Monday, August 13, 2012

Exciting Chaos

By Amber Aasman

Today we will spend our last day in Colombia. We will drive along the hilly county back to Bogota, after a weekend of rest, hiking, and shopping at Villa de Leyya – a beautiful, popular vacation spot about four hours north east of Bogota.

Our time in Colombia has been exciting and challenging. We spent the first few days orientating ourselves in the city, seeing sights such as the Museo de Oro, la Candelaria (the arts district), and experiencing the joys of the Transmileneo (the public transit). We visited and witnessed productions of five local non-profits of various media: dance, theatre, circus, pre-school art, and capoeira.

The major project which we were involved with was teaching at a children’s art camp. While our teaching hours were relatively short, this work was exhausting and demanded a great deal of energy for preparation, and in keeping our students busy for each moment of class. On top of that, the site chosen for camp was not appropriate for seven different groups to occupy, so there were issues around classroom space which we had to work out efficiently on the first day of camp. The first day of camp was an exciting kind of chaos. We arrived, not knowing the space, its size, or how many kids would show up. Depending on how many children participated, we might not even be able to teach our prepared lessons. In preparing for the trip, Dr. Corbitt instructed us multiple times to plan, plan, and plan some more, and expect everything to change. While this advice might seem only to frustrate and create anything but efficiency, in retrospect these words were some of the wisest and most helpful in preparing us for our time in Bogota. When the first day of camp arrived with all its uncertainties, it took some time to figure out where each class would be, how many children could be in a class, how to interact with Spanish-speaking co-teachers, and how to teach effectively through a translator. We had to be flexible – my class, for example, ended up not at the site at all, but on the floor in the living room of a friendly neighbour, Leonardo. But in the midst of all this chaos, emerged awareness that we were creative, flexible people, confident in our own ability to self-organize and solve issues around space. Nearly everything at camp deviated from our expectations, but at the end of the first day of camp, I was confident that the week would be a very good week. The chaos of Day One was an exciting kind of chaos which forced us to make decisions confidently, using the pressure to motivate us to be carefully creative.

I almost hate to say it, but life is like that. Life in Bogota seems to be like that. The most populous spaces – crowded streets, roadways, restaurants, city buses –jam people together in small spaces, naturally creating some confusion and disorder. But at various times through our travels in Bogota, there has been an energy and excitement in experiencing these sites of disorder and discomfort. Perhaps this is only because they were fresh experiences to most of us, at least in this specific context. Perhaps this is the same experience in any cross-cultural situation, where sights, smells, and sounds are unfamiliar ones, therefore seeming chaotic. Appreciating them begins when you see their value, and though overwhelming at times, they inspire one to explore further, dig deeper, and ask more questions. Better understanding naturally leads the transition to order, the antithesis of chaos, replacing exciting chaos with clearer understanding of systems and order. We experienced a microcosm of this through our stay in Colombia, as we began to better understand social order, systems, and problems, throughout our stay. It was that spark of interest, the exciting chaos, which drew us into diving deeper, desiring to know more about our host city and the lives of the people here.

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