Thursday, September 24, 2009


I moved all of my things over to the apartment this past Tuesday, after a month of living with Miriam and Oscar. I really enjoyed living there, and was quickly introduced to Colombian culture and food with them. It was a great first month and they were so welcoming and generous. Their place was about a 15 minute walk from the church/office/apartment so it was really convenient too. Last Saturday was the "day of friendship and love"...basically it was Colombia's valentine's day. There was a party at Miriam and Oscar's apartment and it was a lot of fun. There was a dancing contest that night....and I was signed up by Oscar. It was pretty official..they even pinned numbers on us. My dancing partner was a man from the apartment, and he was really good. Well, we ended up winning the contest. And anyone who knows my dancing skills knows that we only won because I was the cute 'gringa' and they thought it would be nice to let me win. It was a lot of fun and feliz "dia de amor y amistad" to everyone! 

So now I'm living in the apartment and I'm really excited about it. My room is all set and it's so nice waking up in the same building that I have to work in and the church is right there. The first night was a little chilly, but I have a few blankets now to keep me warm. It's a simple apartment, but it's perfect for what Laura-Catherine and I need. I have a nice, big closet that I've covered in pictures. The main roads to catch buses and a transmilenio stop are really close too. The 'Gran Pared' climbing wall is right next to us so I'm hoping to start climbing more frequently. I went with Laura-Catherine, Lucho and Oscar yesterday and it was tough, but a good workout. The only problem about leaving Miriam and Oscar is that I have to start cooking for myself. haha Please send any (easy!) recipes to asap! 

Everything in Usme is going well. The kids have been working hard on drawing their families and writing letters to their penpals from the USA. Sam sent me a care package earlier this week (thank you!!!) and I brought them some reeses peanut butter cups. They loved them and want to try more things from 'the United States!'. Hopefully I won't eat everything in the care package before the next time I see them!

I was able to meet with Father Carlos yesterday while I was working in the office. He works in Soacha, a city on the southern edge of Bogota. I had read about Soacha on the Doctors without Borders website, and really wanted to get involved there. Here is an article from 2005, but it's definitely still relevant: Soacha. It's a very sad story, but it's a reality all over Colombia. I was invited to spend this weekend with Father Carlos and his family to get acquainted with the city. He has wanted to start some sort of clinic or mission for a while. Unfortunately,  he works outside of the city during the week and doesn't have the time to start something right now. I am very interested on taking on this project and helping in any way I can. He is picking me up tomorrow and I will be there until Sunday afternoon. I'm hoping that I will have a better idea of what the need is, and how I can start helping, after this weekend. I'll keep you updated!

Brittany sent me a message earlier that she will be arriving on October 1st! We are really excited for here to get here and I can't wait to show her around. The two of us will start language classes on October 5th at the National University. I registered today and have to take a placement test next Wednesday. I'm really excited about this opportunity. I'll get to make some new friends while learning how to communicate more clearly. It's an intense 5 days a week class (4-6pm) for 2 months. It is exclusively for 'extranjeros', people from outside of Colombia and should be perfect to boost my spanish skills. Very exciting!

I hope everyone is doing well and I'll check in next week! Love, Kate

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Las busetas

Every time I visit the mission in Usme, I have to take a buseta...or a bus. When I first got here, I was shocked at the lack of organization and safety of the buses. I'm starting to get used to it, but it seriously is a little crazy. 
First, there are no bus stops. You have to wait on the side of the road and search carefully for the bus that has the name of where you need to go. For my trips to Usme,
 I have to look for the bus that says "libertadores". This isn't easy when every bus has its own, different sign with a list of about 10 locations, and there are tons of them. 
So, if you're lucky enough to find the bus with your location on it, you have to flag it down. Like I said before, there are no bus stops. The busetas drive along until they see a hand reaching out to flag it down. Once the driver sees you, he cuts off about 2 lanes of traffic to get to
 the side of the road, so that you can get on. This leads to lots of honking and more crazy driving to get around the bus. 
The bus is there, right in front of you, so you step on. Once one foot is on the bus, it starts driving I'm not kidding.. It was a little scary the first time, but now it's kind of fun. You have to go through a little turnstile and hand the driver your money (usually 1,200 pesos..about 60 cents). The driver then looks at how much you gave him and determines how much change he will give you...WHILE driving down the busy streets of Bogota. This actually really impresses me. 

The busetas here rarely follow the traffic rules. They will go through red lights and are always cutting people off. I really fear for the motorcyclists, who are always weaving in and out of traffic. When you want to get off the bus, you have to push the 'timbre'. This alerts the driver to
 pull he speeds up to the curb and stops on a dime, giving everyone a little bit of
 whiplash. And then he starts driving off, as you're jumping off the bus!
I'm having a lot of fun with the kids in the Usme mission. We are working on some english vocab (fruit, animals, colors) and they're doing really well. Also, we started writing letters to the youth group from Maryland today! They were loving it!

