Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gracia (Grace)

Grace, routine, language, home….these are all things I have come to understand differently since moving to Colombia. I have been reading (almost finished) with the book “How Coffee Saved My Life”, by Ellie Roscher. It was gifted to me after returning to the states from my year in Zambia, I read it then and liked it. I started rereading it a few weeks ago. It’s about an ELCA Missionary in South America. She writes about language, routine, home, white noise, and grace….wow, there are parts of this book that could have been straight from my journal. I highly recommend it! Ellie writes so well about both the good and struggles of living overseas and living as a missionary…and stumbling upon grace.

Every week life seems to fall more into a routine, which I am so thankful for. We are totally moved into our apartment, unpacked, and settled. Last week, Curtis came from work with flowers for me. There are a ton of different kinds of flowers grown here, and we live very close to the flower district. These flowers came as a gift of encouragement for me on a day that was particularly difficult as I was struggling with my Spanish. This was one of those moments of grace, that I understand very differently now.  

Spanish has been a struggle for me, and everyone around me has been extending lots of grace every time I open my mouth. People gently correct my grammar or provide a word that I don’t know. And when I told everyone in the office I was going to be starting at a new school (and therefore wouldn’t be around as much), they could tell that was difficult for me and have been so encouraging to me and complimenting my Spanish (even when/especially when I don’t feel worthy of a compliment).

Yes, I did find Mtn Dew here! 
Yesterday, I began a Spanish immersion school. I needed something a little more intense to be able to speak Spanish at the necessary level, and this school is intense. I have class for four hours in the morning, with at least as many hours of homework. There are 8 students in my class and we are all from a different country: Hong Kong, Brazil, Germany, England, Australia, Sweden, India and the US (and all about the same level of Spanish). We are all in Colombia for different reasons, some to stay and work, others for fun, and others to just learn Spanish. The class is taught almost exclusively in Spanish. I can tell that this with class, and a little extra caffeine, and I will be at the level of Spanish I need to be to really start working.

“When we become aware that our stuttering, failing, vulnerable selves are loved even when we hardly progress, we can let go of our compulsion to prove ourselves and be free to live with others in a fellowship of the weak. That is true healing.” – Henri J. M. Nouwen

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kogi Education

The view from the community. The Sierra Nevada de Santa
Marta is the highest coastal mountain in the world,
and that is a river running into the ocean.
(Picture taken by Marian Coy)
On the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in northern Colombia, live the Kogi Indigenous People. When the Spanish started arriving in the territory that is now Colombia, the Kogi were part of an ancient civilization called the Tayrona. Witnessing the destruction brought by the Spanish to other nearby peoples, the Tayrona decided to retreat higher into the mountain and separate into different communities. The Kogi of today are one of these communities. The Wiwa, Arhuaco and the Assario are others. Living separately for the last 500 years, these communities have developed into different recognized tribes with very similar cultures, but different languages.
Another beautiful view of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
(Picture taken by Marian Coy)
Last week I was able to visit a Kogi community that is working hard to develop a school which will not only be recognized and supported by the government but stays true to their culture and world-vision. The process was fascinating, and the results were exciting. Instead of focusing on rote learning in the classroom, the structures will be based on projects that will assist the community in its development vision. A project, for example, of building an organic composting system includes all subjects needed (math, natural science, social science, art, etc.). In this way the education process will contribute to the community’s development according to its own vision as well as impart their cultural vision to the next generations.
Marian, a volunteer for the human rights program,
and a master's student in education,
 facilitating the planning process. (Picture taken by Curtis)

I was able to share my experience in an Indigenous community in Southern Mexico
and the education system they have developed. (Picture taken by Marian Coy).

Jose, one of the teachers, walking the group through the process of
building houses as a possible project, utilizing all school subjects.
(Picture taken by Marian Coy)
The committed teachers of the school spent three long days planning these projects, ensuring they are not only teaching the school subjects, but also cultural ethics and values. Discussions were held over every project about whether or not it successfully included environmental consciousness, the empowerment of women, skills training for life in the community, the strengthening of participatory processes and democratic values. The implementation of these projects for education is important and I am excited to accompany this community throughout the process.
The group of teachers and community leaders involved in the process
before we went back down the mountain (I am in the back row).
(Photo taken by Marian Coy)