Monday, February 25, 2013


I try to make this blog a little different—hopefully, it doesn’t read like a laundry list of what I did this week. Sure, living in another country is interesting, but it doesn’t mean you want to read about what I ate for breakfast every morning, or look at pictures of what my bathroom looks like. For each post, I try to start from a small place—an idea, a question, or an event that I can build into something that gives you a real impression of what I’m living, or what I’m thinking.

That being said, sometimes I feel like my blog fails to answer a fundamental question: “What am I actually doing here?” So, this week I’m taking a different approach, in the hopes that I can give you a snapshot of what a day is like for me here. That’s not to say that this day was typical. In fact, I chose this day because it was a great one, and it happened to have a lot going on that could show several aspects of my life and work as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Barranquilla, Colombia. So, without further ado, I present to you... Thursday, February 21, 2013.

7:00 - My feeble phone alarm goes off (for the first time). Without actually opening my eyes (or even really waking up), I deftly reach out to activate the snooze mode. One thing has never changed in my life—the snooze period has always been an essential step in my wake up process. Some people do yoga, others need their cup of coffee. No matter how early or late it is, I need to cogela suave* when it comes to starting the day. I can afford to do that here because I work about three blocks away from my house.

7:30 - After a bit a snoozing, I was ready to transition into life. My breakfast, like most days, was a steaming cup of sugar with coffee and a banana. Then I got myself together—shower, dress, “deo” for my B.O., etc.

8:00 - Our first classes at the sede tend to get rolling around 8:15, after the kids have their snack. I don’t have my own classes to teach, so my morning responsibilities vary depending on what projects I have on my plate. At this stage, the core of my work at Fútbol Con Corazón involves working as a liaison between the sede and the surrounding community. Unlike the coaches and staff, I actually live here in the barrio, so I’m in a good position to help build that bridge. For the past week I’ve been doing a lot of in-person visits to houses to check in on kids and families, and to make sure the info is flowing in both directions. My first task on Thursday morning was to prepare a summary report of the 50 family visits that I had done the previous day. 

9:00 - Of the 50 families that I visited on Wednesday, three children had been absent due to scheduling conflicts. At the beginning of the calendar year, many students graduate to a new curso, changing their school schedule from the morning to the evening, or vice versa. On Thursday morning I was able to move these three kids into different time slots at our program, then I went back to their houses to give the parents their new schedules.

10:30 - In addition to working with Fútbol con Corazón, I am doing a lot of work to identify and build relationships with other organizations that do Youth Development work. After my family visits I had a meeting with Fundación Oasis de Fé, a community center in the barrio that focuses on four areas of intervention: spiritual, cognitive/academic, social, and physical. We discussed our different work, and ways where I could support their activities. I am particularly interested in starting a conversation-based english class at their center, but the opportunities for collaboration are endless.

12:00pm - Normally, I eat lunch at the sede in the comedor, but on Thursday I headed home to make my own grub. I think I’ve mentioned that meals here tend to be light on green vegetables. So, I steamed some broccoli then worked it into the rice with meat that I had saved from the previous night’s dinner (I ate out at the restaurant we have our music rehearsals on Wednesday nights). I’m a man that loves his condiments—they’ve become that much more important in a world where 75 percent of virtually every meal is plain white rice. Thankfully, I had my Sweet Chili Sauce ready to complete my poor man’s broccoli beef.

2:00 - After lunch I headed north to the Peace Corps Office to tackle some admin work in a nice air-conditioned environment, complete with a table, chair and high-speed internet—three things that I cannot get in the same place at the same time in my barrio. My main task for the afternoon was to do a wrap-up report for a recently completed project. At the end of January, our team of Peace Corps Response Volunteers held a multi-sport camp at a high school in Campo de la Cruz, in the southern region of the Departamento Atlántico.

4:30 - My workday closed with a great meeting at the office. I had a chance to sit down with two  representatives from PNUD (United Nations Development Programme) to discuss an abmitious Youth Development project that they are undertaking. After a thirty year absence from the country, the Peace Corps’ Youth Development program in Colombia is still in its neonatal phase—I am one of the first three volunteers to serve in this capacity. Since my arrival, I've appreciated being included in the process of building the YD program up from the ground floor. Just last month I got to participate in part of Peace Corps Colombia’s Integrated Planning and Budget Sessions (IPBS), a series of annual evaluation and strategy meetings. Our meeting on Thursday included our Country Director, our Director of Programming and Training, our Small Projects Coordinator, and little ol’ me. I’m looking forward to learning more in the coming weeks about how the project will develop, and what role Peace Corps Volunteers will play in it.

7:00 - After work I headed back to Mazzino—the restaurant where our motley crew of gringos and Colombianos plays live Jazz on Saturday nights. Thursday night is not our official rehearsal night, but I had a date to join a few friends for a beer, a pizza, and a couple of hours of listening to music and talking shop. It wasn’t the first time that I found myself in a deep, deep convo with Jaime, the owner of the restaurant and the trumpet player in our group. This time, the conversation** was sparked by a recently-surfaced photo of my maternal grandparents, courtesy of my cousin, Janet Foster. 

Dr. Luther Hilton Foster, Jr., the fourth president of Tuskegee Institute (later University) from 1953 to 1981 with his wife, Vera Chandler Foster in the early 1950s. Dr. Foster was known for his “quiet but firm” leadership of Tuskegee during the turbulent years of the Civil Rights Movement. Mrs. Foster, a graduate of Fisk University and The University of Nebraska, was a social worker and a peace activist. Photo: The Abbott Sengstacke Family Papers/Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images.

When we weren’t discussing racial politics, or the myriad romantic differences and difficulties between men and women of all cultures, we picked out a couple of songs that we want play next Saturday. I’m really excited to give Fela Kuti’s “Gentleman” a go.

11:00 - I got back to my barrio at a relatively reasonable hour and decided to check my email before crashing. I got some great news: I’ve been accepted*** to the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education—woooo-hoooo! After doing a short victory lap around my house, I resisted the temptation to get on Facebook to announce the news to the world. Instead, I sent one simple email—no doubt, the Notorious D.A.D. should be the first to know... and now that he does, I’m happy to tell you too!

Pura Vida,


*"Take it easy" - the unofficial motto of life here on La Costa.
** For more info on exactly what we were talking about, check out this previous post about an interesting story from my family.
***I have until April to make my decision about Berkeley, which is definitely one of my top choices. In the meantime, I'm waiting to hear back from two more schools...


  1. Congrats on Cal! I will lobby, HARD, for you to go there (unless you get into that combo Stanford or Harvard program, in which case I totally understand, but not really).

    Great job!

  2. Congrats on living your life with purpose and ambition.

    My name is Gregory Scott Foster, son of Bishop Oliver Foster, whose father is Charles Ivy Foster, brother to Dr Luther Hilton Foster and Uncle Williard of Clover, Virginia ( Halifax). I am trying to get info on my great, great grandfater Oliver S. Foster and Mary E. Foster to build our family history. Do you have a family person who might help? Thanks!

  3. I understand that Vera Chandler Foster was a social worker at the Veterans Administration in Tuskegee. I have picture of Great, Great, Grandpa Oliver S. Foster, (1907) posing with Rev. Dr.James Solomen Russell founder of St Paul's College and Booker T. Washington.

    Classis stuff: They were debating how to educated the newly freed slaves. Trade or Liberal Art's??

    Hit me back: