Friday, November 27, 2009

feliz dia de accion de gracias!

After waking up and talking to some friends and family, I felt like I was missing out on a big thanksgiving celebration back home. I was thinking about the football games I wouldn't be watching, my family and friends around the big table in the back porch, and of course 'black friday' shopping in my pajamas... Little did I know that my Thanksgiving day in Bogota would be one to remember.

Brittany and I headed out to Usme and taught the kids about our special holiday. They really latched on to the turkey part of it and started calling it 'dia de pavo' (turkey day). We asked them what else they thought that we ate on Thanksgiving. Their answers ranged from platano to arroz (rice) to soup (all very colombian foods). We taught them that Thanksgiving day is all about giving thanks. We had them all make turkeys out of their hands to bring home to their family. We also made hands with their names and 4 things that they are thankful for. They colored them all and put them on a big turkey that Brittany drew (she's so talented). Here's the final result:

After we left Usme, we met up with Ferney (a man from church) and went to a Carlos Vives concert! Carlos Vives is a Grammy award winner from Colombia and was amazing in concert! He was full of energy and a great entertainer. The entire place was packed. Luckily, with Ferney's connections, Brittany and I were in the first section and could easily see Carlos and his band. Very cool.

So now I'm going to write some of things that I'm thankful for:
loving and supportive friends, boyfriend and family; being able to form such a special relationship with all of the kids in Usme; my new Colombian family (miriam and oscar, brittany and laura catherine, church community, bishop, etc..) who have all been so kind and welcoming; staying healthy over here; the opportunity to spend a year in this amazing country; ferney taking us to the Carlos Vives concert; bogota beer company (to watch NFL games); sunny days in Bogota (doesn't happen often); and lastly...visitors!

My Dad got in late Friday night and will be here until Thursday. We've been having a great week and I've been putting him to work. I will blog all about it next time!

Love, Kate

p.s. we even had a traditional thanksgiving dinner on Friday with about 15 people from the church community!

Monday, November 23, 2009

our weekend in usme

Brittany and I went to Usme on Saturday morning and had a great english class. On our way out, Father Romero convinced us to stay a couple more hours to decorate the chapel. Brittany and I worked on the carnations and bows along the pews. I wasn't too good at making the ribbons curl, but luckily Brittany had it down. We went to the service on Sunday and it was packed. It lasted about 2.5 hours, but there was lots of singing and even some dancing to keep it interesting. Brittany and I had to get back to the cathedral for a grilling event, but we stayed a little longer because we thought they were going to pop the big balloon in the middle of the chapel (check it out in the second picture)...but it never happened. Que lastima!

We eventually made it back to the cathedral and joined the congregation in an afternoon grilling get-together.  It went really well and I was able to get to know some more of the families that attend the church. Like I have mentioned before, this church is inviting people from a very poor neighborhood to attend workshops on communication, money management, relationships, etc.. every other Saturday. 

The first workshop was this past Saturday, when we got back from Usme. There were lots of parents there, with LOTS of kids. Laura-Catherine took the oldest group (8-11) and did a workshop with them. Brittany had the 5-7 year olds and they were a little crazy. In general, they don't get much discipline or attention at home, so they got a little out of hand. I took care of the 4 and under group. I soon learned that 3 year olds are too young to play duck, duck, goose. I ended up pulling out a jump rope and had them jump over it and play limbo. It was a lot of fun and they were so adorable!

My Dad is coming to visit on Friday and I can't wait to show him around. I think I'm going to put him to work on the hill in Usme next Saturday...if he can handle the bus trip :) Thanks for all the continued love and support.

Love, Kate

PS: here are some pictures from the bus that we use to get to Usme every other day:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

calle 53

Last week, we started decorating for Christmas in Usme. We cleaned off the Christmas lights and touched up some of the camels and wise men in the Christmas nativity scene. Then, this weekend, Brittany and I walked down calle 53. It is the "Christmas" street here in Bogota and it is so amazing! Every store has lights, reindeer, santas, garland, etc... Big, red christmas trees lined the street and kids were everywhere. You would have thought that it was December 24th. We ended up at the Galerias mall and decided to see a movie, "Los Fantasmas de Scrooge" (A Christmas Carol). It was a great movie and put us even more in the Christmas mood. It was our first time to the theaters here in Bogota and we can't wait to get back.

