On Wednesday I realized what it is that really keeps drawing me back to Colombia. As much as I say it is the food, or the music, or any other number of amazing things about this country, there is one reason that stands out stronger than anything else: my Colombian family. That is to say, my friend Nancy and her family who were the kindest to me out of anyone I have ever met despite a language barrier and class difference (which is of greater significance in Colombia than Canada). The photo below is the first photo that I have of Nancy and I together, taken on the Day of Love and Friendship in October 2006 where she randomly (I swear I believe in fate because of this) selected me (out of all the employees of the school) as her secret friend (like a secret santa type of gift exchange).
Nancy was a cleaning lady at the school I worked at and I ended up eating lunch with her every chance I got even though i was not supposed to sit at the same table as the cleaning ladies because they were considered inferior to the teachers. In fact, they were often treated like trash from the students, teachers, and other staff of the school. Yet I found them to be the most generous and considerate people in the entire school. Completely undervalued if you ask me.
Well… Nancy and her family made me feel like a member of their family, and to this day I truly believe they are responsible for me having such a positive experience and learning enough Spanish (through their patience) to be able to carry on a conversation with them on any number of topics. They don’t speak a word of English, might I add.
On Wednesday I finally got to see her and her family again. From the moment I arrived at her door, her kids were so excited to see me it was insane. And Nancy told me that finally her kids were happy because I had arrived. They have been asking about when I would come visit for the last two years non-stop. I can’t believe they remember me so vividly considering how young they were when I lived in Colombia. It really was amazing.
This is Nancy outside of the house where she lives with her Mom, her brother and his girlfriend, her two sisters (who each have a child), and her six children.
Being with Nancy’s family again was such an incredible experience as they were so happy to see me and so thankful for the gifts I brought them (maple candies and olympic mascot plushies for the kids) it was really sweet. Here is Nancy’s youngest daughter, Alejandra, with her Sumi plush toy. It is crazy how much she has grown in the last two years, I keep thinking she is Valentina.
Their life is anything but easy, and yet they are so positive and caring it truly is a miracle. In Canada have we so much and oftentimes it never seems to be enough. Yet Nancy and her family can barely feed themselves and they still have such a positive outlook on life. Yes, they admit it is hard, but they don’t let that stop them from enjoying and appreciating the little things. Most importantly friendship and family.
Nancy’s mom built a two bedroom house on land that belongs to her parents. Her mom comes from a family of 9, with seven daughters (including her mom) and two sons. They all live in about a 3 square block area of each other.
We had a tinto (coffee) at her aunt’s house as well, which Nancy told me was a pre-fabricated house. I would guess it had about 800 square feet in total. Outside they were raising chickens, they had 59 which they were going to sell in 15 days.
Next to Nancy’s mom’s house is the rest of the land that belongs to her grandparents, where the sister of Nancy’s grandmother takes her cows each day to graze on the grass.
In this photo you can see Nancy’s eldest son feeding one of the cows and how large the lot is. There were only three cows on it. Nancy told me how much she wanted to have her own cow because then they could drink the milk and when the cow is large enough, sell it.
Nancy’s family was hoping I would stay the night, but I told them I couldn’t and promised I would stay the night on Sunday with them. So I will head to Chia on Sunday and stay over til Monday. I haven’t stayed at their house since I was living in Bogota. At least now their bathroom has a door – it doesn’t have a handle, but it’s a start! I will take way more photos next time and I am sure I will have plenty more to share…. It’s amazing to see how different our lives are, yet I think of her as my best friend here in Colombia.