Misión Cumplida – Mission Accomplished

Since my first faculty led course to San Andrés Colombia in 2012, I felt I had a personal and professional mission to accomplish: “A bridge” between Oneonta and my native country Colombia. Later, I accompanied my colleague from literature in a beautiful course on Gabriel García Marquez and the same semester was given the Chancellors Award for Internationalization to take a second group to San Andrés and Providence islands.  It took me two years to figure out how to initiate the proposal and have people from both ends talking.  Today, thanks to COIL, and to people who listened to my ideas on campus, we are in Colombia talking to all kinds of people and institutions.  Yesterday we finalized our institutional meetings with “Broche de Oro” (Golden Seal) at the “Puerta de Oro de Colombia” (Golden Gate of Colombia) “Barranquilla”.

We visited our last scheduled university “Universidad del Norte” and were really impressed with their campus, their quality of education and their support of faculty through a teaching for excellence center. “Uninorte” is so prepared to welcome Oneonta students tomorrow; they have a very structured program where our students would adapt easily and engage in student life while learning about this diverse country.  We saw an arcade for students, with video games, this room was empty because they are in final exams at the moment, and the 5 level library was packed.  We tour the “Mapuka” museum, and an international studies sophomore local student was our bilingual guide.  Later the Cooperstown group stayed at the reserves and special applied learning projects with the museum assistant director, and they just amazed themselves with what these instructors do with their students from multiple disciplines.  At the campus we ended with a fine lunch in an elegant restaurant called “1966” in reference to the year that the university was founded.  This restaurant is their “Faculty Lounge”. Oh, it was just lovely and the meal, exquisite. These people really know how to enjoy professional life down here by the Caribbean.  I wish all my colleagues at Oneonta can see this different professional life style based on cooperation, team work, and student centered approached merging critical thinking and philosophical conceptualization through applied learning.  “Sí se puede” of course we can.

Today we depart to Santa Marta, on our way there, we will stop at “La quinta de San Pedro Alejandrino” where Simón Bolivar, our liberator, expressed his last wish of a united republic of “The Great Colombia” and Saturday, our last day, we will be visiting the “Tayrona National Park”, known for the best beaches on this Colombian Atlantic coast.

Oneonta, we will be back soon to pass our enthusiasm and invite you to cross this new bridge to the south.


Visitamos Museos en Cartagena and Barranquilla

Yesterday we visited three museums in Cartagena: Museo del Oro, Museo Historico Cartagena de Indias, and a couple art museums. We separated from the group and Will, Tori, and I took this opportunity to become immersed in learning about how museums in Cartagena depict race and culture.

El Museo del Oro was a traditional history museum but I loved learning about how Cartagena is a mixed culture of Africans, Europeans, and Indigenous cultures. The exhibit focused on how gold was produced in the different regions of Colombia. The exhibit also explained the significance of gold objects in the Zenu culture and used for funerals.

Then we visited Museo Historico Cartagena de Indias. They had an exhibit on the Spanish Inquisition, it was very engaging. The exhibit design was interactive with 3-D labels, quotes by Gabriel Garcia Marquiez and Tori was able to download a soundwalk audio tour which provided a great tour of the Inquisition exhibit as a story. The story provided two perspectives on the Inquisition, the first was from the perspective of a bruja (witch), and the other was of the Grand Inquisitor, Tomas de Torquemada. It was an entertaining sound tour but also educational.

Additionally, I loved how the exhibit focused on the issues of anti-semitism, and intolerance against witches, Jews, and non-Christians. The themes of tolerance and intolerance regarding race, gender, and religion are issues that are relevant today. Learning about the ways in which religious officials dealt with the issue of having different racial, cultural, and religious groups in their communities had important messages of how fear of others can result in persecution of diverse groups. This exhibit had important connections to topics we discussed in Will’s Class, Race, and Gender (Identity and Activism) course at CGP.

Today we traveled to Barranquilla and visited Parque Cultural del Caribe. This museum was very interactive! I loved how they incorporated documentaries to depict the biodiversity of Colombia and the Caribbean region. My favorite exhibits were the music exhibit where they showed the different cultural groups: Africans, Indigenous, and European musicians playing instruments and dancing to a song that incorporated the different beats and sounds of the cultural groups. This exhibit like several others did not have words or objects but conveyed messages of the diversity of the culture, music, and traditions of Colombia and the Caribbean. Although I feel like the museum would benefit from creating labels in English to reach a broader audience base, the exhibits effectively incorporated films to convey messages with visuals and sound.

