Things I find humor in that keep my life here in Bayunca interesting:
Music: If I had to describe the music here in one word it would be loud. I know multiple people who live in shacks made of sticks and trash bags who have speakers stacked up outside 12 feet tall (with an extension cord running all the way down the street to the house with electricity). There is a variety of types of music here on the coast, but they are all very upbeat and loud. The other day I was sitting on the patio working on a lesson plan with Dave Matthews Band playing (at normal volume) in the background. I am surrounded at all times by groups of 5-10 children, and on this particular day it was about 10 teenage girls. One of them asked me what I was listening to and I told her what it was. They all stood staring at me for a minute and finally one said, “How do you dance to it?” I pondered that for a second and then started shuffling around in what I thought were appropriate DMB dance moves. More blank stares and then, “But….how do you DANCE to it?” Once again my gringa dance moves have failed me. Apparently if you can’t bump and grind to it, it’s not going to fly with the Bayuncan youth….sorry Dave!
Religion: I don’t think it comes as any surprise to anyone that people here (in general) are very religious…the vast majority being Catholic. My most recent religious adventures include Ash Wednesday and the resignation of the Pope. On Ash Wednesday some of the teachers decided we should take all of the Catholic kids to the 10am mass (we’re talking at LEAST 100 kids). If fire codes existed here, I would say the church in Bayunca has a maximum capacity of about 150. On Ash Wednesday there were easily 300. I was sitting in a pew build for 6 with about 15 kids. The kid on one side is telling me he is not Catholic, he is in a cult. I am in the middle of shushing him when the kid on the other side looks at me and says, “I peed”. My ashes were mixing with sweat and turning to mud and I began to wonder if this is what Jesus had in mind. On the day of the announcement of the Pope’s resignation, I awoke to a pounding on the front door in the early hours of the morning. When I came out to see what all the fuss was about…it was a neighbor who was running door to door making sure everyone had their TV on to see the news. After watching 2 hours of coverage with most of the extended family who came running from all over the pueblo, Marlene suddenly looked up and said, “Imaginase…..VAMOS SIN PAPA!” Which basically means, “Can you imagine? We’re going without a Pope!”
School: Here on the coast, school is VERY different than what I am used to back in the states. For example, school starts at 6:45 and I am lucky if we have started anything by 8am. School ends at 12:45 and the school is empty by noon every day. The bell to signal the start and end of class is the same sound as is used for a tornado warning and can be heard throughout the entire pueblo. The classroom management is somewhat more relaxed than I am used to (for an idea of what it is like click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO4X8_c80kg). School can be canceled without prior notice or approval. It’s raining? No school. There’s no power? No school. No water? No school. Teachers need to have a meeting? No school. Festival in Bayunca the night before? No school. Teacher didn’t show up? No school. False rumor got spread that there would be no school? No school.
Ahorita: Literally ‘ahorita’ means right now….it’s meaning here on the coast is up for interpretation. I have refered to ‘costeño time’ (a Colombian costal take on the popular idea of ‘island time’). I say a meeting will start at 7pm and I will be lucky if anyone arrives by 8pm. When someone says ‘ahorita’ they could be referring and time between the next few seconds….and anytime the rest of that day. When I first got to Colombia and had not caught on to this particular nuance, every time someone said, “vamos ahorita” I would grab my things and head towards the door only to be left waiting for hours. I made a new definition for ‘ahorita’: Right now…or as soon as I take a shower, sweep the dirt in front of the house around, cook dinner, watch a few novelas, catch up on all of the chisme in the barrio, offer everyone juice, and then stand around talking about how we need to leave ‘ahorita’ but don’t actually leave for at least ten more minutes.
Spoons: I know that people own forks and knives here in Bayunca, because I have seen them used at important dinners with important people. Apparently I do not fall into this important people category, because I have been eating all of my meals here with a spoon. This seems to be completely normal as I have eaten dinner in many different people’s homes and every time it’s all spoons. Sometimes this is not a problem, for example, when eating rice or soup. It becomes more challenging when it is a soup with large chunks of plantains, potatoes, and meat, but is still manageable with a small amount of splashing. Where the real test comes in is when you sit down to dinner and find a piece of meat (usually the toughest meat you have ever encountered in your life). For me there is an added disadvantage in that I eat with my 94 year old grandpa and they pre-cut his food for him so I can’t even steal ideas on how to eat a steak with a spoon. I still have no solution to this one. I’ll keep you posted on the spoon saga.
