20 June, 2010
I finally got to move freely through Cazucá thanks to a lovely member of Shakira’s communications team and his expensive film equipment. After teaching the kids to make a blog, which should prove to be an amazing way for them to share their story and everyday life with the world, we went about giving a tour to Xavi while he took pictures and filmed interviews. And, to facilitate this, we had a police escort. The police were surprisingly attentive, except of course for the brief period when they had to break up a fight and disappeared, or when they just disappeared, leaving Milena (my boss) to fend for us blonde haired, blue eyed gringos (Xavi and I). We did finally talk our way into a ride in the back of their pickup truck which resembled more a rollercoaster ride than a ride home (yes, I understand that using your breaks while descending a mountain wears them out, but had we known the speed at which we would be travelling straight down the road which seems to have potholes and boulders, but somehow no flat ground, we may have chosen to sit inside the cab). Regardless, I was grateful. The views from farther up the hill were the best I’ve ever seen, and we had the most beautiful day!
I got to visit one of the Centros de Interés that two of my favorite girls, Pilar and Jemmy (pronounced Jaime), were hosting that day. There are 5 Centros de Interés that are located throughout the neighborhood. They are hosted by kids that are a bit older, Jemmy and Pilar are probably around 13) and cater to the younger population, around 5 to 8. These sessions are open to anyone, part of the open doors model of the Fundación that I think works so well, so announcements are made over a speaker in the neighborhood and the kids come galloping in. The centers are really just houses that open their doors for an hour or two so that the kids can play games and learn lessons set up by the educadores. The model that the Fundación follows is dedicated to this theory of multiplication and, in my opinion, is one of its best aspects. The theory of multiplication (people teaching what they have learned to others) is spread through the model, from child to child (through the Centros de Interés) to parent to parent (through Creciendo en Amor), from graduates of the school to those still attending (through the workshops that are held every week, incorporating art, music, communications and more). It is also very apparent the extent to which this is emphasized in the fact that so many of the graduates are around the school and the casita of the Fundación all the time, helping out, holding classes, etc.
I also finally made it to one of the huertas, or farms, planted on the roofs of houses with seeds and instruction given by the Fundación. Walking up the narrow stairs to an open roof filled with crops, I kind of felt as though I were suddenly on the screen of a documentary about urban farming in Detroit. The crops were pretty amazing, but the 60-ish year old woman growing them was even more so. The pride in her eyes as she showed us beans, corn, tomatoes, arugula, and a whole bunch of other fruits and vegetables that I had neither seen nor heard of (by their Spanish names at the least), was palpable. But, nothing like the pride in her eyes when she showed us the gigantic fig tree growing outside her house. Apparently a horticulturalist had been out a few weeks before and told her that it was the healthiest fig tree he had ever seen, and I can attest to the amazing flavor of the fruit boiled in sugar. Even Xavi, who looked rather nervous when he figured out that we were going to be fed figs and very politely mentioned that they were not his favorite, went back for seconds when given the opportunity.
During this trip I also had a chance to spend more time with Flor (sister of Pilar, from above) and her mom. Flor is the daughter of 2 deaf-mutes and one of the more amazing, sweet and intelligent kids at the school (in my opinion). The way that she and her mom communicate is amazing. They were taught to sign at some point, but really don’t use it at all. When I asked them to teach us the alphabet, it took a lot of thinking and discussion. The two are amazingly connected though, it’s as though they don’t need a formal language. The mom makes noises and points at her face and at the surrounding area and makes expressions, then points to me, and Flor launches in to explanations of what her mom has said. The mom and the dad are both fairly good at reading lips, and that is how they receive information, aided by hand gestures and expressions as well. Xavi interviewed her and said that it was one of the few times while conducting interviews that he had teared up. The answer was along these lines, “We might not have the biggest house in Bogotá but I love my parents and my family and I am so lucky and happy to have them.” She then launched into a story of her life goal of starting an animal shelter to help the street animals in Cazucá (the family already has something like 6 cats and 2 dogs).
All in all it was an amazing day. There is so much to learn from people in Cazucá, but I think the best lesson is well summarized by a sign I once saw in the school that said something to the effect of, “Wealth has nothing to do with money, but instead with your state of happiness.”