There is no rest, but meetings, commitments and relationships are moving along very well. In the morning, Vernon and I had meetings with the vice chancellor of Universidad de Cartagena and the director of international relations; it was followed by a meeting with high administrative protocol with the president of the University, Dr. Edgar Parra Chacón. The press was there, Vernon was interviewed, I translated, and then the president was interviewed as well. It was like signing a verbal agreement. They committed to take us seriously and start projects right away. They are even planning to send a commission to Oneonta to meet our president. Yesterday evening they invited all of us to a nice fancy dinner, we all selected form a fine menu without restrictions, we were really impressed. So far the two public institutions, in Cali and Cartagena, have been very welcoming and eager to start working on documents of mutual understanding. I am pleased to count on Yudis Contreras, my COIL partner and a great ambassador for her institution.
Later, yesterday afternoon after a quick mid-day shower, Vernon and I headed to another meeting with a private university, Universidad Technológica de Bolivar (UTB). Another productive meeting with fruit and coffee at their research lab and resource center for graduate studies. We talked about all possibilities, and more opportunities and strengths were arising from conversations. They are part of a museum network, and are very interested in connecting to our Cooperstown graduate program; they also have a program in Spanish as a second language that our students can apply and do study abroad in Colombia. They were very much interested in dual-degrees and also would like to start developing a document of mutual understanding. I am very pleased that all have been productive, and I see so much work ahead of us to develop our “Plan Colombia-SUNY-Oneonta”.
COIL has been a great interest for all, I just need more faculty from Oneonta to be willing to engage with COIL, I need to recruit my own colleagues for this great pedagogical practice. I hope they are willing to learn about it and get involved.
Today we have our last university meeting in Cartagena with an institution that we met at the COIL-Conference in Manhattan last month. They are picking us up from the hotel and invited us for lunch. All institutions here have been welcoming and interested. We are all clear that there is no one better than the other, and that we would like to create a Colombia network taking advantage of the strengths that each of us have.
Yesterday, there was a highlight of our day. This was our visit to the other Cartagena, the one that regular tourist never see, but we do because we know a wonderful woman, activist, communicator, and great mother that works for the women and families of the less privileged. Ofelia is her name, she took us to “La Boquilla” for a culinary workshop, and we all cooked our “arepa de huevo” in a very humble house, with two women from the community. Then we went to talk to the women who were doing a sewing workshop with the idea of creating a product that allows them to construct community memory and help heal from violence. They are the survivors, and they want to express their wishes and hopes to the rest of the world. I will meet Ofelia later today to keep talking about possibilities of involvement with her social cause, which is everyone’s responsibility for social justice in the world.
Oh, nothing slows down in this trip. Every day we need to think about something new and a new relationship. Oneonta community, we need to get more people on board, the group on site cannot do it all. I invite you all to talk as soon as we are back.