All of this inspired us to decorate our apartment. We had to get a little creative and make our own ornaments. We even made some special ones including: RICE, the Sewanee S, a Texas flag and cowboy boot, a GO NAVY football, santa, YASC, sailboat, snowman, and of course, Kix (my dog). We even put presents under the tree and an angel at the top!
Check it out:
Last night, we had a sleepover at Miriam and Oscar's apartment. The Miss Colombia pageant was on and we watched all 2.5+ hours of it. It was great to spend some time with our 'Colombian parents' again and we had delicious hot chocolate for breakfast this morning. We are in great hands over here and are so lucky to be surrounded by wonderful people. Oh, and Miss Bolivar won, in case you were wondering...

Love, Kate

Monday, November 9, 2009

Christmas is coming!!

Sorry about not updating last week! I haven't been able to post because the internet has been down in our apartment. seems to be back right now so keep your fingers crossed. 
They don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Colombia (but we will!!), so the next big holiday is Christmas! The decorations are already starting to go up around the city and it's easy to see that it's going to be a big celebration. We have started talking about plans for three different churches that we work with.
Cathedral: This church is in the middle of Bogota and is connected to the office and the apartment where we live. It's not a huge church, which makes it feel like home for me. The people are all so nice and welcoming. Well, up until a few weeks ago, I had no idea that 5 minutes up the mountain, there is a very poor community. We went up to meet with them and started to get to know some of the families and their needs. We decided last week that we will begin to offer weekly workshops addressing family issues, money management, etc.. These will be led by members of the congregation and will allow us to form a community with these families. We are also going to celebrate the Christmas season with them and people in the congregation are going to 'adopt a child' (like an 'angel tree' in the US). There are about 80 kids, so this is going to be great!

Soacha: Brittany and I went to the 11am service yesterday (about 1.5 hrs away by bus) and we had a meeting with Father Carlos to talk about the future plans of the church. As I've mentioned before, internally displaced families are forced to leave their homes and move to Soacha to start their new lives. The second floor of the church has just been finished and it's great! It has come a long way since I first arrived.



We discussed ideas to start an after school program for the children, a restaurant to give people warm meals for a very low price, and catechism classes for children who attend the church. One thing that I'm really interested in is a VIH/SIDA  (HIV/AIDS) education and prevention program. Father Carlos said that he would like for us to give classes to members of the community. 

In Colombia, the nine days before Christmas are very important. In Soacha, Brittany and I will each have one day of the 'novena' to lead prayer devotion and songs.  We're not quite sure right now what we have to do, but it's great that they're trusting us with such a big part of their Christmas celebration!

Usme: Lastly, there's Usme, where Brittany and I spend about 3 days a week with the kids, and Saturdays teaching english. Father Jose Romero is the priest there and he has big plans for Christmas. We are going to start decorating this week! We have lots to set up and lots to paint (i'm VERY artistic (not really) this should be good...). There are going to be about 200 kids there and all of them are going to receive a shirt, or some kind of toy, for Christmas. We are looking forward to sharing this Christmas season with the all of the kids that we have become so close to. 

Yesterday, on our way to Soacha, we received a text from Miriam telling us that Father Romero's mom had passed away. After church in Soacha, we ended up going all the way to Usme (another 2 hrs in bus) to spend time with Father Romero and attend a 6pm memorial service. It was packed, and Brittany and I held the candles at the front of the church for the entire service. Ave Maria played, bringing many people to tears. His mom had lived a good, long life, and lots of people were there to support Fr. Romero and his family. We ended up getting home very late, after getting up early to get to Soacha. It was a long day, but it was definitely a special one that we won't forget. Please keep Father Romero and his family in your prayers!

Hope everything is going well back home. Brittany and I are listening to Christmas music right now (sorry to those of you who think the day after Thanksgiving is even too early) and are so ready to get started!  

Love, Kate