The brigada in Bosa last Saturday ended up not working out. No doctors showed up, and the people from the community didn't show up. This was frustrating because apparently the same thing happened last time. Tomorrow morning, Laura-Catherine and I will be talking with a clinic in Bosa to hopefully schedule a time where doctors can see the kids. Most of them need to be looked at and vaccinated. Also, I talked with some doctors, and will hopefully be going door-to-door in the neighborhood with them in the future to offer medical help.

Next Monday will wrap up my first four weeks in Bogota! I will probably be moving into the apartment with Laura-Catherine sometime soon. It'll be nice to live independently, and closer to the church/office, but I am definitely going to miss my hot chocolate and bread dinners with Miriam and Oscar. They have been wonderful!
Keep me updated on how you all are doing (! Thanks again for all of your love and support.  Love, Kate

Friday, September 11, 2009


Another busy week in Bogota is making this time fly by. We said goodbye to Audra on Wednesday and it was really sad to see her go. She was the first YASCer here and she really paved the way for us. I don't know what I would have done my first week in Bogota without her here to show me everything! We just called her from the office and are happy to hear that she made it back safely and is home with her family!

This week, I started going to another mission in the south, in a city called Usme. I think I'm going to spend most of my time here, while Laura-Catherine focuses on her work in Bosa. It takes a little over an hour to get to Usme by bus. The kids are wonderful and are really fun to work with. I have been teaching them some english and they are picking things up really quickly. Audra and Laura-Catherine had already taught them 'head shoulders knees and toes' and 'the hokey-pokey' and they love those songs! I'm working on the ABCs with them...and we have made it to the letter 'P'. Yesterday, I broke them into two teams (lions vs pumas--their choices), and we played a trivia/vocab game. It was great!! They were into it the entire time, and we had a lot of fun.
After eating lunch, learning some english, and working on homework, the kids get some time to go outside and play. The problem is that 'outside' is a steep road right in front of the church (see pictures), so it's difficult to get any games is pretty much out of the question. Cars drive by really quickly, and it's just not a great environment for kids to be running around. My hope is that we can turn the grassy hill in the backyard into a flat field. Even though they make do with what they have, like playing on the side of the road in a little sand pit from construction, they really do need a safe place to play. Meanwhile, I'm planning on bringing jumpropes and other toys that they can play with in a limited amount of space. Let me know if you have any ideas!

Next week, they are going to start writing letters to the youth group back at my church in Maryland. This will help them with their english and they are very excited about their new friends from the states.

Tomorrow, I am waking up early and going to Bosa for a 'brigada'. It's basically a health fair where doctors and specialists treat people from the community all day. I'm really excited about it. I am also looking into medical opportunities in Soacha, where doctors without borders is located, and an AIDS clinic is struggling to open up. I'll keep you updated!

As I wrap up this entry, I want to take a moment to remember the people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 and all of the people who risked their lives to save others. I want to say thank you to every member of our armed forces and pray for all of the people who lost family and friends that morning. Never forget!
Love, Kate

Thursday, September 3, 2009

life in colombia

Hola! I have been in Colombia for almost 2 weeks now and am really enjoying it here. I miss everyone a lot, but am quickly adjusting to life here. Last Friday I was able to go explore the city at night with Audra and her boyfriend. I even learned a little bit of merengue. It was a fun night in a very cool part of the city with lots of music and dancing. On Saturday, I went with Oscar and Miriam to a family reunion. They were celebrating Oscar's grandmother's 90th birthday! He has a huge family and I think I was introduced to every single person there..I got along really well with the 'cousins' and had a great night. A full religious service started around 9 and then came the mariachi bands, the whiskey on the rocks, and the dancing. We didn't start eating dinner until 11! Needless to say, it was a LONG, but fun night.

On Sunday, I went to church and Miriam asked me to do a spanish! I was a little bit nervous, but I was able to practice beforehand. It went really well and I really enjoyed the service. Toward the end of it, the Bishop asked Audra and I to come up to the altar. Then he introduced me to the congregation and said a special prayer for me. Audra is leaving on Wednesday, so he also did a nice prayer for her. It was great. Everyone was very welcoming and it reminded me of my home parish, St. Andrew the Fisherman, because the 'passing of the peace' was the longest part of the service... I love that!

On Monday and Wednesday, I made the long trip over to Bosa. It is a city on the outskirts of Bogota, where a mission started up a couple of months ago. Wednesday was a full day. I was up at 530am and walked back in my door around 7pm. The mission intends to give children in the neighborhood a place to eat, play, and do homework while their parents are away at work all day. It's called Operation Rescue, and it really is rescuing these kids from the streets and from the television. I went with Laura-Catherine and we spent most of the day cooking for them, cleaning up, helping them with their homework and playing games. I played soccer with the kids until the ball went up on a roof. We quickly switched over to basketball and everyone was having a lot of fun. The kids are wonderful and have a lot of personality. It was difficult at times when they wouldn't listen, or would fight with each other, but it's easy to tell that they are happy to be there.

Tonight is Audra's going away party and it obvious that everyone is going to miss her! It'll be sad to see her go, but hopefully she'll come back to say hi soon! Hope you all are doing well! Send me an email at to check in, or if you want to be added to my email list! Love, Kate