Posted by: admin in: ● September 16, 2013
Dear Brothers and Lasallians,
I arrived in Bogotá at 4:00 am on Tuesday, August 6. The Visitor and four other Brothers were at the airport to welcome me. Needless to say, I was moved by the fact that they gave up a night’s sleep to greet me.
My first week and a half was spent getting acclimated to the elevation (Bogotá is the third highest city in South America), the climate, diet, and community routine. I am living in the first and second-year postulancy community. There is a second community on the property for third-year postulants (referred to as “pre-novices”). In my community there are 10 postulants and four Brothers, including me. The two community houses are located on a farm outside of Bogotá. The farm serves as a source of income for young men in formation and, I believe, continuing education. There are 400 hens, 30 cows, 15 sheep, and about three goats. There are also several flower and vegetable gardens. The property is carved into the lower portion of a mountain (about three times the size of the Winona bluffs). On a couple occasions I have hiked up the mountain and the views are spectacular.
My Spanish classes are taken at the university from 2 until 6 pm on Tuesdays through Fridays. Everything at this point is one-on-one with three different teachers. I enjoy the challenge and feel I am learning a great deal…I’m also realizing how much I don’t know . In the four weeks of classes, the emphasis has been on vocabulary, phonics, syntax, and what one of my teachers refers to as “morphology”. At this point I feel like I am being given a number of puzzle pieces and one of these days I will be able to start piecing them together. Reading and comprehension come much more easily than conversation. Because I am a visual learning it’s important for me to see things written out, however, when I ask folks to spell a word it helps. Well, as they tell me here, “poco a poco” (little by little).
In addition to my classes, I have been meeting with some of the Brothers and administrators regarding possible collaboration with the Midwest District. Before I left in August, Brother Cristhian Diaz and I met with a Spanish teacher and the administration from Totino-Grace to discuss the possibility of three honors Spanish classes skyping (on a regular basis) with English classes in Bogotá at one or two of the Lasallian schools. At this point two schools are on board and this collaboration has already started.
The Visitor, Brother Leonardo Tejeiro, has had a couple of conversations with Brother Larry Schatz about continuing and enhancing the collaborative relationship that has existed between our two districts. I mentioned to Brother Leonardo that Brother James Gaffney gave me information regarding the possibility of having a young Brother from Colombia work on an advanced degree at Lewis – similar to the arrangements made at Saint Mary’s. With the newly instituted ESL program at Lewis, I know this will be a real draw.
Two weeks ago Brother Carlos Gomes, president of the university here in Bogotá, met with me to discuss some options for faculty, staff, and students from our three universities. In the interim, I learned that Dr. Donna Aronson, the vice-president of academics at Saint Mary’s will visit Bogotá and Medellin in October to discuss possible options for collaboration. Donna and I have spoken about some specifics that I was able to present to Giovanni Anzola, the Director of International Programs here at La Salle. They include: a semester and short-term (2-3 week) study abroad option, a SOUL Mission Trip (7 to 10 days), English as a Second Language (ESL) or English Language Bridge (ESB), a faculty exchange for either teaching or studying, and internships in science or health science.
My limited experience in some of the secondary schools here is Colombia is that there is a terrific hunger on the part of the students to learn more English, and I would like to think the same exists in our schools with students wanting to learn more Spanish through immersion. My hope is that as the year goes on “we” can develop or create some short-term exchange programs that are cost-effective for students from both districts. I often think of how we were able to take advantage of our own Lasallian network in the U.S. with LTIP and how it has transformed the lives of the young men who have participated in it. Why not do something on an international basis?
Below is the weekly schedule in the postulancy.
Monday through Friday
6:00 am: Morning prayer or mass
7:00 am: Spiritual reading or class in the community room with director of postulants (I do not attend)
8:00 am: Breakfast
8:30 am: Free time
9:00 am: Postulants have classes in the community room. Classes range from guitar, History of the Institute, Spirituality and Scripture. On Thursdays the postulants go to area parishes and conduct classes in religion. A couple mornings a week are devoted to soccer and/or volleyball for two hours. I take a skip on this too!
12:00 pm. Prayer
12:30 pm: Lunch
1:00 pm Depart for La Universidad de La Salle in Bogotá (about a 45 minute drive)
2:00 pm – 6:00 pm: Classes (I take Spanish and the postulants take courses in theology)
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm: Postulants take English classes and I go to the library.
8:00 pm: Depart for the postulancy.
9:15 pm Dinner
10:00 pm: Well, I go to bed!
8:00 am: Mass
8:00 am: Breakfast
8:30 am – 10:30 am: Postulants do pastoral work in an area parish
10:30 am to 1:00 pm: Manual labor
1:30 pm: Lunch
Afternoons vary from week to week.
6:30 pm: Dinner
7:30 pm: Community social/movie/outing
8:00 am: Breakfast
10:00 am: Mass
6:30 pm: Dinner
Below are some photos that may be of interest.
From Brother Pat Conway
(on academic sabbatical in the District of Bogotá)