A meeting between two cultures

The idea of this blog is to share our experiences during the orientation that started three months ago in South Africa. Since we are from different countries and contexts, we decided to ask each other questions to demonstrate how different our experiences were in Bogota.

  1. Leanna, what impacted you the most from the orientation?

For me, learning about the Colombian context and its history impacted me the most. I have been struck at how much the armed conflict is still affecting the people today in Colombia. I have never lived in a place where there is a constant fear of violence, and for this I have an even stronger perspective on the importance of peace.

  1. Albin, what was the biggest challenge for you during orientation?

One of the biggest challenges I faced was the language barrier since it’s very important for communication between cultures. It’s very interesting to know that even when there are people that do not speak the language it is possible for you to communicate with them. Of course it helps to share the same mission of going to learn and serve in the communities. 

Albin, in the Christian Center, Emseni, Johannesburg, South Africa

Albin, in the Christian Center, eMseni, Johannesburg, South Africa

  1. In regards to mobility in Bogota, what was your experience Leanna?

In general, the transportation in Bogota is difficult. I had to learn to accept the lack of organization and to be aggressive. Also, I had to accept that people stared at me because of my foreign appearance and English. However, I learned a lot about the culture of Bogota and I had many opportunities to speak Spanish.

  1. How did you feel working with different, foreign cultures in our group in your own country Albin?

I’m very happy to be able to work with all my friends from different countries because with each culture I learned positive values, that there is familiarity between them. I received support and a kind of brotherhood was built little by little, regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, color of the skin, or religion.

  1. Leanna, what was one of the topics that you liked the most?

I liked many of the topics, but one that will help me in my community is the talk that Terry gave on social capital. Terry talked about how diversity creates creativity. I think this topic is very important because we need to embrace diversity and to be thankful for all the unique characteristics of people. During our orientation I learned that you can learn a lot from people that are different from yourself.

Leanna atop the Cerro of Monserrate, Bogota, Colombia

Leanna, atop the Cerro of Monserrate, Bogotá, Colombia

  1. What did you, Albin, learn about your own country?

What I learned and continue to learn about the context of my country is the struggle and resistance by the Colombian people that have suffered for a long time. Despite the suffering these families endure as a result of the conflict, these hard working families, both from rural and urban contexts continue moving forward. Many of these people migrate to the cities due to threats, because they were robbed of their land, their home. Even if the urban center receives them, they still face many challenges due to leaving everything behind and trying provide for their families in a new context.

Our time in orientation challenged us in several ways and in the best way possible. We were both challenged to appreciate and embrace cultural differences, and we both walked away with new knowledge of other countries and cultures. We were also challenged to dig deep into the history and context of Colombia and to think critically about how peace making can make a positive difference. We are excited to take what we have learned in orientation and apply it to our work in our communities.

By: Leanna Buisman and Albin Sanchez


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