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Latin America Kavitha Dispatch

Living in an Itsy, Bitsy, Teeny, Weeny Town

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Map with Panama City, Jaque and Bahia Solano
During our 11-day adventure trying to get from Panama to Colombia, Monica, Shawn and I got stuck in the small town of Jurado, Colombia, for four days. Luckily, the locals of Jurado were very friendly and open, or I wouldn't have known what to do with myself! There are no phones or Internet access there and the electricity (hence television) only works for two hours during the day. Imagine living your whole life in a town that is only about one mile long and where you know all 2000 inhabitants. The town is surrounded by ocean shore on one side and by a river and the jungle on the other. What would you do with your time? You can't play Nintendo, there's no mall to go to, and no movie theatre to catch the latest releases...think you'd get bored? Not a chance! At least none of the locals ever seem to.

Meet some of the friends I made in Jurado and see what their lives are like:

Two of my closest friends in Jurado were Celestino Paz Laguna, who just turned 20 years old, and his older sister Adelfa Paz Laguna, who is 24 years old. Celestino graduated from high school two years ago and just returned to Jurado after spending the past year and a half serving in the army. "It's mandatory for boys to serve 18 months in the army after they turn 18. Not all the guys in Jurado serve because they have strict health requirements. Now, my year and a half is over, and I'm glad, I didn't like being in the army," explains Celestino.

"You did too!" interrupts Adelfa, laughing. "Celestino was in the air force and he loved the adventure of it all. Look at him posing, like he's Rambo or something!" she jokes as she shows me pictures of Celestino in uniform, standing with a gun in front of a jet airplane...with sunglasses on, of course!

"Okay, it was alright," admits Celestino with a grin. "But I'm glad it's over. Now I can do what I want to do. I want to travel, maybe go work in one of the bigger cities like Bogata or Buenaventura. I want to come to the United States, too."

"Yeah, Jurado's always been too small for Celestino, that's why he enjoyed being in the army in other parts of the country," explained Adelfa. She, on the other hand, went to college in Bogata, where she studied to be a nurse, and has now come back to live in Jurado. "I miss seeing all the new movies in Bogata and going out with friends, but I like it here. All my family is here and I have many friends who I know and trust. Besides, we go out dancing just as much as any of the city folks do!"

Take it from me, she ain't lying! The people of Jurado love their music; salsa music and reggae can be heard throughout the streets all day and all night. Youth of all ages dance endlessly, on the beaches, in the discos...all night long and not just on the weekends. I couldn't keep up with them!

Another friend I met was Thomas Jefferson Hurtado, who is 17 years old. Jefferson is in his last year of high school, but since we were there during Semana Santa (Easter Week), he was on vacation and didn't have to go to school. Jefferson took me on a walk through the jungle to visit his finca (plantation).

"My father gave me this finca. We have all kinds of fruits growing here: oranges, avocados, coconuts, mangoes, bananas, guavas...But now is the season for the miranons," he explains as he starts to climb 40 feet up in this tall, beautiful tree to pick the red, juicy miranons. "My family has another finca farther away where we have horses, cows, and pigs."

In their free time, the kids in Jurado like to play games out on the beach. The younger kids play stickball, while the older teens get together to play basketball, volleyball, or soccer. "We've got a league, there are six teams, and we play almost everyday," says Jefferson, excitedly watching two other teams playing soccer before he gets his chance. Between swimming in the ocean, playing sports, climbing trees, and dancing 'til dawn...it's no wonder everyone here is in such great shape!

Besides playing and hanging out with friends, the kids in Jurado also spend a lot of time with their families. Families in Jurado are larger than just a mom, dad, brothers and sisters. People live with, or next door to, their cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, and uncles. There are family members of all generations to play or eat with and hear stories from. Although I only spent four days in Jurado, the fun-loving nature and openness of all the locals I met made it pretty obvious that even though they don't have all the modern conveniences we're used to, they have a whole lot of other things to take its place.

Kavitha
 

Kevin - Chan Chan - A Magnificent Pile of Mud
Abeja - Cigars and Pipes - A Few Pre-Inca Legacies
Monica - Instant Weight Loss at the Equator
Shawn - The Hard-Luck Gang Says Adios to the Daring Ladrones
Shawn- Estudio Español
Making a Difference - Violence in 'Peaceful Communities'

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