So my year of adventures is coming very close to its end. When I first got the email confirming my flights back to Australia I cried. I have now gotten used to the idea of coming home but I´m not so sure that it will be for very long.
In the last few months I´ve passed a lot of time as a backpacker (well kind of cheating, as I left a big suitcase at a friend´s house). In the absolutely spectacular coffee region, I had a very interesting tour of a coffee farm, I learnt the whole process involved and why Colombia is so famous for its coffee – the picking process is all done by hand. I already knew the other reason – it is really delicious. Towards the end, the lady separated the ready grains, grains with defects and grains without. They were two very noticeably different piles. She indicated the good pile and said ´this is what we export´ and the bad one and said ´this is what we drink in Colombia´. The injustice and senseless of it left a big impression on me.
When I first came to South America, I knew there would be no way I would be leaving before going to The Amazon. My desire to go came from a book I read as a teenager, an account of a British woman who lived with a native tribe, who were living without influence from civilisation. Even though I had been told where I was going, Leticia, is a touristy, expensive town and visiting a native tribe would be almost impossible, I still couldn´t leave without going.
So I flew to Leticia and discovered, surprise, surprise, it is a touristy, expensive town. But luckily I had a contact there who told me of a beautiful, peaceful hostel, half an hour out of the town, where I passed a lot of time with other tourists, surprisingly mostly from Australia and New Zealand; playing cards, swimming in an amazingly beautiful river and walking in nature. I hadn´t spoken so much English since I left Australia, it was funny to hear so many expressions I had almost forgotten.
And then finally I managed to go on a real camping adventure. A guide – a friend of a friend of a friend, took me and another traveller from New Zealand camping for a week in the jungle. The first day we walked for seven hours, a narrow path covered in branches, with many rivers that could only be crossed by walking across slippery fallen down tree trunks. There were many beautiful and wonderful adventure things; spotting a snake right in front of my path, walking at night time with glowing mushrooms as the only light (when we turned off the torches), sleeping in hammocks, swimming in the river at night time without light and canoeing on a river with the most spectacular scenery. The most adventure was when I went swimming in a whirlpool, thinking I could swim back and then having to get rescued in the canoe. The funniest thing was when we had to walk for 3 hours in the pouring rain and I fell up to my neck in water. The worst part was the mozzies. I never got to experience the life of untouched tribes, but it was definitely worth going.
Then with only weeks left in Colombia, for the first time since leaving Australia, I returned to a kindergarten, to El Nido, the lovely little kindergarten in my most favourite part of Colombia, El Carmen de Viboral, a rural part of Antioquia. I was so happy to return to see the lovely teachers, who have all become good friends and of course the beautiful children. I had a really happy time there, working in the kindergarten and staying with one of the teachers and her family. All the time I just felt completely apart of everything, in the kindergarten and in her house, like an Australian in Colombia, but not at all an outsider or even a guest. I was of course very sad to leave from this beautiful part of the world with so many beautiful people, but I left with the feeling that I won´t be gone forever.
I then came to Quito, Ecuador for a week. Again I have been very fortunate to be received by a friend of a friend, a Steiner kindergarten teacher, in her home with her family. I have been so fortunate to be welcomed and to be made part of this kind and fun family and a very lovely kindergarten.
The kindergarten is another wonderful example of a dedicated teacher working with few resources and an abundance of love. The kindergarten consists of a grass space with bad traffic noise and about four metres square of inside space which functions as play space, kitchen and bathroom. But rather than complaining, the teacher works very creatively with what she has, making use of everything and all the space and regularly takes the children to a local park.
For me there are two big things to be experienced while travelling, one is adapting to new situations; new people, culture, language, food, living standards, climate; everything. Getting used to new ways, and most importantly building connections and relationships. The other is leaving them all behind. For me the first part is easy and I love it. The second part however is not easy. Sometimes I feel like I am getting used to it, that each farewell is easier, and sometimes I feel like travelling just sucks. But actually, it doesn´t, but it can be hard.
In the last year I´ve been incredibly fortunate to meet so many amazing, different people, who have welcomed me into and shared with me their lives, from whom I have learnt so much and who have been incredibly generous and helpful. It has been so wonderful to make many meaningful connections with many amazing people.
It has also been very important to me to have made connections between my people in Australia and my people here. In my last few days with El Nido in El Carmen, the Glenaeon community held a fundraising night for El Nido and raised a thousand dollars!! Thank you so much for everyone involved! Also wonderful news from The Q´ewar Project in Peru; thank you very much to Jackie Rowlings who made a donation for the purchase of fitted shoes and three pairs of socks for each child in the kindergarten. With the cold winter and rainy summer, this will make a wonderful difference to these children who pass most of their time outside and a lot of time walking.
So now.... back to Australia.
|Canoeing on the Amazon river|
|Trying fish after nine years as a vegetarian - DISGUSTING!!|
|El Carmen de Viboral - my favourite place in Colombia - walking back from a picnic with Diana, a teacher from El Nido and her two daughters.|
|El Nido - making bread|
|El Nido - Morning greeting|
|New shoes at Wawa Munakuy|