At least for the first while that we’re in Santa Marta we’re staying in a homestay. It’s about the same price as staying in a cheap hotel but we get:
- More Spanish interaction
- Lunch cooked for us everyday
- A chance to observe real costeno (coastal) life
The family we’re staying with are lovely. We have the most direct contact with Dorthys (Like Door-tees) who is La Senora. This seems a reasonably defined role of household organisation and oversight. That matches our reading that Colombian women take charge within the home, and men outside it (eg in professions and politics). Though Dorthys is also a hairdresser, and we both expect to avail ourselves of her services soon. Dorthys is constantly a la orden.
Dorthy’s husband Esteban is a primary school teacher. He’s just started back at school and is often making lesson plans about the same time we are. They have three children. The youngest still lives at home. She’s finishing her studies and about to head to Argentina on exchange. The middle one lives with his fiancee and works in banana exporting. I’m yet to see if he knows about Australia’s outrageous banana protectionism.
The oldest is a psychologist who works with some of Colombia’s massive population of internally displaced people. Her son and daughter, four and two, are frequent visitors and have been hanging with their grandma.
Much of the extended family aren’t far away. Estaban’s mum lives next door. She’s ninety and still making her own arepas. His sister and family live directly behind us (and are currently hosting another volunteer).
The family nearby almost melds into the extended neighborhood community. When the grand kids are about it’s common for other kids to wander along with them through the halls (at least partly in hope of playing our ukuleles). A lot of life is lived on the street. Or, more accurately, on the porches that front directly on to the street. It’s the place to while away the evenings and enjoy the breeze.
There isn’t a lot of stuff in our house. For example, there are no books, and there probably isn’t enough crockery to feed everyone who lives here at the same time. We guess that’s at least as much a cultural decision as a wealth one. After all, the kids have all been supported through university by their parents (which would cost more than a dish or two). Education is clearly a higher priority in our household than it is in the barrio where we teach.
It’s also interesting to see what other spending gets prioritised. There’s broadband, for example, but a bucket shower. There’s aircon, but no hot water in the house (including the hairdressing part). Our bucket shower strategies continue to evolve.