I learned a lot about international museums visiting these different museums in Cartagena and Barranquilla. I also enjoyed learning about how the museum topics are relevant to what we learn about diversity and creating interactive exhibits in our classes at CGP.

~ Falicia Eddy


Today we left Cartagena at 9:30 for Barranquilla. It took a little longer than expected, but we made it. We stopped at the hotel quickly then went to a nice little restaurant that was recomended to Professor Montoya; the food was great.

After, we headed to El Museo del Caribe. This was a great museum and our museum friends loved its different kinds of exhibits. I found the exhibit on Gabriel Garcia Marquez very interesting because it was in the form of a colorful story projected on the walls and being spoken as well as with images.

When we left it was raining. Thankfully, this was our first day with rain. However, this meant that we could not really do anything else other than to go back to rhw hotel and relax. We have not really gotten to do this so it was not too bad. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant and headed to our rooms to rest up for our early day tomorrow.


Last Day in Cartagena

The experience does not slow down yet. Intensity and heat is high, more contacts and ideas every day.  Today we will be heading to Barranquilla “Puerta de Oro de Colombia” (Colombian Golden Door).

Yesterday our group separated during the day, Will and his students went to the old city to tour museums and collect the information they needed. I went with Vernon and my students to “La Fundación Universitaria Comfenalco”. This is an educational cooperative.  We met some of their professors at the COIL conference this past April, and this time we had the opportunity to meet their team of professors, administrators and students.  We were really impressed with their programs and the support that they provide to their students. They are a cooperative that serves low income communities; they are challenged with great educational gaps and difficult living circumstances that their students bring; however, we saw very committed professionals, that only work to improve their own communities.  We observed transparency and horizontal relationships without politics and transparent management.  They, as well as the others, were very kind and picked us up from the hotel, invited us for lunch, and took us back to the touristic area where we are staying.

Later, I went with Haley and Erica to the “San Felipe” fort and there, we met Paula and Devian, our COIL student partners. We went through the dark tunnels inside the colonial military site and took pictures of the city from the amazing fortification.

In the evening we said good bye to our COIL friends and to Ofelia, our friend from Tierra Patria; again another moment of separation that reminds us that life goes on and friends and family stay behind.

Cartagena is an important place for us to establish our international relationships, and I am sure that some of my colleagues would love to learn and teach their students using this Caribbean site. Oneonta, we need to talk and brainstorm.

Cartagena, second day

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.



Hoy en Cartagena

Today we started early and headed to the University of Cartagena. Professors Montoya and Larson spoke to administrators; Professor Walker, Tori, and Falicia spoke to other people who studied museums; and Haley and I spoke to a teacher in the foreign languages department. After we were done speaking with her, we met up with Paula and got a tour of the school with her and her friend Laura. The school was very beautiful and used to be a monastery at one point.

After, we saw the place where the remains of Gabriel Garcia Marquez were kept. Because of this, we were on the Colombian news!

Then we went to La Popa which was a convent that is in the highest part of Cartagena. We had a beautiful view of the city from here. We learned about some of the history here which was very interesting.

We had some time after this to relax and take a nap which was very much needed (although Professors Montoya and Larson had another meeting with some administrators).

We went to a beautiful restaurant for dinner with two representatives from the University of Cartagena and our friend Devian from COIL.

Thankfully we get to sleep in a little bit tomorrow before we head to another school and some museums.


Reflecting on Calí

Reflecting on our time in Cali is a challenge because we have only just departed. The details of our activities have been dutifully recorded in my journal, but in the weeks and months ahead, I will continue to live with this experience, turning it over in my head and feeling it in my heart. For now, I still hear the song that all Caleños know by heart:

Cali pachanguero, Cali luz de un nuevo cielo.

I love a city that loves music, and salsa is the soul of Cali. Learning the basics of salsa dancing and practicing those newfound skills were highlights of our time in the city. The experience of visiting Cali did not, however, involve only music and dancing. It was the interactions with many different people that made the experience so rich. True cultural immersion happens not only in dance classes but through the simple, yet profoundly resonant relationships one is able to build by being an active participant in a community that is not one’s own. Through salsa, I learned not only about Colombian musical traditions, but also about war and peace, arepas and aguardiente, and family and friends.
We heard many voices in Cali—not just those of singers and dancers, but of students and teachers as well. We learned of their pride in their city and culture and their desires to improve young people’s lives and build new avenues of success for those who lack opportunities. And, we explored a complex, tri-cultural history that has created a vibrant culture which defies stereotypes.

~ Will Walker