Hello everyone!

With this letter, we would like to give you an insight into the part of ISFiT called Dialogue and our work on the focus area of Colombia. ISFiT19 Dialogue is composed of three focus areas – the Balkans, Ukraine, and Colombia, which we are currently visiting. We are here to interview students who are interested in taking part in the dialogue seminar at Røros in Norway before the ISFiT festival. Silje, Siri, Maria, and Synne are the team members for Colombia, and we would like to share with you some of the experiences and adventures we have had in Bogotá!

Dialogue Facilitators and Coordinator in action

Before coming to Bogotá we were put in contact with the Colombian student organization ACEU – Asociacíon Colombiana de Estudiantes Universitarios. ACEU defends public education and received the Student Peace Prize for their work in 2005. During our stay here in Bogotá, ACEU let us borrow their office to conduct the interviews with the applicants. We have also marched with them in some of their protests, as we thought ISFiT could show solidarity with the students of Colombia and the former student peace prize winner. This year they have played an important role in organizing the national mobilizations in favour of public and affordable education – and they have no intention of giving up. There have been protests several times a week, and in the biggest one so far, over 500 000 people joined together Bogotá.

Protests in Bogotá

Our first weekend in Bogotá was quite an adventure. We mostly acclimatized after the long trip when we got used to the altitude (2640 meters above sea level! Every time we were tired it felt good to blame the height and not our lack of exercising and general unhealthy lifestyle with too much beer and way too many sitting-down meetings). We also met with two professors (on journalism and economic history respectively) to do some research on our focus area, and they ended up inviting us to their cabin in the mountains, where they gave us lectures about the history and politics of Colombia.

Because there had been rather few applicants in Colombia compared to the other focus areas, meeting with people who work in universities turned out to be a good thing, considering future recruitment of Colombian students to ISFiT. When the night came, it became clear that we would not be able to drive back to Bogotá. They kindly offered us their many hammocks so we could stay the night. (They also prepared beds for us, because they suspected that we did not quite possess the skill of sleeping in hammocks. Synne was the only one who managed to do it the whole night through. Congratulations!) Needless to say, we came back to Bogotá the next day a little less clueless, and very ready to start the interviews.

The Colombia dialogue gang and two professors

Throughout the week we interviewed many engaged and interesting applicants who had applied for the dialogue seminar. Doing this, we realized how many young, engaged people there are who are passionate about taking responsibilities in society. Many of them have expressed the need for dialogue to solve problems, and are devoted to work for a better society. This trip has been a truly inspirational and has sparked many moments of reflection and questioning about our lives, our place in the world, and the work we are doing for ISFiT. We feel privileged to have had the opportunity to get to know students in other parts of the world. During the week we also got time to visit the Norwegian embassy to spread the happy message of ISFiT- and it turned out the diplomat we were talking to had actually been part of ISFiT himself when he was a student in Trondheim! <3 ISFiT <3

During our stay, we also managed to have some fun. This included a lot of socializing with the ACEU gang. In addition to enlightening us about the work that they are doing now, and trying to explain complex political structures in Spanish (we sometimes needed pen and paper to make sure we get it right) they also took the responsibility of introducing us to the local beer, empanadas, and they even accepted the challenge of teaching three Norwegians and one American salsa dancing. At first some of us were a bit awkward and wanted to get drunk really quickly to avoid being KLEIN. But, they were so nice, and suddenly we all felt like the dancing queen, young and sweet, only seventeen badambadambadam.

On our way back to the hostel after work

In the other group’s travel letter from Ukraine, they mentioned a big language barrier. In Colombia, it is also hard to communicate with people without the local language. Luckily, three of us spoke Spanish, so it didn’t become  a problem. For Synne, there have been some embarrassing moments in her struggle to understand and to be understood, but now she knows how to talk about the altitude, her three sick friends and how to order her favorite juice (jugo de lulo) in Spanish. Silje will also make sure not repeat the mistake of telling the friends that picked us up from the airport that we were going to ‘’Hostal Ass’’.

Hugs from Silje, Synne, Maria and Siri