Week 4 in Colombia

written by: Lisandro Torre
posted in: 2011, Colombia

June 7, 2011

This weekend was supposed to be a long weekend because Monday was a holiday, but we had to come in on Saturday because we were a behind on the distributions.  We came in on Saturday and there were a ton of people there – 85 families, which included over 50 children whose height and weight we had to take.  We should have been finished around noon, but there were problems with the internet (all the surveys and nutritional surveys are done online) and we ended up staying until after 2.  I hurried to get lunch, worried that I was going to get there and there would be no food. The women at my restaurant know I come every day so they had saved me food and I went home happy.

During the week Richard had organized a soccer game between the guys at IRD and a bank for Saturday night. I got a ride and we went to a “synthetic” field, the size of a basketball court with netting all around. The game was an hour long and it was back and forth, but we finally won 11-10 with Richard scoring the winning goal with less than a minute to go.  It was early evening and it was hot and it felt like the heat and humidity had grabbed and squeezed all t the juices out of me.  It’s been a long time since I sweat that much.  I scored 4 goals and afterwards one of the guys told me that he could tell I was Argentine.  I’m not sure what that meant, either that I was too offensive minded and played no defense or that I was scrappy, which is to make up for a lack of skill – either way I took it as a compliment.  We stayed afterwards and had a few beers, which was a little awkward for me because I was soaked in sweat.  It was nice though and on the way home I sat in the bed of the truck and saw what Tumaco is like at night as the wind cooled me off.  Halfway home, as an homage to Rick and Peace Corps, I stood up in the bed and road standing up the rest of the way – absolutely the best way to ride in the back of a truck.  After we got home from the game, my neighbor, who works for IRD, his girlfriend and another IRD guy and his girlfriend sat around the pool at my place drinking whiskey and not really talking.  

Sunday six of us from work were invited to a co workers house for lunch.  He is one of the few IRD people from Tumaco so he lives in one of the neighborhoods rather than in the nice part where the IRD people from other parts of Colombia live.  He, in what I am learning is normal, had speakers that I’ve only ever seen at concerts, each one was 5 and a half feet tall and three feet wide.  When we were all there he turned the speakers on very very loud and we watched a soccer game as his sisters and mom brought us lunch and then disappeared.  It was the second awkward social interaction that I had in two days.  It reminded me a lot of when I would be invited to people’s houses for dinner in Uganda and I would sit in the living room alone or silently with someone while the wife or sister would make dinner, bring dinner and then leave.   The fish soup was very good and hot and I sweat as I ate and noticed that none of the other guys were sweating.  I guess they’re just used to it.

The lunch got me thinking about women here in Tumaco.  In some ways it seems like Colombia and Tumaco are doing well when it comes to women’s equality – the bosses at IRD in Bogota are all women and though the boss in Tumaco is a man, most of the other people in positions of power are women. The restaurant where I eat everyday is owned and run by women.  Women here also drive both cars and motorcycles (I would say that about 40% of the drivers are women), which is not something I would see in Uganda.  And 90% of the families that IRD is working with in Tumaco are headed by women who have been forced from their homes and, in several cases have been abused.  I don’t really have more to say; I’m just telling you what I am seeing and have not been here long enough or talked to enough people to draw any conclusions.  I am happy to see that at least on the surface it seems like the government of Colombia is working to educate families about domestic abuse and they do provide resources.  IRD is working on that issue and I know from the reports I’ve read that there is a lot of work still to be done.

Then there is the issue of race here in Tumaco. It’s something I expected I would start to pop up and I was curious how things compared to the US, the little I saw of Bogota and Argentina, which I know has a lot of issues with racism.  I had noticed a few things that I found odd and then I had two incidents this weekend that have me thinking a lot more about it.  The first weekend that I was here I went for a walk on the beach and noticed that people were self segregating and that there were definitely black and white areas of the beach.  Then there were a group of black boys playing soccer and they kicked the ball out of bounds and it rolled to two white boys.  The boys looked at the ball and rather than kick or throw the ball back to the game, they left the ball alone.  It was strange and I asked a co worker about it and they told me that racism isn’t a problem in Tumaco, but it can be on the beach because a lot of the people are from out of town and people not from the coast tend to be less tolerant.  Then at that lunch on Sunday I went outside to escape the music a little bit when I an old woman called me over.  She was black standing next to her three daughters and when I came over she asked me if I wanted to take one of her daughters home and asked me if I liked black women and went on and on until I had to leave. I don’t know what to make of that either – I just know it made me uncomfortable and I don’t know if it’s because I’m American and just sensitive or if it is a big issue in Tumaco that is not really talked about here and just sort of silently looms over everything.

Monday was lazy for me, I didn’t really do anything and was feeling a little sick (I’m not sure I should have drank the juice given to me at lunch).  But I did get a little reading in and a run and a little time in the pool.  I do laundry ever day here and got that out of the way.  Again, as a shout out to Rick and our travels in Uganda, I’m washing in the sink and drying in front of the fan.  Everything is dry by morning.  The TV in the room bring out the sloth in me, especially since there are two ESPN channels and I’ve been able to watch the NBA finals, the French Open, a lot of Argentine soccer and some baseball.  Last night the constant background thumping of people’s speakers finally started to get to me.  Luckily, the power went out for a bit, which gave me a break until it came back on and my neighbors decided to make up for that lost time by blasting music until 3 in the morning.

Gotta go, another day of work.

The first three pictures are of kids that we weighed and the last picture is of an Arepa bike.

This entry was posted on July 11, 2011 at 9:00 am and is filed under 2011, Colombia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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