Monday, December 20, 2010

Doing Good Works

Quite by accident I was invited to go along to St. Anthony's "Casa de Hermanas" (House of the Sisters) and given my limited Spanish I accepted without any idea what I was agreeing to, but I am always ready for a new adventure.
St. Anthony's is one of five smaller churches in the
Barichara 'metro' area, but it also has a facility for the aged.

It turns out that I was agreeing to help my Art Teacher distribute cheese, cake, the Colombian equivalent of a saltine, along with hot soup and hot chocolate at the local center for the aged and infirm. It is staffed by an order of nuns from the Catholic Church and quite regularly people from Barichara offer to provide an afternoon 'tea' of sorts, but hot chocolate is the beverage of choice for these elders.

Another woman had joined the two of us and she was equally new, so the two of us were given a tour by one of the nuns while the Art Teacher did some of the preparations. The facility is very clean and is quite likely as old as some of its residents. It is divided up into one section for elderly men and one for elderly women and another section houses both men and women in a sort of paid retirement home which allows this last group to be as active as they choose to be.

Over 84 residents are staying here, some in various stages of dementia, aging or infirmity. There is a nun who is a nurse on site, there are rooms to isolate very ill patients, and of course there is a large and functional kitchen and dining area. The activity room across the way gives the patients a place to gather for various events.
I am standing to the left of the nun in the back, watching to see if 'los
hombres' need a refill of hot chocolate.

What struck me was how welcoming those who were alert were to our appearance on the site. I was a great curiosity with my blond hair and blue eyes and being significantly taller than the Colombian woman (I never thought of myself as tall because I had such a tall father and two tall brothers!) they wanted to shake my hand and talk to me... and all I really had to do was smile and nod my head a little and the next one along the way wanted to grab my hand and talk to me. (In the photo where I am standing with the Colombian nun you can see I am easily nearly six inches taller than she is.)

The men sit at one table and the women sit at another and they actually did not even speak to each other while I was there. But they were appreciative of the food, if they even were aware of where it came from, as they slurped their soup and hot chocolate with the cheese in it. This is not unusual for Colombians because they love their cheese to melt in the hot chocolate... I am not that crazy for it, though.

So I did my "Good Works" for this month albeit inadvertently. I really don't limit myself to one-a-month, but this was my first public one in Colombia.


  1. Hello there,
    I have just discovered your blog and I am so delighted to have found it. I plan to retire in Medellin, Colombia this September. I am a 64 year old, male, living near Oakland, CA. I will be living in Medellin by myself. After reading your blog, you have given me the additional courage I needed to make such a big move. I really appreciate your writings. I will be logging in, as much as I can, to keep track of your adventures. Hopefully, in the near future, I will meet you in person.

    Thank you,
    Lionel Riley

  2. B's a bit of hot chocolate conis, coniceess, conisewer, he reckons he knows a good one when he finds it - I'll float the cheese idea by him. :D

  3. P: Tell him to start with one of those cans of 'eco-friendly' chocolate, the kind that have been carefully pulled from the cocoa trees by barefooted natives; I see them all the time over here. Though actually what they start brewing the pot of chocolate with is a brick of cocoa...and some goat's milk or cow's milk - whichever is closer. See what he thinks of that!