep sitting in a chair. Watching the guy next to me snoring without any problem made it look so easy… I manage to sleep 20 minutes in a row… Anyway, some hours and some bureaucratic problems later, I’m in the first plane that would carry me to the airport of Paris.
A couple of minutes before landing, I feel I have to wake up the man sitting next to me (why it seems so easy to sleep in a seated position for everyone but me?). We start talking. He’s coming back to Peru, from his holidays. He tells me that he travelled a lot through Colombia and recommends me some places to go. Both of us have to wait four hours for our flights to Lima and Bogota. We keep talking about Colombia, Peru, differences between Latin America and Europe, marriages, religion, travels… This way I don’t feel any sleepy during the waiting time which means that I might get some sleep in the flight to Bogota which lasts 11 hours :D!
I don’t get that lucky: the plane is full of teenagers.
Finally in Bogota! My first time in Colombia, in Latin America, and my first time out of Europe! Rafael picks me up at the airport and we go to meet the other volunteers. On our way we talk a bit about the differences between the people and culture from the Caribean zone, the Amazonia, the Pacific coast and the mountainous region of Colombia. The whole thing about travelling to Colombia was really sudden for me (I was selected for the EVS because one of the volunteers gave her place up) and I didn’t have time to catch up about general info about Colombia so it was a great introduction.
I meet Carmen from Barcelona, Margarita from Milan and Aurora from Rome. We all get our suitcases and play a little Tetris to get them and ourselves into the car. A few hours later on a road full of holes we arrive to Guayata in the middle of the night. The landscape in the morning is breathtaking. We stay in a hotel all together for the first week. These days we take a little course about the EVS and the Younic program, we get some tips about how to improve our learning process and we get to know each other and the Colombian culture a bit more. We visit the Cannor Oriental, where coffe plants are grown and processed.
Cannor Oriental, Boyacá
We are invited as well to a barbecue for knowing many people involved in the rural development project but we mostly play billard and ping pong.
Rancho in Sutatenza, Boyacá
The next day we go see the house the volunteers in Guayata will live in. Some chatting about fears and expectations and some guarapo (indigenous alcoholic drink) later we find ourselves playing tejo (tipical Colombian game).
Arraigo’s home, Guayatá, Boyacá
The day after in the afternoon I am moving to Garagoa, with my new Colombian family: David, Carol, Emiliano and Blues.
David, Emiliano and Carol in our home in Garagoa, Boyacá
Blues in the garden, Garagoa, Boyacá
The following days are exhausting just by getting to know Corpochivor, all the people that work there and all they do. It’s a public institution in charge of the environmental management in a large part of Boyacá. This is huge!
I can’t believe this yet. One of the volunteers selected in the first place gave her place up so she had to be substituted as soon as possible. That’s how I heard about EVS. Afriend of mine passed me on the info about the programme and the vacancy and I applied for it just to see how it would end up. I knew I was going to Colombia just acouple of days after that.
I expect to learn as much as I can about the region I’m gonna live in, to contemplate wonderful landscapes and to make a lot of new friends. I just fear not to be able to fulfil the expectations about the work I’m supposed to do. However, I’ll do my best!