Colombia Accompaniment Report: Pensamientos en Colombia #1

By Ann Rosewall and Ruth Hamilton

When Latin American people speak there is an immediacy and directness to their words that feels different than in the US. As if we have been trained to talk in a way that covers some things up (the effect of nicer sheets and pillows?). Driving through the crowded and, yes, dirty streets, past homes and sidewalks that don’t seem to have been finished, you get the sense of seeing a world naked, in its original state, direct, without any fluff or pretense.

Am reading a magazine about real estate developments in Barranquilla and Puerto Colombia. The message of the developers is “Live in the Golden Port—the New Barranquilla.” And “In reality it is much more than what you dream of.” Made me think of Tillich’s “Dreaming Innocence” –the stage before the Fall.

It is warm, though only mildly uncomfortable. The single stream of cool water in the shower felt good and the towels that weren’t Luxe soft like the ones we now expect at home did the job. I ate another simple meal and will look forward to the larger almuerzo and something small at night. I washed my few dishes with the cold water and was confident they were clean—wondering why we use all that energy at home to rinse dishes then run the dishwasher with heat dry and then put them away. How did we become so energy dependent and consumptive?

This way of thinking is like breathing. When I entered the simple bedroom where I would be staying, I immediately began to think how I could improve it. Surely a new pair of sheets wouldn’t offend anyone or a new pillow, I thought. (Later at the Meyers-like Jumbo Supermarket, I saw that a pair of 150 thread count sheets cost almost $30. I was also surprised at how expensive the food was plus the bananas didn’t look nearly as “good” as the ones on our grocery shelves.)

What is the origin of these thoughts about mejorando, desarollando, improving? Is this the human and life rule of evolution and/or are they priestly rules of cleanliness in disguise that we, al mismo tiempo, condemn so much in the Old Testament? Mark 7.15 Ninguna cosa que entra en el hombre puede hacerlo impuro; lo que lo hace impuro es lo que sale de el. El que tenga oidos para oir, que me oiga

Coming out of the apartment with German yesterday, we waited for the friend of a friend who would drive us to the Presbytery office. There at 8:30 in the morning the three men were discussing the differences between Leninist communism and Chinese communism and how they had evolved in Russia and China. The one man explained that China had co-opted every form of government—communism, capitalism, socialism, and fascism. He was confounded that a country that claimed to deny private property could have so many millionaires. One of the men assigned preeminence to China in the world.

I realized that it is so strange to have any conversation including the word “communism”—so thoroughly has the word and the idea been de-valued and dis-credited in the USA. It almost feels as if they are having a radical conversation with real freedom of speech, freedom of thought. Again I think of the invisible bars of American “freedom.” But, according to one young lawyer here who is very involved in researching the violence, there is a return to great caution in how and where one speaks openly. The threat of political violence is very real—the cost of discipleship is high. “Don’t speak English in the taxis.”

My host home: Ethel Mercedes Zarate, 95, and her youngest son, Andres, 42, helping his nephew, Alejandro, and friends with a display about the solar system.