After four days of travel (included being sent back to San Francisco for two days!), I made it to Colombia on the 22nd, greeted by mariachis-for-hire at the Bogota airport. (Ok, so the mariachis weren't for me, but it was an amusing welcome admist the chaos that is the Bogota airport at 10pm on a major holiday travel day.)
I have returned to work with FOR, the organization I worked with the last time I was in Colombia. I will be here for at least a few months to help out with a gap in staff and to train new staff. I'm excited for the opportunity to dive back into this meaningful work, to see friends, to conduct interviews for some articles I'd like to write, and to gain a new perspective on the place and the work after 10 or so months of being in the U.S. And to write more blog posts!
This marks my third holiday season in a row spent in Colombia. My first I spent in the Peace Community, eating bunuelos and dancing vallenato with campesinos in rubber boots. Last year, a visiting college friend and I traveled to where the desert meets this Caribbean ocean, La Guajira, and were treated to the traditional Christmas meal of goat cooked in goat fat (I tried it...).
This year, I was supposed to have spent the holidays in the Peace Community again, but my delayed arrival necessitated a change of plans. While relieved not to have to pick up and travel immediately, I was disappointed about not getting to spend Christmas in the community. I also knew that most, if not all, of my friends in Bogota would be with their families, and I tried to steel myself for a lonely holiday.
Luckily, though, I hunted down a friend who wasn't with his family on the 24th (the day Colombians celebrate Christmas), and we made arrangements to cook a Christmas lasagna--not traditional, but delicious nonetheless. Meanwhile, friends in Cali, in southern Colombia, had convinced me to head that direction for the city's annual salsa (the dance) festival, which begain on the 25th. So after lasagna, I hopped an overnight bus to Cali. I barely saw anything of the festival, besides the mobs of people, the three days I was there, but I did go out dancing each night there til 4am, so I consider it time well spent. :)
It's interesting being back in Colombia, and Bogota specifically. I'm again reminded how exhausting it can be to stick out like a sore (blond) thumb, and what a smoggy, busy, noisy city Bogota is. I'm scraping the rust off my Spanish, and finding it's more or less still in tact. It's been wonderful to begin to catch up with friends, though, and to begin to step back into the challenging and very fulfilling work that is human rights accompaniment.
Happy New Year!