Lucy Beimfohr ’17 and Ryan Collins ’15 discuss the uncertainty, awkwardness, and fun that comes from experiencing life in a different culture:
Lucy Beimfohr ’17: After reflecting on the challenges we faced during our day hike, the group decided to relax and let loose by having a salsa and merengue class led by the Los Nogales students. During the first song, the only people dancing were the five very experienced Los Nogales girls and a few brave souls from Deerfield. I associated myself with the bystanders and observers until one student, Ana, approached me and said, “When is the next time you will have the opportunity to learn to dance from native Colombians?” Soon enough, I was part of the group, robotically and pathetically attempting the three-step rhythm. I was really grateful for Ana’s support and patience and in the end, I had a lot of fun.
It was interesting the see the comparison between the native and the novice salsa dancers as well as our norms in terms of dancing. The Los Nogales girls and our very own Colombian leaders had an innate rhythm that was evident as they danced. They made dancing look much easier and natural than it actually is. My peers from Deerfield and I, at times, felt awkward, confused and insecure. This difference in dancing ability was also evident when we showed the girls our norms of moshing, fist-pumping and jumping wildly. They described our dancing as “aggressive” and “strange.” My experience salsa dancing with the Los Nogales girls was impactful, fun, and helped the group bond.
Ryan Collins ’15: After hiking Iguaque, the group was visibly tired. But after sleeping in an extra hour the next morning, we regained our energy and were on the bus leaving Villa de Leyva. We took a short ride to a nearby village where we briefly met in the plaza and talked about bargaining with the storeowners in order to practice our Spanish. This was easier said than done, as many of the storeowners were hesitant to negotiate. Having students from Los Nogales in each group was helpful, as they could do some of the bargaining and tell us when we found a fair price for different items. The village was centered around shopping, and it was both fun and interesting to see the different customs that existed there in comparison to shopping in America. After shopping for about an hour and a half, we met again in the plaza to talk about the different experiences each group had.
We then walked back to the bus and began a short ride to the house of a local Artisan named Guillermo. When the trip leaders told us that we would be there for three hours, we didn’t really know what to expect. We got off the bus and met Guillermo, who talked briefly about the culture and history of his job making pottery. After hearing some of his life story, we went to the area of his house where he made his pottery.We formed a circle around him, eager to see what his job entailed. As he constructed the first item, everyone in the group was struck by his speed and fine touch. Within a minute he had constructed a vase, and we all applauded as we were both surprised and amazed. As he started a new piece, someone asked if he could do so with his eyes closed. He smiled at all of us and quickly closed his eyes. He then proceeded to construct a detailed piece, which he easily finished without opening his eyes once.
Everyone in the group was shocked by his talent, and we continued to applaud. What struck us the most was the joy and passion he displayed while working. He maintained a broad smile the entire time we were at his house, even as we struggled to make our own pieces.
Some of the students started to put their clay covered hands on the faces of others, and a small battle began, which resulted in every student leaving the house covered in clay. Goofing around and getting to see Guillermo’s passion combined for a very real experience that I believe would be almost impossible to find at home. I know we all appreciate the time that Guillermo and his family gave us and that the experience is one that we are all lucky to have.