After getting the tourist bug out of my system, on Monday it was back to work in the community. I was scheduled to return to CCN El Progreso, the place where I went last Monday on my first day in Soacha. Sandra Luna was to meet me at Los Pinos at 9:30 and accompany me down and back up the mountain. At 10:30 I was still waiting so I called her cell phone; she was on her way. Ten minutes later Sandra arrived with 3 other teachers from the school at CCN. Evidently, an electrical cable had snapped in front of the school overnight and had fallen to the ground. While they were considering whether or not it was safe to allow the children to be in school without electricity, a dog walked past and was apparently electrocuted by the live wire. They made the quick decision to close school for the day and walk up to Los Pinos so that I might give them a little class on the different subjects I had prepared. It ended up being a pretty productive morning after all- the ladies were great participants, as usual. They left at lunchtime and I spent the rest of the afternoon reading to and playing with the children at Los Pinos. The favorite book was “La Bella Durmiente” (Sleeping Beauty)- princesses are a hit in any language.
Let me pause here to back up to the part of the previous paragraph that probably startled most of you readers- the part about the dog being electrocuted. For those of you that have traveled to some of the poorer areas of Latin America (I can't speak to other impoverished areas of the world), you know that where there is poverty, there are a ton of stray dogs. In Soacha they are EVERYWHERE, and it is hard not to feel saddened when watching them dig through garbage piles for food. Of course, where there are hungry dogs, there are often hungry people, so again, I cannot stress enough the importance and impact of the soup kitchen or “comedor” programs I've worked with over the past week.
Yesterday I began my work at a new site called “Creciendo Juntos” (Growing Up Together) in an area of Soacha down the hill from Los Pinos. At this point, as you might be able to tell, I have sort of established a routine in these volunteer projects- either performing “consultas” (checking heights, weights, blood pressure, etc) or “talleres” (presentations on the different health topics). I spent yesterday and today doing just that, though at a slower place than other days- the word hadn't really gotten out that I would be around to volunteer. Today was my final day serving in the community, an overall experience which I cannot seem to find the words in English or Spanish to describe right now, but I think I've expressed enough amazement in my previous posts.
Last night, I was reunited with some old friends, Olga Lucia and Ramiro. I met this couple in Columbus, Ohio eight years ago when I was volunteering as a teaching assistant in a church-based ESL class. Olga was in the class at the time, and soon we had arranged for me to come to her home to give Ramiro and her private English lessons. Thanks to the marvels of Facebook, we have managed to keep somewhat in touch after all these years. Olga and Ramiro invited me out to dinner last night at a place called Club El Nogal. When I told Daniela where I was going, she replied “Oooh, es muy fifi!” “Fifi” is one of my favorite new Colombian words, which I understand to mean something along the lines of very fancy or elite. Club El Nogal did not disappoint. The evening became an event of delicious food, elegant ambiance, and heartwarming conversation with two more kind souls here in Bogotá. While the atmosphere of Club El Nogal was a stark contrast to Soacha, the welcoming spirit of the people was similar, and for this I will continue to be grateful.