I remember well my first month in Chocó as a Seeder. The night we arrived, it was of course raining as we hauled our huge suitcases out of the moto-taxis and into our house. We were introduced to our upstairs neighbors, and I immediately forgot their names. The first time I left my house alone, I remember feeling very self-conscious of being the only foreigner for miles; everyone stared at me. I remember feeling awkward and sweaty; recognizing faces of people I had met briefly and realizing I had no idea what their names were. I remember feeling frustrated that even though I concentrated all of my energy into understanding what someone was saying, I would only catch words here and there and certainly could not answer what they had asked me.
During these months, which for all Seeders hold adjustments, we have encouraged the Seeders to focus on getting to know their community and context. This is an important opportunity and process for both the Seeders and community members. While getting to know the community might sound like simple, we realize that for most of us, it can be a difficult and frustrating task. We are inviting outsiders to integrate themselves into a new community by learning a language, sharing a meal, listening without judging, trusting, shifting expectations, being curious, learning at every opportunity, reading and analyzing a context, embracing ambiguity, and to just be present. We are asking the Seeders to balance their frustrations with their moments of connection with the community, and to continue to allow themselves to be formed. We are inviting the community members to participate in the process while opening their lives to these Seeders.
Looking back on those first few weeks and months I realize how important they eventually were in founding relationships that I came to appreciate and value immensely over time. While it may have been simpler for me to close myself in my apartment and keep up to date with my North American world, there also was a part of me needing to take initiative and seek meaningful connections outside of my own bubble. Each one of the connections that I made, name by name, hug by hug, drew me into these communities in Chocó – but it required time and patience.
Over the next weeks the Seeders will be sharing stories of the first months in their communities. We invite everyone reading these blogs to give the same time and patience to the Seeders in this time of transition that they are giving to this process of getting to know their communities.