Out of breath and a little sweaty I finished climbing the steep hill to the upper school, Escuela Gabriel Garcia Márquez, El Minuto de Dios, only to be welcomed by screams of “¡Es Shakira!” Just goes to show you how many light-skinned people these kids see, but it did do wonders for my self-esteem that even a couple of four-year-olds confused me with the pop star! Now I just need to learn how to sing, otherwise I’m not going to make it very far with my new identity.
Continuing our surveys, I got a real feel for just how destitute these people can be; something that I had realized in a general/academic sense, but that feels much different in person. We walked into the house of a poor family (even by Soachan standards) that consisted of a long hallway with a dirt floor and two rooms off the side. Each room had two beds and houses a family of 4. The walls were made of clapboard so thin and battered that light was coming through in places. Keep in mind that Bogotá doesn’t have a tropical climate, it’s in the mountains and very cold at night. The family was very nice and consisted of a grandmother and grandfather and two little girls. The mother apparently lives in the neighborhood, but as the grandmother says, she might as well not. The grandparents were very caring and loving. The grandmother especially was very charismatic, making fun of my coworker Mónica for being afraid of the dogs and such. I realized that she was illiterate when I asked her to check the spelling of the child’s father’s name. She looked at the place I was pointing and said, “it’s just that I can’t read.” She then extracted ID cards for the girls out of her wallet as well as her phone number and address written down on separate pieces of paper, neither of which she could tell me off the top of her head.