I’ve written in this space before about some of the visitors we have hosted at casa Abraham, linked to us by various internet based hosting services like Couchsurfing and Warmshowers. Just this morning, two lovely ladies, Liliam Karine Marin and Nataly Londono Ramirez from Colombia, South America, departed after three days with us. It feels so lonely in the house already.
Nataly and Liliam are in the states to promote an international program to American universities that has students traveling and working abroad for several months. Their job is to drive the organization’s vehicle thousands of miles to place posters on the walls in academic buildings. They’ve been doing this for four months already with two more to go. When they arrived at the organization’s headquarters in Dowagiac, Michigan, neither of them could speak any English!
Nataly is 30 years old and Liliam is 25. Nataly has learned her new language more fluently and spoke with me about their experience. She said, “We are volunteers with the organization, One World Center.”
According to its website, it is a “non-profit research organization with a mission to inspire and empower ordinary people to take action against worldwide poverty and climate change.” Their programs offer academic credits to college students.
She continued, “The organization’s propose is empower people and reduce poverty in Africa, Brazil, and Central America, to make change and education for the people. Liliam and I work in the promotion of the program. I had a friend who participated in Africa, in Mozambique. He told me about this opportunity.
“I am an occupational therapist. But I quit my job to be a volunteer for this. The organization pays a small stipend for food and the car. They’ve been staying with Couchsurfing hosts the entire time, and even in some cases sleeping in their cars. Both women were beautiful, enough as Mick Jagger said, “to make a grown man cry.” Both were thin and had dark skin and black hair. Liliam had more of a classic Latina look, with full cheeks, a wide nose, and thick eyebrows. Nataly, although older, looked like a teenager, with a soft, gentle face and demeanor.
“The organization defined our schedule for us. We have been in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, then Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas. All the time, we stay with hosts.”
I asked what surprised her about America.
“Back in Colombia before I came, I thought American people were angry, very fast, and very crazy – not crazy good but crazy bad. Many dangerous, I think. But I came anyway. I found many people nice.
“This is the first time I have been in the United States. I had only been to Peru and Equator before. This is the first time in North America. This is the first time I have ever been in winter!”
Colombia is a tropical country, near the Equator. From place to place, the weather is different due to elevation and location. Lower cities are hot and wet and higher cities are drier and more comfortable. Her city of Santiago de Cali, or just “Cali” for short, is at 3300 feet of elevation and has an estimated 2,300,000 people. It is nicknamed “The Salsa capital of the world” (for dancing, not the sauce), and the “Capital of Happiness.” It is a center for sports in Colombia and has hosted several international competitions.
The weather never changes by time of year – there are no “seasons” as we think about them. It never gets cold and she has never seen snow. “All year, every day, is always the same.” Both women wore tight, fashionable, frankly sexy jeans with holes in the knees, which of course were totally inappropriate for our cold, soon to be frigid season. Liliam had a good coat but we gave Nataly a spare winter jacket. We were afraid they’re freeze to death!
“It is different for us when it gets dark very early. It is the first time I have ever been cold.
“When I get back to Cali, I will tell people that America is very good. The experience is good. I love this place. I will do it again.
“People from America visit Colombia for drugs. For sexual business. But other people really know Colombia. We have many nice, beautiful places and beautiful people. Great food. People think Colombia is dangerous but it’s not. I love Colombia. Colombian people are nice, warm, and friendly. Welcome to Colombia.”
Consider opening your door to strangers. They will enrich your life.