Before I left to Colombia, I was not informed that we were going to one of the cities in Colombia with the worst reputation. I knew that we were going to Florencia, but I had never heard about its reputation. Well, it turns out that Florencia used to be the headquarters of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The FARC are a Marxist–Leninist revolutionary guerrilla organization based in Colombia. They are very dangerous and are responsible for a lot of the violence, kidnappings and drug trafficking that goes on there. They mostly hide in the country or in the forest away from big cities. Fortunately, we were very safe and never had a problem with any of them during our trip. We did hear about things that happened while we were there.
This is the little plane that we flew in to Florencia
This is a pig truck. It just seemed very South American to me. 🙂
There were a lot of horse drawn buggies in the city.
The view of Florencia from our hotel
The fruit and vegetable market
The day before we arrived in Florencia, there was a horrible incident with the FARC. A woman was in labor 20 minutes from the city and her midwife called for a police escort to the local hospital in Florencia. On the way to the hospital, the FARC intercepted the ambulance, shot and killed almost everyone in the ambulance including 2 police officers, the midwife, the Dad, the 9-year-old son, and the baby. The mom survived but is paralyzed. It’s just so tragic that these things happen all of the time there.
The FARC will kidnap children and train them to kill their families or they will make them kill the other children who refuse to kill others. They train them to be members of the FARC. Some children do it voluntarily because their families are just so poor or they don’t have any family.
The 1st Counselor of the District Presidency of the LDS church in Florencia told me that he has to pay $5,000,000 Colombian pesos ($3,000 US dollars)/year to the FARC so that the FARC won’t kill his family. If he doesn’t pay, then his family isn’t protected. It’s sad.
Now, the military has taken over Florencia for the most part. But many of them are no better than the FARC. One of the new converts members of my church was ex-military and he told us horrible stories. He said that they used to get bonuses for each member of the FARC that they killed, but some soldiers would kill innocent civilians and dress them up in the clothes of the FARC to get their bonus of 10 days vacation. It’s so horrible.
That is the horrible side of Colombia, but the Colombia that I was exposed to was amazing and the people are honestly the most loving, kind and warm people who I’ve ever met in all of my travels. They are much warmer and kinder than Americans.
Brother and Sister Ostos from Bogota. They are LDS humanitarian missionaries for Colombia. Brother Ostos was so funny. He wouldn’t let me lift a finger because of the pregnancy. So sweet.
This is Xiomara. She is one of the awesome young women in the Florencia Branch. I love her!
This is Xiomara’s Grandpa “mowing the lawn”. He just does it for service. He was working so hard. Bless his heart.
I had a great time doing the training. We did the training at the LDS chapel. We trained 65 doctors and nurses in NRP and then we trained them to become instructors so that they can perpetuate the program in their hospitals and communities. Florencia is the capital of Caqueta. I learned that in the whole department of Caqueta (which is huge) there are only four NICU beds. Not four NICU’s . . . four NICU beds. I was shocked by that.
This is what the tables looked like for the practices.
Some of our graduates after donations were given. The church gave tons of donations so that the program can be perpetuated in their communites but not all of the donations are shown here.
Our group with the First Lady of Caqueta
My favorite part of the trip was being around the cute kids and young women of my church that came to help us. They were so sweet and helpful! They just loved me and I love them so much. They love my accent and some of the cute little kids would just come up and follow me around and stand there and watch me. It was so sweet. The young women were the cutest. There were four young women who were there everyday helping us. They were great girls. We became very good friends.
On Friday night after the training, we were able to go to the Quinceanera Party. It’s a huge birthday party for the girls when they turn 15-year-old. It’s very extravagant like a wedding. Everyone was there. Lots of families and friends. It started at 9 but the 15-year-old girl (la quinceanera) didn’t get there until 10 PM or so. When she arrived, she did a special dance with her father, then she did a choreographed dance with 5 boys. Usually they have 15 boys in the dance, but because it takes so long, she only had 5 boys. It was cute. They then served food and we all danced the salsa, merengue, la cumbia and other dances. It was a blast and an amazing cultural experience.
It actually turned out to be great because we got to go to church on Sunday and Gloria and a friend from the hotel came with us. Everything works out for a reason right?
Smoked ribs with pork rinds and corn meal at our lunch on Saturday with the First Lady.
Giant Steak for Sister Welling. 🙂