The tough life of being a missionary continues… 23/08/14- 02/09/14
This is a blog about my holiday to Barranquilla, which is on the coast of Colombia, averages about 36-40C daily, has beaches, is smaller than Bogota, more tranquil, different types of Arepas and an accent that challenges even the best Spanish speaker and I loved it! I went partly to see a different part of Colombia, partly for a holiday, and partly to see a friend I had met through Abi and to see the church and school his parents have.
I arrived on the Saturday late morning and was instantly happy with the heat, the vibe and all. I was met by Daniel and we went back to his house for lunch and just chilled out chatting for the afternoon. For the evening we went to his friend's house until quite late. Now I was expecting to have to speak quite a bit of Spanish, however Daniel and his friends all spoke English practically perfectly, so I have to admit that the amount of Spanish that I spoke in this holiday was very little!
So what else did I do in my time there? Well I went to church…a 9am service…can you imagine! It's practically a sin! Anyway I really enjoyed the service. The church is quite small but with a really good worship band, the Holy Spirit was there and the sermon was clear and to the point…everything that you want in a church. After the service I had another experience of Déjà vu as I was waiting in the foyer. I had been chatting to some people and I looked over at the mum of Daniel and just knew that I had been in that scenario before, yet never had I been. It passed quickly, but that is the second memorable experience now in only a month and I'm becoming more intrigued by it. I had some good chats after the service and everyone was really really friendly. We went to eat lunch with the family and later Daniel and I went for a walk and yeah that was Sunday.
I'm going to now make a quick list of what else I did and then I'll expand on other things later on. So I visited the school which is behind the church and sat with two different groups of students to help them practice their English conversation, I went to a yoga class, I went and met the UCU student group of Barranquilla (the organisation that I work for here), I had a day chilling out and went to a swimming pool, I went back to the school and helped out in a couple of classes of English, I went running twice (very easy at sea level), I did some sunbathing, I went to a pool party, I went to the beach, I went to the centre and ate some amazing fish and I witnessed what happens when it rains in Barranquilla.
I want to expand on a few things, but the others are quite self explanatory really. The UCU group really was a highlight of my trip. They are all at the Atlantic University, and have such a fire for God it blew me away. They organise themselves, but have support in deciding what they are going to study by a worker who works for UCU in the professionals group. I was really impressed that these students arrange the time and place to meet and ring each other to encourage one another to come. There were 7 students, but the desire to be there and speak about God was clear and strong and I loved it. They asked me lots of questions about why I was there, how I had known the love of God in my time, how I knew that God was with me and what challenges I faced. I told them that I had learnt a lot about my relationship with God and told them some of the things that I have previously written about. I shared with them a song (How Great is our God/ Cual Grande es Dios) that I know God uses to reassure me in times of feeling lonely and lost to remind me that He is with me. I also shared with them a bit of my testimony about how I became a Christian and when I heard the call of God to move to South America. I told them about the initiative that I am trying to implement in the National University in Bogota with offering to pray for students, a sort of praying on the streets initiative and how I would also like to have a separate group at the same time as our Bible study group on a Wednesday for people who are new Christians or who have questions about anything to do with Christianity and faith. They seemed really enthusiastic about this and it just made me long to work with them to if it was at all possible. We discussed a passage from 2 Corinthians (5:11-20), which talks about Jesus dying to save everyone and discussed reconciliation. This is something that I am interested in at the moment, as I go to a church on a Wednesday afternoon which has prayer for peace and a chat about reconciliation from different view points (different religions, children, victims, etc). Everyone was involved with the discussion and the time passed too quickly. I felt honoured to have been a part of that group. It helped that we were sat outside, late in the morning in the sun, on a nice patch of grass. This makes such a difference to being huddled inside, still cold on a Wednesday night or huddled cold at the University on a Friday afternoon! I could continue to write about this group of students, but I won't because I'll just be repeating myself using different words. Anyway I think you get the idea.
With the school, it's a school of primary age and secondary age, it's quite small, but really nice and all the teachers are really friendly. The second time that I went I helped the students in the secondary school practice their pronunciation. I was in two different classes and the students in pairs or in groups of three read a dialogue. What struck me the most was that they didn't understand what they were reading or how some of the words were constructed. For example, the word 'I'd' is made up of 'I would', but they didn't know this despite using the word. Their pronunciation varied from very good to very poor. What also struck me was that once the pair or group had gone through their dialogue they didn't have anything else to do. This is no reflection on the school, but on the teacher. It was a bit frustrating being in the class because I wanted to just take over and do a whole class on basic pronunciation, but didn't have the time or the guts! After this I had some little chats with some of the younger students in the school who were simply divine and some of the teachers, who as I said, were just lovely. There was a real sense of peace in the school and being a Christian school, I did honestly feel the spirit there. I imagine it to be a really nice place to work and it's got me thinking about possibilities in the future!
