Friday, July 31, 2009

Vacation time!

Headed to the Caribbean coast today where we will spend the next seven days lounging in our hammock campsites on white sandy beaches. Jealous, much?

No internet there (we're cutting ourselves off), so have a great week, everyone! And we'll try to post Thursday when we get back before we leave.

Sending lots of smiles your way.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

For Will Irvin:

I know you read this everday at work. The fact that you take and take and take (in the form of using us for entertainment) don't ever give (in the form of a comment) repulses me.

(For everyone else out there: this is a joke. For Will: I am SO serious!)

Hope everyone is well!


The Weekend

Basically when people here give you plans for the day that are outside of the usual workday flow, you should plan on not actually doing said plans but something different. Example 1: telling us we were going to fiestas and instead ending up at two masses. Example 2: telling us we're leaving at 11:00am today for lunch with Umpara (a woman who works here at CAMIG) at her house where she will then give us manicure/pedicures and instead end up leaving at 3:00 eating 7+ empanads while watching a really good Spanish movie cuddled all in bed together and then leaving before 7:00 sans manicures but full of fried dough.

We've played with two little Peruvian boys all weekend who were staying here with their family enroute back to Peru from Venezuela due to the violence in Venezuela. 5 year old Manuel had clear little brother / only child syndrom and thus was a handful, but his 10 year old cousin Renato was hilarious. Overall they were some fun company during lunch and after, teaching us made up card games.

Each day gets more and more comfortable here... the Hermanas are fabulous and Leda particularly is hysterical. We watch the news EVERY night during dinner and anything super noteworthy is cause for a cease in coversation or prayer so everyone can gasp and gossip about what's happening. After dinner is the 8:30 Brazillian soap set in India that they watch religiously. Its pretty intense but in Portugese so Katie and I only try and guess whats going on.

Only three more days of atencion and work here. Sad times. The office we go on the internet in has literally hundreds of documents of displaced peoples that have come through here. Its crazy to think we've heard first hand some of these stories but crazy in a different way that those we've heard barely touch the tip of the iceberg. I can't help but wonder if after literally 40+ years of displacement how in the world anything can acutally be solved or rectified.

<3 Roxie and Katie

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Life is Good

Didn't realize Roxie posted last night. I cosign everything she said. Time has flown by (although that first week it seemed to just drag). This trip has reaffirmed for me that "service" is 99% about the person doing the service. And I dont mean that in a selfish way (or maybe I do). What I mean is that those of us "serving" are really just opening ourselves up to experiencing something that will impact the rest of our lives. At times I feel bad because I feel like we're not really contributing much to CAMIG, and I originally thought that was our purpose. I better understand now that our purpose is to spend time getting to know the center, the people who work here, the work they do, and the displaced. Really getting to know how it all works and have that impact our lives. I dont know how a conversation I may have with someone here may affect them - maybe I am impacting Colombia more than it feels like. What I know for sure is that I am gaining so much knowledge and understanding and plan on bringing that back to my "real life" in the States.

I cannot wait to do the month-long fundraiser Roxie and I have already started planning (and have already contacted numerous campus departments and organizations about being involved with... we're not over-achievers, promise!) and send the money back here to contribute to the center monetarily. I know that our physical presence has been very important, but an organization doing this kind of work has a very real need for money as well, and I am looking forward to helping in that arena. The reality of displacement here in Colombia is also something we arelooking forward to sharing with the DePaul community. It is my goal that by the end of the coming school year, every student who spends time at the Lincoln Park campus at least knows that there is large scale internal displcement going on in Colombia. And I want as many of them as possible to have a greater understanding of it all. Going back to the title of the blog, I want DePaul to understand that Colombia is more than drugs and kidnapping. I want them to know real stories of real people.

We have also created a 5-page syllabus/proposal for an Independent Study Spanish class in the fall so we can continue examining in an academic manner the history of the violence in Colombia. We have a faculty advisor and have sent the proposal on to the chair of Modern Languages. Finger's crossed it gets approved.

I feel so lucky to be having this experience and to have so much left to look forward to this summer. Life is treating me very well, yall, and I am just so thankful.

This evening I played a card game with a 10-year old Peruvian boy who I swear to God was making up the rules as we went. It was a Go-Fish! type game, and in the end when we counted cards to see who won we both had exactly 26! It put a smile on my face. We're scheduled for a rematch tomorrow.

Hoping you and your loved ones are healthy and happy,


PS: Roxie almost made a whole post about this earlier, but decided against it. I'm going for it as a "ps": we really enjoy writing here, and know that you all are reading (and we appreciate it!) but dont be afraid to leave a comment every now and then! We miss you all!! :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Monkey Brains

For those of you who don't know, I read exceptionally fast. That being said, I read a book last night. This book was a gift from my friend Cindy who went to China with me. I knew it was about traveling and basically some sort of travel journal but I didn't realize HOW amazing it was. It took me all of three hours and by the time I was done I could not go to sleep (though that might have been the coffee with dinner) and Katie and I talked for about four more hours about traveling. Basically.... I am in love with traveling and going places and don't really ever want to stop.

Also because I read so fast, reading HP in Spanish is KILLING me as I have to stop at least once a page to look something up and I really have to analyze everyword. Ive been here for two weeks and HP is just now arriving at the World Cup.

