Christmas Cheer in Cali

Just returned back stateside after a month of so down in Colombia. While I was there I spent some quality time with my buddy Mike, his Colombian-born wife Maria, and her family and friends. Had an amazing time in Cali experiencing the Colombian version of Christmas and New Year’s Eve (food, family, feria, aguardiente, blaring salsa, and firecrackers inside of straw effigies), and then spent a relaxing week in the Caribbean port city of Cartagena, where Mike and I tried our hand at kitesurfing.

One of the most memorable occasions during the trip was our impromptu gift giving extravaganza that we put together over the 24 or so hours prior to Christmas Eve.

Maria had a friend that was affiliated with one of the poorer elementary schools right outside of the city, and she mentioned how she had taken some small gifts to the children last Christmas and how happy it made them. Maria got the idea to do the same thing, but on a bigger scale, so we got together, decided as a group to do it, secured “sponsorship” funds from Mike’s company Mango Languages, and went off to the market to start shopping for dozens of children. We had to hurry, as Christmas Eve (and our drop-off) was the next day!

After five hours at the market the gifts had been purchased and hauled back to our apartment, where we separated everything out according to gender and age. We then trucked the gifts over to a couple volunteers that worked with the school, who spent all night wrapping each one. We met up with them early in the morning and headed off to the school, our borrowed truck overflowing with boxes of presents.

On the way we stopped to speak with one of the Funof outreach coordinators that worked with the school, who explained the circumstances that the kids faced and how the school was trying to improve their condition. We arrived at the school around 9am, carted the presents up to the outdoor auditorium, and watched as the children streamed in from the classrooms.

We spent the next few hours being entertained by dance routines, musical performances, and the general antics of the children. The actual passing out of the presents was done child by child, and we all had a great time seeing the smiles on the kid’s faces as we spread a bit of Christmas cheer.

The video above was shot and edited by me in a single day (we had to get it up on the Mango Languages blog ASAP). It’s not my greatest work, but captures the process that we went through pretty well.

Kudos to Mike and Maria for the invite, and huge thanks to her brother, uncle, and rest of the extended family that made me feel right at home for the holidays.