UF in Colombia Day 3: Embassy, Clara Rojas & an Indigenous Perspective

Hola queridos!
Another hectic day in Colombia is coming to and end, and our cosy little hostel is already starting to feel like a second home despite the penetrating dampness. Here comes a little summary of our meeting-filled day in the capital!
Today we forced ourselves to get out of bed early in order to fit a trip up to the viewing point Monserrate into our schedule, something we had heard was a must before leaving the city. Unfortunately we woke up to rain and a great deal of fog, which made us make the decision to save the trip until the day after and go to the world renowned Gold Museum (Museo del Oro) as soon as it opened instead.
For the rest of us it meant having a long breakfast at the hostel. For my sake, whose body strongly rejects food before 10 am, it meant a stroll around the nice colonial neighbourhood where our hostel is located instead which we hitherto had not really managed to fit into our schedule. I also figured that the dampness would add a bit of welcome volume to my hair before our visit to the ambassador’s residence.

Passing Plaza Bolívar on my morning stroll.

After a quick and appreciated visit to the museum we took taxis to the other side of town and arrived just on time to the ambassador’s residence. Unfortunately we did not get the chance to meet with the ambassador himself, but his chief diplomats gave us a warm welcome with cinnamon buns. (And later it became clear that they also had been part of the UF board during their time in Uppsala! We all felt that it’s nice to see that there actually exists some kind of hope for the future…). They gave us a welcome Swedish perspective on the big political issues in Colombia with a special focus on feminist politics and aid, however we afterwards felt that we could have been tougher with our questions as they, as all diplomats, always managed to give a vague answer to the somewhat uneasy questions. Afterwards we took picture in front of the beautiful residence and had a chat with the intern Nino who soon became everyone’s little sweetheart.
Posing with SIDA rep in Colombia Annika Otterstedt (center) and intern Nino (right).

The visit to the embassy went on for longer than planned and we were afterwards in a hurry to be able to make it on time to Congress and our meeting with congresswoman Clara Rojas. She was kidnapped by FARC together with former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt for many years and their story became known after they both wrote books about their time in the guerilla camp. They recounted about the torture and how Clara had a child (consential) with one of the guerilla members but then had the baby taken away from her and had to wait three years in order to be reunited with him. During the meeting we were struck by her beaming calmness and humility, and even though we had quite a short meeting it was inspiring hearing her speak about the importance of forgiveness and her positive thoughts on the FARC being allowed to form a political party and have a place in Congress.

From Congress we went directly to have dinner with representatives from an indigenous group in Colombia, which was a perspective we had hitherto lacked. It was a meeting-intense day, but with food in our bodies and incredibly emotional speeches by the representatives it was no problem to uphold focus. After the meeting we reflected upon how the indigenous perspective had only been mentioned in passing during the other meetings, when it was clear how affected they are by the conflict and how big the issues facing them are. Mario, who Fredrika got to know during her time in Colombia and who already had joined us during some of our activities during the trip, told us about his own project in collaboration with the representatives. His idea is to stimulate learning and understanding by working with children and photography. Incredibly impressive and inspring work.

At last we headed home after giving our sincere thanks to the representatives for such a nice dinner, and it was time to quickly get ready and get a few minutes rest before we wanted to take advantage of the evening to finally have the chance to salsa dance with the whole group. We started out with having an arepa (Colombian corn bread, SO good) in order to gather as much energy as we could. Even though it was Tuesday we managed to create an amazing vibe at the club, and we talked and danced with the Colombians until the club closed, which at the moment felt way too early.
In other words Bogotá managed to treat us with another magical but intense day, I definitely think it was not only me who fell asleep as soon as my head touched my pillow.
Thank you for following along on our little trip, more posts are coming soon!
Rebecca Rieschel

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