Childhood within the indigenous communities of Colombia is not easy.
Usually from 6 or 7 years of age children start to accompany their parents to work in the field, to cut wood, cultivate the land and care for animals — all to help generate income for the family. This reality becomes much starker if the community is persecuted for its faith, typically by having limited access to resources, denial of state health services, harassment by authorities, denial of an education, and living under the strain of constant vigilance and scrutiny. So amongst other things, the Open Doors charity have set up schools for these children and Peter (a retired bloke from the Gold Coast) has gone to help teach them English. He writes…
At last, the climate here is pretty good. Temps range from about 20° C overnight to about 30° during the day but humidity is still around 85% or higher every day. It is still the wet season and very heavy showers are almost a daily occurrence with sometimes lightning and thunder. Recently I have even had to pull up a top sheet at night and turn off the fan!
The new semester kicked off here in our school, about the beginning of July and introduced some changes. Three new teachers have been appointed and others including myself have been allocated some new responsibilities. I now have no official responsibilities on weekends and under certain protective guidelines, I can go to certain places as long as I detail my travels and return times.
I have about 31 hours teaching time each week . I am a support teacher in six classes and have sole responsibility for planning a further five classes. In the classes where I have responsibility, I have the assistance of Rosa an ex student (with only basic English) and Steve, a 20 year old young man with very good English. He has volunteered to be here until October . Together we are able to achieve some progress. I have three allocated periods each week to learn Spanish and five periods for lesson planning.
The most difficult class is primary which includes grades 1 to 5. Two students in first grade are still just learning to write and need personal help most of the time. Rosa is very helpful with this task. Steve is able to translate my instructions into Spanish. One boy in second grade and one boy in third are a handful. One of those boys is hyperactive and is always out of his seat out of the room under a desk or tripping someone etc etc – I think you get the picture. The other boy is not quite as demanding but still a handful.
In the primary class there are only a total of 11 students but after each class, the three of us are mentally exhausted. The two disruptive boys had to spend their English class in the staff room under supervision of the principal for a week or two. Last Friday one of the boys came to me with a cap and a letter of apology. The girls in the class are the opposite of these boys and sit quietly and do their work and joyfully participate in various activities without tripping, pushing or punching anyone. I do love those boys and I wish I had their energy.
While I was in Monteria in May I developed what I thought was a “blind pimple” on my face and despite a concerted effort to deny its presence, it had to increased in size. I decided to go to the doctor about this and he referred me to a skin specialist in Villavcencio. The local doctor did not charge me because he said I came from Australia. I went to the specialist on Friday 2nd August and he did not know what the beast on my face was. He got his collegue to have a look and they decided to take a biopsy to see if it was a benign or malignant tumour. I expect to get the result some time after the 19 th August. While I was horizontal he decided to burn off some sun damage on my temple area. I was expecting the liquid nitrogen treatment but he used and electric current. I held on to one terminal and he completed the circuit on my temple. There was the distinct smell of barbequed Peter in the room. It did not heal as quickly as the liquid nitrogen method.
Next month there is the possibility that I will travel to the Sant Marta region in the north for one week to visit another Children’s Centre that is supported by Open Doors. This centre runs on different lines than what is done here and is a much smaller project.
I put a photo at the top. Can you spot the Aussie teacher?
Until next time….Dios te bendiga