it’s hard to sum up a month’s worth of new experiences, but i’m going to try to give you a taste of our life in the country in colombia. there were things that we loved about the experience (our surroundings, the opportunity to improve our spanish, being somewhere long enough to really get to know the people, teaching at the tiny school in the community) and there were things that were very trying as well (living with a spoiled four year old who has no friends and wants your undivided attention, not getting a say in how much we were eating and being served a plate full of starches for three meals a day, trying to keep order at the school while teaching first through fifth grade all together). but, i think each piece of the experience taught us a valuable lesson, whether it was initially positive or not.
we lived with rosa, a tiny 34 year old woman, her mother, chabela, and her son, santiago. rosa’s size could fool you at first. she looks like a thirteen year old girl, but she is a tough cookie from having lived on the farm most of her life. the only time she left this area was to go to college in bogota for four years and then she came back, preferring the simplicity of her life away from the city. her mother is quite a character. she knows everyone around the area and is super social. she speaks a spanish that cannot be found in a dictionary and it provided us with hours of laughter trying to understand her stories. santiago was what you could expect of a four year old boy living in the middle of nowhere with two grown women as his only companions. he followed us around a lot, gravitated toward bob as the only male in the house, and got in trouble often because it was obvious that he was wearing on our patience with his constant need for attention. but, we found some fun ways to keep him occupied when we spent time with him and tried to make the most of our time with him and his family.
the house itself was right on the main road between two very small towns. they were both about a two hour walk away. one bus came through the area ONCE a week on sundays to take folks into town. otherwise you could walk or take a horse, which was most people’s preferred mode of transportation. we had visitors at the house often because it was the stopping point in between the two towns, and rosa and chabela sold warm soft drinks and beer out of their front room (which they called the ‘tienda’). but ‘often’ is a relative word because most days we only saw between 5 and 10 cars pass on the road. needless to say, it was a very peaceful existence.
Here’s a little snapshot of daily life for us while we were there:
6am – wake up to ducks and roosters making lots of noise
6:30am – get up after feeling guilty about not feeding ducks and roosters
6:40am – drink tinto (coffee) before we are allowed to start our chores, there was no arguing with this routine and we didn’t need to because we both are coffee drinkers
6:45am – feed ducks, chickens, turkeys, and pig on Rosa’s farm
6:50am – walk across the river on a footbridge to the neighbor’s farm to feed pigs, chickens, ducks, and turkeys there (and every other day we fed the coi fish in the pond behind the house) the neighbor doesn’t live in gambita, he lives in sogamoso and is the person who sets up the volunteer exchange
7am – eat breakfast (usually a soup of potatoes and onions or eggs, bread, and onions, and hot chocolate with more bread or crackers)
7-9am – do random tasks around the house (bob liked to collect and cut wood for the stove, do laundry by hand and hang it out to dry, or read a book if there wasn’t anything else going on)
9am – prepare for the walk to school (including: take a cold shower and try to strategically plan it for a sunny day so that you warm up fast, finalize lesson plan, pack bag, eat a snack, etc.)
10-11:30am – walk to school and take in the sights around because every turn in the road added a new and beautiful mountain view, one of our favorite parts of the day
12-1pm – teach English, which means teach mostly in Spanish to 10 students ranging in age from 6 to 12 years old and try to keep their attention long enough to help them retain some vocabulary before playing a game with that same vocabulary and realizing that half of them did not retain any of it
1-2:30pm – walk home from school feeling relieved that another day is done and process whether we thought it went well or was a crazy mess (it changed on a daily basis)
3pm – eat a huge lunch that usually consisted of 1 or 2 potatoes, rice, meat, beans, fresh juice, yucca, and sometimes plantains (starch city!)
3:30-6:30pm – free time to do whatever we felt like doing (hiking to one of the waterfalls nearby, sitting by the river and reading, napping, etc.)
6:30pm – at dark we usually migrated back to the kitchen to sit and chat with Rosa and Chabela while they fixed dinner (which was usually a smaller version of what was served for lunch), then we ate with them and entertained four-year-old Santiago, or watched Chabela hand spin wool into yarn
8:00pm – we returned to our room to prepare a lesson for the following day of school and then read some before going to sleep, our earliest bedtime on the entire trip!