Wow, it’s already a month since I’ve been here at my internship. Some days are extremely busy while others are pretty chilled.
Two Fridays ago, we partied at one of my co-workers’ place. His apartment is huge, with lots of natural light. There he and another guy taught me a few salsa steps. They said I did well, thou I felt that I was pretty awful. Oh well, it was fun, the party ended 6.30am which meant I was in bed the whole of Saturday. On Sunday, however, we were robbed (a friend and I), the dude stole only the phone, we are fine. The surprising thing was that it was 1pm and lots of people around but they all acted like they didn’t see anything. Well that’s past tense now.
This past weekend, I went to Quibdo which is the capital of the state of Chocó in the Pacific coast of Colombia. It was a pleasant experience for me, for a minute I thought I was in a small town in Nigeria. We were there for a workshop, the Afro and Indigenous population are drafting up a ‘victims law’, so this workshop was to seek information, comments and the likes from activists, displaced persons and others in the Afro-Colombian population.
The workshop lasted 2 days; each day was from 8am to about 6pm. Also while in Quibdo, I attended a poem festival which featured poets from Cuba, Mozambique, South Africa, Cameroon and Colombia. Normally, am not into poems but the ones by the Cuban feminist was awesome.
Saturday was an eventful day, after the workshop, we went to a site were violations against human rights is showcased. This placed had pictures of those civilians who have been killed and disappeared by the either the guerillas, paramilitaries or the national police/army in Colombia. It was very sad; it also reminded me of similar showcase in Nicaragua and El Salvador. After this, we went to a local ice-cream place, then to dinner. Later at night, to the bar, I returned to my hotel at around 2am but could not sleep because Tego Calderon (the reggeaton/hip-hop musician) was performing directly opposite my hotel. This kept me up until 5am when the concert was over. Sunday, had to wake up early for a 9am interview after that met up with some university students I met at the workshop and hung out until very late.
Everyone I’ve met here in Quibdo, Chocó have been fascinated because am a Nigerian. They had lots of questions about Yoruba tribe/ethnic group, Nigeria and Africa as a whole. Hence the title of this blog.
Interesting, I met a man from Togo who is a political science professor at a university in Bogota. On Wednesday, I will conduct an interview with him. Though my thesis research has been somewhat frustrating, I have been able to interview a few interesting folks. Now, back to the office in Bogota where meetings and interview are the routine.
Until Next time
Greetings from Bogota
Hope you all had a great weekend
The border crossing from Ecuador to Colombia was pretty easy. A 5-hours bus ride from Quito to Tulcan (the border town), 10 mins taxi ride to Rumichaca border, stamp out from Ecuador immigration, cross the bridge to Colombia DAS immigration to stamp in, take a 10 mins taxi ride to Ipiales bus terminal, there take a bus to Cali (10 hours), Bogota or anywhere in the country.
In Cali, I met up with folks from Couchsurfing, we went to a ballet show (which was interesting by the way) and later hung out in a canteen eating Empanadas and chatting. It was a great to be in Cali again, I met some of the amazing people there 2 years ago. Left Cali after 3 days for Bogota, it was a 12 hours bus ride and as usual it was cold in Bogota.
In Bogota, I stayed in a dorm room at Casa Bellavista Hostal, it’s a pretty nice and cool hostal. Very clean, free breakfast and cool staff. At this hostel, I met two graduate students from University of Minnesota who are doing research in Bogota on the same thing as I am, pretty cool right?
Last Saturday, my boss invited me to her house for her birthday get-together. That was my first time seeing so many black Colombians, guess what, I was looking for similarities between them and Nigerians. We dance the same, and I swear some of them looked like a Yoruba person while other looked Ibo or Ewe. Also at the get-together, I met a couple who also worked/research Afro-Colombians; the lady is a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz while the guy is an Anthropologist professor at university of Indiana. Yes to Networking.
This is my second week at the internship, last week I did lots of translation from English to Spanish and vice-versa, was introduced to lots of black activists and to the ways things worked in the organization. Last Friday, I attended my first staff meeting, it was really impressive to see the passion of the staff despite the ongoing threats they face. Just a brief history, black activists and organizations working with the black Colombians have been receiving death threat for some time now; some of these threats have been acted on. Just recently, a black female activist was assassinated in Medellin, so now you might understand the pressure my coworkers are under. One of the main points of discussion in the staff meeting was how to protect themselves and their family.
The office has eight permanent staffs but other folks come by to help out. Two of the three founders of the NGO also work there – the third founder is in exile in the U.S because of the threats directed towards him. I also met an old man who said he was a Yoruba descendent, and had been to Nigeria 34 years ago to learn the Yoruba spiritual religious, he is an herbalist now. Two of my co-workers offered to help me with my research and put me in contact with people who can help me further. Also, I moved in with one of my co-workers on Saturday.
I was invited to a fare-well party by two of my co-workers on Friday, I was fun, there I was introduced to Afro- Colombians university students. They told me they had a national organization that does community service work with the community. On Saturday, went to a birthday get-together of one of my co-workers.
So far I have been treated like a queen by the Afro-Colombian community here in Bogota. They said it felt good to meet folks from the “Mother land” since that’s their root and I told them it felt god to meet my brothers & sisters from another mother. In addition, this community is so generous and kind. After a week here, I know I made the right decision to come to Colombia and intern with an Afro-Colombian NGO.
Sad day at work today, the president of the NGO I’m interning received a death threat, she and others folks working with Afro-Colombian NGOs and UN agencies were given 20 days to leave the city or die.
In another two weeks, I’ll be giving y’all another update…..Until then ciao!