Defining Colombia

December 4, 2013

We learned more about where, exactly, in Colombia our 23 year old daughter Gale is, and how she got there. What was first billed as a 12-16 hour bus ride is actually an 11 hour bus ride followed by a seven hour bus ride, followed by a 45 minute open air jeep ride followed by a two hour walk through the mud to get to the village where she is now living. I think that qualifies under the heading “remote.”

 

Along with two other people who work for Fellowship of Reconciliation (whose name will be changing to something like Pathways for Peace,) she will live in this intentionally peaceful community, and will act as the eyes and ears of the world. In this remote area where many people have been displaced, the people working for the almost 100 year old FOR stand as a reminder that although remote, they are connected to the outside world, and are there to note when there is not fair treatment of all. Sometimes they are asked to accompany Colombians to the hospital, or to another community. They must evaluate the request, and the safety at that time.

 

Gale’s first bus ride out of Bogota was overnight, and after the second ride she spent the night in the city of Apartado, having a meeting before going forward with the jeep and walk. If I think about it too much, it makes my head hurt a little (or is it my heart?) so I focus on the fact that she has emailed a few times since her arrival.

 

As fate would serve it up, her first day there was Thanksgiving, when she had originally expected to still be in Bogota, putting together a meal with the fixins with her colleagues there. Instead, she made arroz con leche (a rice pudding variant) and lit tiny birthday candles to acknowledge Hanukkah.

 

She called us via Google chat on Thanksgiving, and again as timing would set it up, my husband was getting the bird to the table as I pulled out tray after casserole of harvested earthly heaven from our oven. Torn, I ran back and forth between the office where I could listen in as she and Kate, our daughter at home for a few days, exchanged updates, and then back to the kitchen. As we corralled our group of 16 to the table, I abandoned hope of meaningful conversation with our Colombian landed daughter and consoled myself with the notion of a longer conversation later in the weekend.

 

Knowing that she called was at once a reassurance that we could be in touch that quickly, and also a reminder that she is not here at this moment, that she is not just a text away.

 

I try not to think of it too much; I cannot focus on the distance, but must instead consider the closeness with which I can connect to her tone, her words, her intent behind a few lines of text on the screen.

 

“This will be life changing,” our guests comment. I agree, although I cannot know how, or where it will lead her. I don’t want to know now. Part of the deliciousness, if I can stand it, is in watching it unfold. She is reassuring about the security measures that FOR is taking when they decide whether to honor a request for accompaniment. I still don’t know the details of how they obtain their information, and find myself once again at a crossroad, trying to highlight the reassurance of precaution rather than the fact that there is need for it.

 

I feel similarly about this as I do the fact that the hospitals are very reputable. Although I’m glad to hear that, and the organization jokes about how past volunteers have put that to the test with good result, I do not want to learn through experience that their perspective is valid. I’m quite willing to take their word, and have Gale’s visits there be informational only. I consider the travel there, and choose to feel good about my daughter’s good health and strength.

 

Gale has wondered how soon to get pictures out as part of her post and I realize I am hungry for them. If i can imagine her there, I am able to be with her in my mind’s eye. Even before knowing who is welcoming, who is shy, what she means when she emphasizes that it is HUMID, although not unpleasantly hot, if I can get a visual, I can start to fill in some of the blanks. of course, ti will remain to be seen whether I create a separate reality, or how close I can come to understanding her experience. Time to dust off my high school Spanish. I have learned that with one stop, I can get to Medallin in eight hours. Then it’s just the seven hour bus ride, open air jeep and a hop skip in my mud boots to see her new life.

 

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