I don't know how I've been here for two weeks. Neither does Katie and she's been here 3. I feel like I haven't done anything. But then I go back to journal and I'm like NO WONDER we're exausted!!! The experience is super educational and Katie and I are going to attempt to score some class credit come fall because neither of us are really done looking into the displacement and politics here. Everyday we learn some new formof red tape surrounding these people. For Example:
Every Colombian must serve either 1 or 2 years in the military. You cannot get a job until you've done this. Well, people who live en los campos maintain all of their own work and lifestyle so they've generally not done or needed to do this to get work. But then when they're displaced and arrive in Bogota or other large cities, they can't get jobs because they haven't done their military term. You can buy out of this term, but they're displaced and have no money. The government and humanitarian aid organizations try their best to aid in finding jobs. But this is all a catch 22 to me.

Will told me to try this fruit. I hadn't yet because Katie didn't like it. But Will said "no try it! It looks like monkey brians!" Well tonight at dinner they had said monkey brain fruit. So I tried it. And it did look so much like monkey brains that I couldn't finish it because it was like eating sweet monkey brains with a crunch. Thanks Will for that visual. Way to ruin my dessert.

Katie and I have less than a week here at CAMIG. It seems unreal that we leave so soon. We're excited to get to Cartagena... but we feel like we just got here, just got the swing of things.

What a summer this has been.... very overwhelming all around, but loving every moment of it!!


Monday, July 20, 2009


When nuns say that you are going to two fiestas in one day. What they really mean is two MASSES in one day. NOT. THE. SAME. Quite disappointing. We learned this little fact on Thursday. They knew we aren't Catholic but took us anyway. And then woke us up at 6 for mass the next morning. Someone send me to Cartagena NOW please.

But seriously we very much love what we're doing. I just got a little overwhelmed? horrified? stircrazy? over all the praying. I mean its a lot of praying. I dont know how much I can stress this.

Luckily there is so much coffee cheese and bread POST mass that I can have something to get me through.

More atencion tomorrow! I hope my Spanish is coming along better so I can slowly and surely try to fully understand the stories we hear.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Brace yourselves for the first joint blog entry:


Soooo, I haven't updated since Roxie got here, I know. My appologies; I swear I'm still alive. Things are just going really well, and I am always so tired at night that I have been lazy with updating. But, heeeeeeeey! I'm baaaaaack!

The experience continues to be humbling and powerful, and I feel much less along, which is an added bonus. The Spanish is improving, although it's hard to imagine it ever just clicking and becoming second nature. I have only been here a few weeks, though. I cannot stress how amazing the sisters we are living with are. Hermana Isabel smiles everytime she sees me smile or doing something goofy, commenting on how much happier and relaxed I seem now that Roxie is here. She hit the nail on the head. It's been an amazing couple of weeks.

On Friday we went to a big march downtown for the displaced. It was led by various organizations that help out with the issue (the Catholic church and archdioses stayed out of it because they like to act as politically neutral and a "mediator" as our impromptu guide, Diego told us. He's a social worker for the archdioses and said he was there as a Christian, in solidarity with struggle. There were no banners or anything with any sort of Catholic organization on them, ours included, in the effort to remain neutral.) The march was such a mixture of emotions - it started out very small, but byt he time everyone had gathered, nearly four or five city blocks were full at a time with particpants (the police shut down the streets). One of the main chants everyone kept shouting was "El pueblo// sin techo// que siga sus derechos" ("the roofless people who are after their rights", more ore less). There was a brochure handed out that outlined exactly what they were after which I'm really looking forward to reading in detail to get a better grasp on the whole thing.

There was also a common chant that essentially said "get out of our country, gringos". When this one started, Diego asked us how it made us feel. I tried to put into words that I felt like an intruder on a struggle and a movement that was not my own. He tried to articulate that more than individuals, they were refering to North American politics in latin American countries, Colombia in particular. It still felt odd like me and my giant camera were... expoliting, might be the word, the demonstration. I hate feeling like I'm coming into an on-going fight and struggle and problem and movement, taking my pictures, and leaving. I know that's not what we're doing here, and I know that these photos are being taken so that we can spread the reality of displacement in Colombian to as many people as we can who still think of Colombia as nothing more than Cocaine. I know all of this, but I still feel uneasy snapping the photos at movements.

On a less heavy note, the bathroom still STINKS! Not sure if Roxie wrote about this, but the water in the shower is brown. But it's decpetively brown because it looks liek regular water as it's coming out of the shower head, but cup your hands and brown water piles up. Or squeeze out your hair in the sink: brown.

We're at Kim's now though and the hot, clean water is amazing.

Going to a small beach 30 miles south of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast in a couple weeks. So looking forward to lying in my hammock, getting some sun, going swimming and sipping yummy drinks for five days.

I have been very happy (and, thankfully, healthy) as of late. Life is good. I'm learning and growing and enjoying myself. I cant wait to see everyone when I get back. I miss and love you all.

A couple pieces of not so good news: my grandmother was recently addmitted into the hospital for pnemonia and while is out of ICU is still in the hospital. Also, a close family friend recently discovered she has an agressive brain tumor. Please use whatever energy or prayers you believe in and keep my family and the island community in your thoughts.

Ok, novel over. Roxie's turn! :D

Ummm... Ditto ....

Miss you all...

<3 Roxie & Katie