Friday, June 13, 2008

Bitter Papayas and Swinging Hammocks: Settling In

As I mentioned in my recent post about arriving in Colombia, in some ways not much of what I´ve done since I arrived feels very strange, in part because I’ve been to most of these places before and met many of these people. Much is still new, of course. Having arrived several days ago in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, I immediately have hadto use usted, the formal version of “you” always used here in el campo (the countryside), as opposed to the less formal I previously learned to use most often. I have discovered that papaya has a grayish, bitter goo that oozes out when you cut it, so it’s best to slice a few slits down the side of the fruit just before it’s ripe so the goo can seep out and the fruit can finish ripening without bitterness. And I´ve learned to call the place pictured at right my home!

With only a week under my belt, I continue to be confounded by all the names and familial relationships I have to learn, and amused by efforts to pronounce my own difficult name. I’ve taken to telling folks, if they have particular trouble with my name, that they can call me Mora (blackberry) or Mayra Mona (the blond Mayra, to distinguish me from the dark-haired Mayra who spent several months here in the community and is now on the FOR team in Bogotá).

Despite all the learning, life here so far is very chill (though it´s still strange to think about being here for a year). I called my mom a couple days ago (on a cell phone connected to an antenna on the roof of our house - the only way to get reception), and upon hearing my description of our calm, relaxed days here, she teased me that it sounds more like a vacation than anything else: reading, swinging in hammocks, yoga every morning, chatting with neighbors, etc. Life won´t always be like this: we´ll soon be taking, for example, mtultiple-day hikes through the muddy mountains to outlying areas of the Community. Nonethless, calm and quiet is exactly what we want, because it means the community is safe and we’re being most effective as accompaniers. With all this calm I might feel a bit useless, but the many times in just the few days I´ve been here that people have expressed their utmost gratitude for us just being here to accompany them reminds me that I am doing my job, even when for the moment I’m swinging in a hammock reading Barbara Kingsolver.

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