UConn fellow

Rineicha Otero in Colombia – Day 8

Saturday, 8/24/2013

This week has gone by so fast; it’s my last day in Colombia. It has been an awesome opportunity, where I have learned about myself, the Colombian government, culture, nutrition views, entrepreneurship, and where partnerships can begin.

I made my last trip to the University of San Buenaventura. Today, the outreach office offered a gardening workshop to the members of the San Jorge community.

Professor Luis Alberto Gonzalez gave a presentation to the group about the importance of gardening. He demonstrated different techniques used in urban areas, where space and nutrient rich soils are limited.

The professor had been working with his class on growing different crops on raised gardens on campus. The students were all ready to give their presentations and provide details on how to care for the plants that were going to be given to the community members.

At the end of the presentation, the youths were able to select a plant to take home, care for, and use in dishes.

It was a great way to end the day on a subject I am so passionate about. The youths were excited to get home and plant. I was able share information on nutrients that were found in the plants they had selected.  As soon as I walked away, I could hear them sharing the information with other peers who had gotten a different plant.  It was an amazing feeling!

Rineicha Otero in Colombia – Day 6 & 7

Thursday, 8/22/2013

Today I got to visit la Universidad de San Buenaventura Cali, where Ginna received her degree.  I could see Ginna’s pride while she gave me the tour, along with a colleague. The campus was environmentally friendly; it was surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes.

I had the opportunity to present to a group of 30 Agro-Industrial Engineering students. I spoke about the University of Connecticut, its outreach programs, and 4-H. Many students expressed interest in starting 4-H in Colombia and the positive impact it would have on the youth.

I also met with Claudia Gutierrez, the director of the Agro-Industrial Engineering program.  Claudia gave me an introduction to the department and its outreach programs in indigenous areas. She expressed great interest in collaboration with UConn Extension.

Friday, 8/23/2013

I got to go to San Jorge, today, using public transportation. It was very exhilarating; you felt every shift on the transmission of the 15-passenger truck. There was a driver and a spotter; the spotter looked to make sure you were totally off the bus before telling the driver to keep on moving, and the bus never really stopped. I had never jumped off a moving vehicle before—if my mom could only see me now.

Johnnie was waiting for us at the bus stop to give Ginna and me a detailed tour of the community. He showed me where the brick company was working and where they were still excavating. There were many brick companies in the community, which have now gone, since there is limited nutrient rich soil left.

Families have constructed their homes in this community. Most homes are made of bricks with wood roofs, while others are made of wood and tin roofs.

Doña Nelly and Erminia are working with the other women to produce more of the bracelets. They have chosen patterns and colors to work on as a group. For the ladies that need training, they learn by doing and little instruction, I was awestruck with the rapidness with which they worked and got the patterns down.  I enjoyed the conversations I had with the ladies; listening to their stories and seeing their positive attitudes towards life made me have a moment of reflection.

Rineicha Otero in Colombia – Day 2

Sunday 8/18/2013

I wake to find another gorgeous day in Cali. The clear skies and fresh air made it for a great day to have a walking tour. Ginna and I walk over to a near by lake known as Humedal El Cisne La Babilla Tomasa, where you can sit and feed the ducks or simply enjoy a good book. I watched families take strolls and ride their bicycles on this early Sunday morning. Families rode their bicycles on the road, since some of the roads were closed every Sunday for physical activity.

We later joined our friend, Cesar, in Colseguros, his hometown, where the homes were decorated with marble tiles, smooth stones, and large window openings with railing, instead of glass. The living room area has constant fresh air coming through, rain or shine. His home was decorated with artwork created by his family—once again, echoing the creativity of the Colombian people. The artwork focused on religious interpretations, objects, and nature; they were breathtaking.

At about 1 p.m., we visited Alameda where the “Galleria del Mercado” buzzed with shoppers. There were fruit, vegetable, meat, poultry and flower stands.  As we walked around, vendors would scream out “a su orden,” as you order.  We purchased some ingredients for lunch.

We later walked to “La Loma de la Cruz,” known for its steep hills and beautiful views of the city. La Loma led to San Calletano, where you can see colonial homes. We then moved on to San Antonio, a barrio that has conserved its traditions. The San Antonio Church reflected a typical barrio and Sunday afternoon.

Today I had the opportunity to experience Cali as a local would. I walked and ate my way through the city. I can totally get used to this!