So a bit about the pool party and then the beach. The pool party was to celebrate a friend (Amy) of Daniel's birthday and she hired out a pool, which was at someone's house and he has turned it into a business. Pretty smart really! Anyway it was a great night of hanging out in the pool, dancing, speaking English and Spanish, meeting new people, and just being warm until the early hours of the morning. Everyone that I met was really friendly and the atmosphere was awesome. The next day we went to the beach to a place called Salgar. The sand here was black, which was really random, but the beach was lovely. We had a little area with a thatched roof, hammocks, a table and chairs and a sun lounger and were right by the sea. We ordered fried fish and platacones, which is plantain, cooked, squashed flat and fried. It was perrrrrrfect! I went with Daniel, Amy and Iida and we just chilled out all afternoon in the sun and the shade. I managed to top up my tan, got a bit burnt to (helps the tan right!) and read my book to. It literally felt like paradise to me. Sadly we had to leave, but to make up for it; we went and got ice cream once we were back in the city. If you're like me and you go to get ice cream it is always a tough choice when you see what there is to choose from. Thankfully though here you can try before you buy, so try I did. After trying only a few (honest), I decided on pistachio and vanilla. I had gone for ice cream before this day to and think I had pistachio and a cookies and cream type one. Anyway it was super delicious and I was very sad when I finished it.
On the Monday (my last full day) Daniel and I went into the centre and had planned to go the museum, but it was closed. So instead we walked around the markets shops, and just enjoyed chatting. Once we had built up an appetite we went to eat at an open stall place with chairs and tables and ordered this fish which was insane (see pics). It was sooooooooooooooo nice; I again didn't want this to end. In the pic I think is all the food, I didn't eat all of it; I left my rice, as didn't want to be too full and not manage the fish! Afterwards we walked around some more to encourage the food to go down…it didn't :-s. We went and sat outside the church in the main square and continued our chatting. We were approached by a random guy who asked us if we could help him out, as he is teaching english and wants some native speakers to talk. He genuinely thought that Daniel was from the USA, and he didn't even seem to notice that I had an accent from England. Anyway, nice little bit of randomness for our day. That night we had a nice surprise from Amy who turned up to say goodbye. Amy is a friend of Daniel's but now also a friend of mine. She is from Canada and teaching in Barranquilla. You know when you meet someone and just click…well that happened. I was really touched that she came to say goodbye, and genuinely felt like I didn't want to go.
So very quickly let me write about what happens in Barranquilla when it rains. Well when it rains the roads flood because they don't have a drainage system, so you get the rivers in the roads, and eventually it runs down to the actual place where the rivers are meant to be. It's an impressive sight, but it is quite dangerous. Amy and I went for a bike tour one evening with an organised group and after an hour it began to rain, and it continued to rain, but it didn't just rain, it poured and when I say it poured…it poured! The people scattered! We waited it out for a little bit, but then knew it wasn't going to stop so along with a few other people, we got on our bikes and cycled back to the meeting point. We didn't know where it was though, but thankfully the guys that we were with did, so we just followed them. I had a great time, we got to cycle fast and through puddles. It wasn't cold and the water was refreshing to cool us down! I kept chuckling to myself about the crazyness of it all, and in all honesty had a great time. We jogged back from the park to Daniel's house, which is really close and gave his mum a fright when she saw how wet we were (our trainers were squelching, we were soaked through). People here have a real issue with getting wet, they think you're going to get really ill. We were usshered in, in front of lots of people, as it was his mum's birthday so there were people in the house and after showering and getting dry clothes had a bite to eat. See photo of before the bike ride and after!
Barranquilla stole my heart for a number of reasons….the heat, the beach, the people, the food, the tranquility of the place, plus my thoughts of the future. I felt very comfortable there and thought that I could get to know the city quickly if I had more time. I was sad to leave and really do want to go back and would tomorrow if I had the chance. I know that God has more to do with me here in Bogota first though and I still have a lot to learn and only 4 months to do it in. I know I need to keep being open to God and His plans and just persevere in everything that I am currently doing. I can't lose heart of these initiatives I'd like to implement in UCU Bogota, I can't give up on my Spanish learning, and I can't give up on my students who want to learn English still. I have 4 months until my flight to England and it will go very fast, so I want to make the most of the time that I have left. Who knows the future and what it holds…only God…exciting…scary….both? All I know is that if I am to return to this beautiful country, the coast has my name written all over it, so watch this space.
For now (08/09/14) I have my mum and my auntie here visiting me, so this is another little chapter. I am getting to translate as their spanish is very limited, but they are trying, and we will be doing lots of touristy things. All of this is good for my Spanish and learning and trusting in God. I will be doing a blog about this time when they go, so watch this space!
Right enough writing…it's time to watch tv!