So today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day — known here in Colombia as Día de la Mujer. As you may or may not know, the holiday started back at the beginning of the 20th century, as a sort of combination of the socialist labor rights and women’s rights movements. Following the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and ongoing strikes and protests by Russian women during the 19-teens, the international community finally began to pay marginally more attention to women’s demands for equality. Since the end of WWI, International Women’s Day has spread across the globe, and is now an official holiday in more than 25 countries, and celebrated unofficially in many others, including Colombia.
All the swag I got today, just for having a uterus. Good work, X chromosomes.
Here, Día de la Mujer is kind of a like a combination of Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Women receive gifts like candy, flowers and small stuffed animals — or, in the case of one of my fellow teachers, a terrifying 8-inch-tall pen shaped like a rabbit. Walking around town today was pretty charming, because practically every female person over the age of about 10 is carrying at least two flowers and probably some other kind of gift. It’s an especially great day to be a female teacher, with all the kids running around school giving teachers candy, flowers, cards and other presents — kind of like reverse Halloween for grownup ladies. I think I collected like ten candy bars over the course of the day (needless to say, most of them didn’t make it to tonight intact), as well as some very lovely flowers and a personalized card from one of my seventh-graders (who even spelled my name right! A miracle!).
Earlier this afternoon, I was sitting on a bench in the park in the middle of my apartment complex — sipping tea with honey, writing what I hoped were clever captions for some photos, and watching the dogs and little kids that belong to my neighbors playing on the colorful wooden park equipment. It was sunny and warm with a light breeze, seed pods were tumbling from the trees and attempting a 10.0 splashless landing in my tea mug and the teenage couple (both in hoodies, of course) on the bench nearest me were engaged in an extremely serious conversation about shoes between drags of their cigarettes.
A view of the park outside my building. 100% guerrilla-free!
I’m not describing this scene because I’m practicing for a future creative nonfiction class in which I have to describe the most cliché moment of my day. Usually we writers attempt to focus on the unique moments in our lives, but I’m writing about this particular moment because of, rather than in spite of, how very generic it was. This park could be in Denver, or Sydney, or Johannesburg. Other than the fact that everyone around me is speaking Spanish, there is nothing to distinguish this moment in this place from a Tuesday afternoon in a small park in any major city in the world. There are no bullets flying overhead, no men on the corner sporting gang colors, no guerrillas or paramilitares lurking in the trees.
I’ve got a new La Vida Idealist post up today about my recent journey to some Bogotá public schools and the thoughts it inspired about educational systems and the whole idea of volunteering — noble or ultimately fruitless? Read it here to find out!