It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I’m settling in. I can describe my first months like this:
Week 1: excited due to Fulbright’s orientation, but tired due to the altitude
Week 2: overwhelmed by my second orientation, this time at the University. went through major FOMO seeing people go out in Bogota while I was at home wanting to sleep (again, due to the altitude)
Weeks 3-4: really began to feel lonely and unsure if I would ever make friends in Bogota, but then things started to turn around. After making a big effort to get my social project started, there was hope I would get a site specific dance project underway with ConCuerpos, an inclusive dance company that includes both disabled and non-disabled dancers. My boyfriend visited me. I went to a language exchange event and I met some really cool Colombians. I bought tix to visit Santa Marta.
Week 5: I started getting ahold of things. I no longer felt like I’m floating as in weeks 2-4. There was the challenge of getting over the altitude and trying to build a social life. There was the adjustment of living with a Colombian family, learning to share their space with them and dealing with awkward moments. I bonded the most with their dog, Lulu, who stays in the house when everyone is gone. I would walk her when I got the chance and she would to take naps on my bed. I finally got my social project underway with ConCuerpos, who gave me the green light to choreograph a site specific dance piece with its group of amateur and nonamateur dancers, including company members. The actual company has too full of a schedule this fall to take on another project. During this week, the news were all focused on the peace agreement with the FARC, which was announced on live TV on Wednesday, August 25th. I watched as the president spoke about the major points of the agreement and I felt it was a huge historical moment for the country. This long standing “war” was over. Now, it wasn’t a traditional war as we Americans may understand it, but this has certainly lead to people rejoicing for the arrival of peace…well, not all Colombians are satisfied with the deal. There are many critics who don’t like that FARC members won’t serve jail time and will join the legal political process. The agreement needs to be approved in a “plebiscito” (a nation-wide vote) taking place on Sunday, October 2nd. I’ve already watched interviews of people who say they won’t vote because they don’t like that the FARC won’t go to jail and that they believe peace can’t be found in Colombia. Interesting. These critics are being given the right to answer yes or no to whatever single question is going to be asked of them and they’re already saying no, but I’m not Colombian, so I can only observe and see what happens.
I’d like to share a picture of a poll done at a university not too far from my apartment. It’s a little hard to see, so I put it in black and white so you can see the ticks students put under each question:
Here are the questions in the photo:
- Conoces los acuerdos de paz?(Do you know what are the stipulations within the peace agreement?) 1 Yes, 4 No
- Lo entiendes? (Do you understand them?) 1 Yes, 5 No
- Votarias por un exmilitante de Las FARC-EP? (Would you vote [for office] for an exmilitant of the FARC-EP?) 0 Yes, 5 No
- Crees que se puede justificar la violencia armada? (Do you think one can justify armed violence?) 4 Si, 1 No
I was very surprised by these responses because I assumed these questions were answered by university students. But, then again, I don’t know if this is a conservative or a liberal university, and like I mentioned before, there are many critics of the peace agreement. So many answered that they did not know what were the conditions stated in the peace agreement, and very shockingly, many said that armed violence can be justified. I didn’t expect that knowing that so many people complain about the presence of the FARC and other groups. Additionally, the FARC will now become a political group, so based on this poll (and interviews I’ve watched on the news), it doesn’t seem like people are interested in voting for an ex-FARC member. So, who knows what the future of the FARC is as a political group.
Weeks 6-9: I made some efforts to travel. In late August, I went to Palomino beach, an hour away from Santa Marta and it was nice to relax on the beach, but the eco-hotel did not have electricity at the time so it was so scary at night! Especially because my bathroom was outside my room, so I’m never doing that again! I booked a trip to Leticia, Amazonas, but then I had to reschedule my flight because I burned my right hand cooking. I’ll spare you the photos, but it’s a second degree burn and it grew some big nasty blisters (one the size of half my hand!). Luckily, I was able to go to a wonderful clinic (my insurance is awesome- I didn’t have to pay for my emergency!) and I got time off from work in the first week to heal. I really needed it because I was in a lot of pain. I’m going through “curaciones,” a series of procedures to facilitate the healing of my wounds. Now, my hand is growing new skin, so I still have a long round ahead of me, but I am being patient. Last, but not least, I moved! The place I was staying at wasn’t right for me. It didn’t feel like my home and there were several issues (like people using my bathroom although I was told it was my private bathroom) so I had to leave. I am now in a place I really like and I am much closer to other Fulbrighters. I feel like my space is finally my own.
Well, this was quite a long post because I wasn’t able to type because of my hand, but with each day, I’m able to do more and more with it. October is coming up, which means that my birthday is here and my dance piece with ConCuerpos will occur on that same day! Here is some info about the piece and a flyer I made for the event!
“juntos en este espacio: una creación en espacio específico” is a site-specific dance piece I am choreographing with dancers of the inclusive dance company ConCuerpos and the Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano. Created for La Tadeo’s “XX Festival Universitario de Danza Contemporánea Escenarios Liminales,” it takes place on the first floor of the university’s new Faculty of the Arts building, and it is inspired and influenced by the setting and the different bodies and capabilities of the dancers, since the group includes dancers with and without disabilities. It has been a participatory experience with all dancers contributing to the piece and one of my favorite experiences here in Bogotá so far!
***Featured blog post image by: Efrain Rincon, a photojournalist documenting the process of my creating my dance piece