Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Preparing for China

In preparation for China I visited Colombia. I flew from Canada, my home for the last fourteen years. (What does it mean that the three countries start with C?) During my visit we went for a hike to the beautiful Paramo del Rabanal, 1.5 hours from Ráquira, Boyacá. The air was light, it was a sunny and clear day, and we saw lots of stunning plants. We admired the frailejones and brought a few flowers for brewing tea; we found small white orchids, we feasted on agraz, a black edible berry, and we admired this vast extension of land with this particular ecosystem. With this visit to the paramo I felt rooted to this rich country where I belong.

My sense of belonging was also fostered by amazing people I visited. For instance, the lovely couple Cecilia Parody and Gonzalo Bernal are taking a sabbatical year to begin a book-exchange project across the country. Small libraries run free of charge and with no late-fines. It works thanks to volunteers of all ages who support the idea. They called the project La Hoja, meaning sheet of paper or leaf. So far they have initiated 55 book-exchange sites around the region in the last four years. La Hoja works wherever people want and need to read: in prison, hair salons, schools, cafes, and homes. The second person that left a strong impression was a judge who allowed the community aqueduct of Chaina to continue to own land housing facilities that serve around 1500 families. Despite juicy bribes from wealthy opponents who wanted the land for private use, this judge righteously enabled the aqueduct to continue operations on-going for thirty years. Hooray for an example of honesty and courage! And last, I participated in free cultural activities that improve civility, sensibility, community life. We went for a free concert of chamber music at San Francisco Convent, an ancient structure built in 1750. We took part in two life drawing sessions organized by a group of artists that have gathered for 5 years. We witnessed the rehearsal of a youth string orchestra under the direction of our friend Tomás Ojeda, who is starting a foundation for the arts in Villa de Leyva called AfinArce. I also saw my parents living the life they chose, helping others, walking the talk, growing food, creating and supporting artists, following their passion and convictions coherently.

The people of this country, their resilience, creativity and ingenuity give me hope of a better future in this crazy world we live in. I will carry them with me to China and they will make me proud of where I come from.
Paramo del Rabanal
Friends enjoying clean air
pre-Columbian pottery found at the páramo
Swimming at Piedras de San Pedro Reserve