The last week or so has sadly been the beginnings of the last things, like saying goodbye to people, having my final English class, finishing work completely and just basically wrapping up a few things. In my final English class we once again did christingles, which went down really well. One student, who is the mum of a colleague, gave me a present. It was a big Chiva (typical Colombian bus), which is amazing, but I am worried about getting it back. I'll have to do some rearranging of things. I was really touched though that she had given me something to say thank you and never expected to receive anything. To indicate the end of the year with UCU they did a dinner for 85 people made up of students of UCU and their families. I arrived at work at about midday and began to help cut, chop and prepare food. One person had arrived at 10am to start. We continued all day chopping, slicing, grating, cooking, organising for over 6 hours. I wasn't feeling too well and had started to have stomach ache and cramps the day before, plus a lack of appetite, which is always a bad sign for me! I continued on though, as I didn't really have much of a choice and thankfully was distracted by helping in the kitchen. We had to transfer loads of stuff from the UCU house to a church nearby, where we were having the dinner, so that took time to, but it was in walking distance. I think the dinner was due to be served at about 7, but at 9.30 it was served. We had a laugh in the kitchen preparing the fruit kebabs and found different uses for them...like the hands of Wolverine, etc. Plus we had to make sure we tried the fruit...you know to make sure it was safe! ;-p! Part way through I was called out to the front, and was given some presents as a thank you, which again I was not expecting. I received flowers and a cute little summer dress, which is also flowery. The whole night was really nice, and was a chance to chat with people who I don't normally chat with. The night ended by about 11 after cleaning up and rearranging the church hall, and I was very glad to get home and get to bed, as I was still feeling quite ill.
Over the weekend we had a final work retreat with a few student leaders and group leaders from other cities in Bogota where UCU is. The plan was to evaluate the year and decide on the new slogan for the coming year. I managed to get up and go for the morning, but really was feeling rough. I managed to eat breakfast, but it almost came back up. I stayed for the morning, but by midday I knew that I needed to go home. I left and arrived home and went straight to bed. I fell asleep at about 1.30 and woke up again at 5.30, still feeling rough. I managed to drink some juice and relocate to the sofa where I watched a film. I was back in bed at 8pm, having not eaten since breakfast and not having an appetite. I practically slept all through the night until 6.30am where upon I had some water, used the bathroom and proceeded to sleep once again until about 8.30am. That is a lot of sleep! Thankfully that morning I managed to eat something without thinking that I was going to vomit it up and slowly started to have an appetite back. My stomach wasn't right, but at least I could eat. I watched tv all day and just let my body rest. I continued to eat and started to feel more normal as the day proceeded. I had another early night and managed to sleep for a good 8 hours. The following day I felt well enough to go back to the retreat for the last day (yes it was another bank holiday weekend) and managed to enjoy the breakfast. I still wasn't completely right, as couldn't stomach coffee, which is also a sign that I'm ill. It was good to be there and I lasted the whole day. We decided on the slogan and it only took an hour and a half, which apparently is good going. By 5 I was ready to go back home. This sadly meant more goodbyes, as there will be people who won't be back in Bogota by the time that I leave for England. This also was officially the last thing that I did with UCU. I can't believe how fast the time has gone. I arrived in UCU at the beginning of April and that is truly where I started learning. The time there was not what I expected, but clearly it was what I needed. God decided that I would not be busy and what a blessing that has been for so many reasons. I have learnt how to be and how to rest, I had the opportunity to relax, read, chat with friends, learn how to knit and do all sorts of things that had I been busy, I would not have had the opportunity to do. I think when we do something like this (mission) we all do have expectations, even if we try not to. I love how God changes them, and teaches us so many things that are beyond our imagination and expectations; that is if we let Him. Even though these goodbyes are sad, I still have another adventure to have so haven't taken them in...yet.
So where am I now? I'm currently in the coast where it is HOT! I love it! I am here with other English missionaries and some Colombians. We are in the community outside of the main city, living in basic conditions, united with a church and working with the youth of the community doing English classes, chats about faith, and generally just being ears and love to them. There are a lot of children here who are divine and a joy to be around. There are a lot of needy people here to, so we are finding that just showing love is what they need. It's a privilege to be able to pass on some of God's love to this community and work alongside them to spread His love to. The church is small, but God's presence is huge! As you turn off the main road, you go up another road; however this road then ends and becomes mud and rocks so the cars don't go up it, so you have to walk. As you approach the church the environment changes in that you can feel peace. The place itself is loud with music, animals and people, but it's still peaceful (this concept is not easy to explain). In Bogota there is noise, but for me I feel stressed, agitated and worn out by it, but here the noise doesn't get to me and I still feel relaxed. This is because of the presence of God. At night there is no peace, but I'm sleeping and am enjoying all the music, even if the same song is on repeat for over an hour!
We are all taking it in turns to do things; cooking in pairs, doing the English classes, doing the chats in pairs, etc. I spoke on alcohol and drugs and on identity last week, all in Spanish and it seemed to go okay. The youth are attentive and want to learn. They want to be interactive and have been inviting other friends, which is awesome. The first night, I wasn't here but apparently there were only 8 young people. They were told to invite people...the next night there were 20 and this is the number that we have had since! It's incredible. There are a few names that stand out. One is Moises who is a 5 year old boy who is both delightful and annoying at the same time. He's beautiful, intelligent and doesn't have an easy life, but smiles the most gorgeous smile and wants to help out. There are beautiful girls to with gorgeous smiles, hair, figures and hearts. Basically this community is full of big, loving hearts. It's a stark reminder that loving hearts are more important that all the material things in the world. This place isn't the most beautiful in looks, but it's beautiful in love and that is the biggest thing that you can offer.
We have also had some time out and have been to the beach a couple of times, and climbed the hill at 5.30am to watch the sunrise. These are also special times, as they are times to bond, and recharge the batteries. Santa Marta as a city is much, much smaller than Bogota, and with the coastal feel, it is more relaxed, as it is always hot, which for me is perfect. We are here until about the 28th, so it is exciting to know that I will be here for Christmas. There will be 6 of us from the team here for Christmas and we will be with the community, which will be really special.
I will do another update after Christmas before I head to another city to celebrate the new year if I can.