Climate: I think I have mentioned a time or two that it is pretty hot here on the equator. It is pretty much between 80 and 90 degrees year round with a high UV index and a lot of humidity. That being said, the months of November through March are considerably cooler in the evening and early morning. When I say considerably cooler, I mean like upper 70’s or low 80’s with a little less humidity and sometimes a nice breeze. For me this means that after the sun goes down I breathe a sigh of relief and know that as long as I don’t move too much, I can go the rest of the night without sweating. For my family, this means they FREAK OUT about being ‘cold’. My host mom will be sitting watching TV and at about 5 minute intervals she will dramatically shiver and say, “AYYY NOOOOOO, tengo friooooo!” For someone who has lived their entire life here where it is like a combination of a really hot sauna and the face of the sun, I guess I can understand. But for the record, it is not ‘cold’ here. Ever.
Food: It probably seems like I talk about food a lot. That would be because it is probably the most important thing here behind music/dancing. I have a discussion with at least one of my female family members every single day about the fact that I am in fact not going to starve to death if I don’t eat like a lumberjack at every meal. Here are the food rules: 1. If someone offers you food, you MUST eat it. 2. If you have food, you MUST offer some to everyone around you. 3. Juice, tinto, peto, and avena do not count as food…you MUST eat actual food in the morning. 4. You MUST drink your entire bag of water/juice because setting it down is likely to result in you wearing the contents of the bag. 5. Every single plate MUST be filled with enough white rice to solve world hunger.
Animals: Prior to living in Bayunca, the only time I ever saw cows, pigs, roosters, and other farm animals was if I went to the zoo or a petting zoo (at in that random space where bulls live at Tatum and Bell in Phoenix). Now, I see cows, pigs, roosters, chickens, horses, and burros on a daily basis. Normally they are just wandering around and I do not understand how they know who owns which animals. People also have these animals living in their backyards (and wandering through their houses). My favorites are of course the babies….there is nothing better than passing little piglets or baby chicks meandering down the road! I especially love one baby cow who I named Juanita. I stop at talk to Juanita on my way to school and when I pass every day the family who owns here says to her, “Tú amiguita está aquí!” (You’re little friend is here!) The family and their neighbors also refer to her as Juanita now. I am definitely leaving my mark on Bayunca.
Gossip: If there is one consistent truth in my life here in Bayunca, it’s that EVERYONE will know about EVERYTHING that I do. I have to be careful not to do anything that could damage my reputation because around here chisme spreads like wildfire.
#1 I stopped at the drogeria to buy vapor rub because I heard it is good for mosquito bites. When I got home (literally less than 5 minutes later) my host mom and my host aunt (who had come over specifically for the interrogation and must have run because she lives equal distance from my house as the drug store) were standing in front of the house waiting to ask if I was sick. No, I am not sick. Then why did you go to the drug store? To buy vapor rub. Because you’re sick?
#2 I wake up around 5:45am every day and on Sunday’s I sleep in until around 7:30 or 8:00. One Sunday after staying up very late I decided to sleep in. Around 8:45 there was a pounding on my door and my host aunt yelling, “Katy! Katy estás bien?!” I opened the door to find my entire family standing around worried about me because I slept 45 minutes later than usual. Later that day a complete stranger said to me, “I heard you slept in today!”
#3 Yesterday a woman told me to give her my dirty laundry and said she would do it for me since she was doing her family’s laundry anyway and she has a pila (at my house we just use buckets). I thanked her for her generosity but told her I would do it myself. She asked how long it’s been since I have done laundry. I estimated about a week and a half. She said, “I heard it’s been three.” I did laundry the next day…….
#4 When I am walking through the pueblo, everyone stops me to talk, and the first questions is always, “Where are you going?” By the time I get wherever I am going, everyone there already heard I was coming. Apparently Bayuncan word of mouth travels faster than I do.
Until next time…paz y amor.
P.S. MIL GRACIAS to all those of you who have sent me packages/letters/emails…I really appreciate hearing from you and it makes home feel a little bit closer! I am able to get on Facebook sometimes now, but email or mail is still best (click on my contact tab for info!).
PPS. I promise to upload more pictures soon…I have been really bad about taking pictures the last few months and the internet is SO SLOW!