Person to Person Intercultural from World Chicago

Colombia Education Exchange Program Intercultural Talk

 

Somewhere between the roasted chicken and the chocolate chip cookies, we abolished global poverty and achieved world peace. And Ange found a wedding dress. It was an amazing dinner.

Intercultural Parenting: Values in Action

You would think with us already being a Brazilian/USAmerican and Jewish/non-Jewish family, that embracing values of intercultural and interfaith appreciation would be synthesized into our son. But I’m not taking any chances. He’s 16. With only two more years in high school there’s only a nano-second left to jam pack any final teaching of values by example before he leaves the house. Plus I thought it would be a great chance for our son to practice Spanish at home.

So, hello international visitors! I saw the call for dinner hosts in the World Chicago eNews. We picked the date and just had to provide dinner. It matched our values of intercultural and international exchange…the idea that the best way to learn about another culture is first-hand. As a bonus, world peace, sort-of, is an objective the program.

Wait, Back Up, Who Came to Dinner?

Jose Cordoba, Carlos Gomes and Angelica Hoyos, all from Colombia. The program was about “Expanding Higher Quality Educational Access in Post Conflict Colombia,” whereby visitors “are invited to the United States under the auspices of the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.” 

The Department of State has outlined the following specific objectives for the project:

  • Explore strategies –and its design process‑ oriented to achieve quality improvement in Education and the path to reach international standards;
  • Explore inclusion tactics to address minorities and conflict victims such as women, indigenous, and Afro populations;
  • Approach public policies, designed and implemented at all levels, in government and within the education system, to understand its relation with peace building, leadership, gender and ethnic inclusion; and
  • Explore how technology and communications in the U.S. have served as tools to facilitate access to education and increase its availability in remote areas.

 International Networking

As with any good networking preparation, we read their bios and looked for connections. Carlos got his PhD at St. Mary’s, where our nephew Andre went to college; Angelica works with social inclusion of persons with disabilities. I can tell her about my work at JCFS; Jose went to school in Newcastle…oh, wait, that’s UK, not Indiana; husband Geno’s good friend Roby is in Education and teaches at IIT—we’ll invite him too.

“Bienvenido a nuestra casa,” I greeted them at the door. We started in Spanish (so proud to see our son communicating in another language), but soon shifted to English. My idea of helping them, making connections in Chicago soon shifted as well. This was no place for an outdated ‘first world helping third world’ paradigm. Their program in Chicago was already very tightly crafted with meetings and agendas set. This was the final stretch of the program, after meetings in Washington DC and Boston.

“How did you find out about the program?” I asked, thinking they must have applied, written essays, been selected. It turns out they did not seek out and apply for the program.  The US embassy in Colombia reached out to them, based on their past contact with the Embassy and a solid record of success and achievement.

Jose, for example, had been tasked by the Ministry of Education for Colombia to oversee schools and education in his home-town. He was now in the process of creating a not-for-profit organization to serve his community. Ange recently graduated as a forensic psychologist and is working on inclusion for people with disabilities through sports in rural communities across Colombia; Carlos supervises 25 educational institutions with over 35,000 students and 2,000 teachers in a government project to build peace and transform post-conflict Colombian society.

Person to Person Intercultural

As they talked about their great work, I realized how little I knew about Columbia and how much my image of it (okay, all of it) was frozen in 1992. Pablo Escobar died in 1993. The drug cartels had not had a stronghold on the country in years. Colombia was one of Latin America’s oldest and most stable democracies. Time to listen more and learn!

Somewhere between dinner and dessert a glass of wine or two (okay, three) we all realized that if it were left up to individual people to connect one on one…the whole world would get along. Stereotypes would melt away and everyone and understand and appreciate one another. What better conclusion could you want from hosting international visitors to your home?

The Perfect Wedding Dress

Politics and professional ambitions out of the way, we sat down to dinner as a completely social event.  Jose invited Lucca to visit his hometown—“you have to see the whale watching.” Carlos likes books and wine. “Me too!” I blurted. Geno admitted going to the Pablo Escobar Museum when in Colombia on a Partners of the Americas exchange. “No, you didn’t!” they cried, lamenting the ongoing stereotyping of the country.  And Ange revealed that she was getting married in December, “but I don’t have a dress yet.”

 

“I just got a dress at WINGS resale shop for our 30th wedding anniversary celebration! It was only $50 and they help women who are victims of domestic violence. Do you want to see my dress?” And we (a middle-aged women from the Midwest US and a recent college grad from Bogotá Colombia) jumped up and down and screamed like girls, leaving the boys at the dinner table to go and try on dresses.

Ange and I made plans to meet again on Saturday to go back to WINGS, hoping by magic there would be the perfect dress. And, I kid you not…someone had dropped off a brand new, never been worn, designer dress only one day ago. It made us both stop breathing and cry when she walked out of the dressing room it was so beautiful.

A word from our guests

“I am Carlos Gómez, a Colombia guy who has been committed to education during the whole life. My passion is Rural Education and how it could be very helpful to build a better society in Colombia because the national conflict had terrible impacts in the countryside: many people were displaced from their places and many other were enlisted by the guerrillas and the Military. Anyway, education is the way to fairer, more equitable societies and more democratic countries.

As well, I love to get new friends and I have been blessed having met the Bonaventura Family.”

–Carlos Gómez

 

I was born and raised in Quibdó, the capital city of the state of Choco, one of the most bio diverse areas in the world and packed with beautiful destinations like Nuqui, town that is waiting for you to come. You just have to let me know when. Let me give you a taste by this article in the NYTimes and this band from my city: 

Show those to Lucca. He’d love it.

–Jose Camilo Cordoba

My experience in Chicago was just wonderful; I understood that although the United States and Colombia are so different countries deal with very similar situations in terms of education and society. I am very grateful to Deanna, Geno and Lucca, who opened the doors of their house and allowed us to meet them; And as a result of a delicious dinner and excellent wines, I found my wedding dress. Thanks to Deanna, I’m going to be the cutest bride ever.

I leave Chicago with the certainty that it is a city full of passionate people. Thank you, because I go with joy to have met a family full of love, values and a lot of intelligence; I leave with the hope of receiving them in my home with open arms when they visit Colombia.

–Angelica Hoyos.

Get Involved through World Chicago

You can sign-up for the mailing list on the World Chicago website. Visitors come from from all over the world. There are opportunities to host dinners, home-stays and professional internships.

Manager Fellowship from Shanghai, China: Intern Hosts Needed

WorldChicago is currently seeking placements fro seven Manager Fellows on a program sponsored by WorldChicago and the Shanghai Economic Management College of Shanghai, China. This is an unpaid position within a Chicago corporation, all housing an dother program costs are paid by the delegates. The mid-career professionals will participate in an eith-week Manager Fellowship for an immersion into U.S. business practices. WorldChicago coordinates the internship placements and provides periodic business seminars for the participants which will feeature the culture of USAmerican enterprises, sucessful communicatino skills and an overview of the USAmerican business management system.

To host an intern contact Donna Sadlicki at dsadlicki@worldchicago.org or 312.254.1800 x 104.

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