Jake and I spent the last nine days in Eastern Antioquia.
We traveled around in an old SUV we borrowed from our friend Oscar and conducted interviews, attended community meetings, and were even able to implement a survey with the democratically elected leaders in each village in one of our case-study municipalities. As a reward for participating in the survey, we gave out tiny little snowman pins and people LOVED them. I mean, really, really, loved them. Everyone pinned them to their clothing immediately and asked for extras for their kids. Here is a picture of us posing proudly with the pins, as they were probably our biggest success of the last two weeks.
We learned so many things while in the countryside – what sugar cane flowers look like, where the swimming holes are hidden, what it feels like to ride on the back of motorbike with a middle-aged man and a toddler, and that two people can’t successfully share a single towel for nine days. We also learned that it is very affordable to raise a chicken, that cold showers aren’t THAT bad, and that we are ridiculously spoiled and have always been blessed with way more material goods than we need.
Oh, and we also learned that you can never have too many “tintos” – the weak coffee that Colombians use as a synonym for having a conversation or sitting down to share a moment together. On days with lots of interviews I have at least five. Thankfully they are only 25 cents a piece.
Because there are too many things to recollect in a single blog post, I will focus this post on some paradoxes that I found interesting.
Silence and Noise
The municipalities where we are working are primarily rural. In many villages – and the stretches of unpaved road between them – we don’t have cellphone service, we don’t pass many other vehicles, and there are certainly no billboards or chain restaurants along the single-lane carved out of the mountain. The radio in the car doesn’t really work. Most of the drives Jake and I share are passed in silence. Jake concentrates on the road as we pass through clouds and over deep rivets in the dirt road caused by water running down the mountainside. I look at the ever-changing scenery, letting my mind wander after so much information has entered it.
At the same time that the countryside is peaceful, it has also been loud and intense in unexpected ways. There are roosters crowing at all hours, reggaeton music blasting late into the night from the little bar next door, and the 6:00 a.m. mass blares from the church through a loud speaker. Because everything is so small and close together, you can hear everyone and everyone can hear you.
Fast and Slow
The countryside in Colombia moves at a pace that is both slow and fast. People have no problem sitting down with you and talking for two full hours about their lives, the violence, and how they have rebuilt and reconciled after the armed group left the area. While their words flow quickly, their stories unravel slowly, with details about the price of raspberries or the weather thrown in.
While people move through the village, Jake and I are usually planted at the kiosk in the center of town. The entire life of the town or village passes slowly in front of us, but as soon as we start interviews, a rapid chain of stories begins and doesn’t end until we retreat to a borrowed bedroom or a rented room in an hospedaje. These marathon interviewing sessions move so quickly – and so does the day – yet I feel that our full comprehension of them requires a slower pace and will happen over the course of months…
Jake and I are now back in Medellin – we came home for a two-day break because we were feeling worn out. We have one more trip to a municipality on Friday and then we won’t be back out in the rural areas until after the holiday break.
Have a good Wednesday!
ps. We took off our wedding rings today, because petty-theft increases around the holidays in Medellin, so tomorrow may include buying some fake jewelry at the mall :).
pps. CANNOT WAIT to meet my soon to be born niece or nephew in three weeks!