Military Talk at Breakfast
Trip Start Aug 30, 2011
90Trip End Dec 30, 2011
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Where I stayed
Calle 28-El Mirador del
What I did
Breakfast with Friends, Class, Lunch, Homework, Walk
With an hour to spare I wandered over to the outdoor cafeteria and figured I would spend my time studying for my French Exam. Searching for an empty table, I heard my name being called. Camilo and my German pal, whose name I can't remember, were waving me down. They had just sat down to have their first introductory tutor session. They insisted I join them for some breakfast and conversation. It was the perfect way to spend the spare hour that I had unintentionally given myself. In all English (the German only being able to understand "gato", "por favor", and "agua") we mostly discussed the social aspects of Colombia. What you need to know is that there are six "stratus", one being the lowest. The only part in all of Medellin with level six status is the neighborhood "Pablado". Belen (where I live) is a five. I was surprised to hear that being as there are still homeless couples making out on the sidewalk and broken windows every few blocks. When we visited "Parque Arvi" in my first week I saw some level one and two zones; they are truly devastated areas. The government compensates for their low income by charging them less for water, groceries, and electricity where as higher stratus pay more
In Germany things are different. They used to require all citizens to either enroll in the military or social services. Young adults would do a year of service in a hospital, children's school, retirement community, school for the disabled, or other similar infrastructures. In the past year they have made "servitudes" and "militars" optional. It is cheaper for the government not to have to pay for the citizen's participation, but my German friend thinks it is too bad for those who don't have the experience. He learned a lot in his year in the hospital and wants all citizens to pursue the opportunity. The military doesn't seem to attract as many people as social services, but it could still fulfill the required assistance to the government. Now without the mandatory service, the government plans to have more money and suffer less from the global recession.
With all this new information I had one of the most informative breakfasts of my life. When I went to class today I had a new perspective on two different cultures. Little did I know I was about to see a little Chinese man explode with frustration. After several attempts to explain his question to Carlos Bailing turned to me for help, and as hard as I focused I just couldn't not understand what he wanted to know. He started rambling off in Chinese and it was a bit frightening. I don't think he was actually mad, but Mandarin always makes it seem like your yelling. Eventually he was able to communicate what he needed to know and was able to smile soon after. I know the frustration of not being able to express yourself with the language barrier, but when you finally can it is very encouraging. One of my biggest mile-markers in my Spanish journey is being able to understand the rapid talk of gossiping women, and slowly I am making progress! Today when I accompanied Mami to the fabric store I was able to understand nearly all of the small talk and most of the dirty details. It was fascinating.
At dinner time I am gradually starting to do more talking than listening. Tati, Mami, and I have glorious discussions about all the things I'm going to show Tati in America and all the people I can't wait to introduce her to! It's a wonderful thing to think about as I lay in bed, about to fall asleep.