On the 16th of March Diana and I went to El Retiro for the big mosaic-day between CISV Medellín and Laboratorio del Espíritu and their library and community center in Retiro. Our work began already four weeks earlier when we went on a preparation trip with a tour around the area and met the people at the library. Now it was finally time for the real thing.

We met with the kids and leaders from Medellín at a parking lot in El Poblado. We had been told to make two sets of lunches and these were collected in a big black plastic bag. When everyone had arrived we left for El Retiro by bus.

El Retiro is a town right outside Medellín and can be reached by car or bus within a short hour. On arrival we were greeted by the people of the library and community center and received a great introduction to the work they do.

We started the activity day with a name game. Everyone got to introduce themselves and also name something that makes you happy. A lot of the kids enjoyed sports! I told them that I enjoy singing in the shower. We continued with some energizers. Diana contributed with ‘El pollo’ while I did ‘Hysj ka sa ho’ and ‘Perikaté’. Introduced and energized, the kids were ready for more serious business.

Javier, the director of the center, gave us an amazing experience. For almost two hours the kids and ourselves entered Javier’s world of stories and memories. All quiet, with big open eyes, the kids carefully listened to every word of Javier’s selected stories. Then we were given a task; to write about one of our own childhood memories.

I wrote my story in Norwegian, explained it in English to a group of eleven-year-old girls before they helped me translating to Spanish. Curious about Norway and the Norwegian language, both kids and leaders encouraged me to read my story out loud in both Norwegian and Spanish. Reading in Norwegian to a crowd of only non-Norwegian-speakers was a really fun experience. I could have said just about anything, but I was nice and read the story as it was. The story, by the way, was about my experience as a kid when I was showing to a friend how stupid Donald Duck is when he steps on a rake and gets hit by the handle in his face. I turned out to be just as stupid having the long iron-handle hitting me above the eye in great speed.

Because of my limitations in understanding the Spanish language I did not fully get all the kids’ stories. It seemed though as most stories, as mine, included injuries or silly mistakes.

After Javier’s story-workshop it was time for lunch. All the food in the black plastic bag was put on trays and we could all freely choose a sandwich, snack and juice. It was plenty of food and we were all happy.

After lunch it was time for the ‘CISV-activity’, an activity Diana had been planning together with people from CISV Medellín. The whole activity centered around a ‘mochila’, a traditional Colombian shoulder-bag made out of cotton. Divided into smaller groups the kids went on a journey, from station to station. At one station they had to pick the cotton needed to make a mochila. In another one they learned how to create one. In a third they were told to make a brand, logo and slogan for their mochila. In total there were six stations and the idea behind the activity was to empower the kids with knowledge and ideas on how to create, promote and sell a product.

The kids really enjoyed the activity and during the debrief several expressed how interesting it was to be introduced to the process and stages of making the mochila. The idea is now that CISV Medellín will create a handbook describing these stages, hence making this knowledge available and usable for the kids and youth in the town. Maybe, in the future, the bestselling mochilas are to be found in El Retiro…