Goodbye Buca

Nostalgia. The dominant feeling of the moment is nostalgia. Yesterday I said goodbye to people who I have known for only 10 days. Some of them will be friends forever, some I will see again one year and others not.

A number of things stood out when I look back at the trip overall. These include;

Sharing a small hotel room with two others has some drawbacks (think snoring, three women – one shower, sheer quantity of stuff laying around) but it makes for solid strong fast friendships. Some of the conversations we shared as women, storytellers and travellers will feed me for years.

Sharing the one hotel and common room with storytellers from around the world meant we ate together, were scheduled to travel to gigs, near and far together and secure a bond aided by mishaps and successes. Some of the conversations I will hold close for a long time include;

In what language do you think?

In what language do you dream?

In what language do you love?

What is the place of humour in our work?

And offcourse what array of regional swear words can we teach the foreigners?

The spontaneous music and song that floated through the garden and hotel rooms. The sound of a voice ringing out in joy and pain according to the songs lyrics.

The children, who hugged, kissed and gave me gifts. The smiles on the faces of the audience and staff. The love and attention they paid to the stories.

The loving smiles and assistance of all the workers. What a joy they were. Also the magic of receiving the photos from Nelson (photographer). I hardly knew he was there but he has a magic eye and a gift for performance photography.

Being invited into peoples houses for a meal, for a walk, to just share some time together. Having a conversation over lunch and having the chance to learn more about the family life was very special.

Time moves on and now I am in Cuzco. Ill keep you informed but first impressions are just fantastic. This is going to be good.

(NB: This is a bit late and no photos as the connection here is not so strong. I have plenty of photos on facebook if your interested – Lillian RodriguesPang)


There are times in your life that contain magic, and words cannot transfer the sentiment or heart felt experience to another. This was my experience of Zapatoca. From the moment the transport arrived I knew this trip held something special.

Two artists one assistant, one driver, one old lady, and loads of packages squeezed into a sedan filling the interior, the roof top and the boot. Over the following two hours we left the city limits and embarked on some spectacular mountain passes. I love the way the scenery changes, in particular the dogs. From the pampered pooch in the city, to the household pet who is out on the suburban streets, to the street dog surviving by its whits in the countryside. For me they serve as an allegory for the wealth, density and access of a region.

Bucaramanga is in the Santander province of Colombia. According to Wikipedia it is the fifth largest economy in Colombia, and has the sixth largest population in country, (1,212,656 people in the metro area alone). It has the nickname of the ‘City of Parks” it is very green and it does not feel like a rushed or busy city. On this day we travelled to Zapatoca, which is to the northeast and at altitude.


It was built in the early 17th century by the Spanish conquistadors. It remains preserved by strict building regulations. More so, it remains preserved by the residents pride and tenderness. There are living flowerpots on the external walls of the houses and shops. The town is clean beyond belief. The church is spectacular with carved wooden doors and holding a position of pride at the top of a hill and in front of the central square where everyone congregates.


Most striking is the warmth of the people. All the people. I have to say that this show was performed to some of the sweetest teenagers I have ever met. Ofcourse some came to see the curious foreigner, to help, to be close, others hung back. When it came to participating, sharing and enjoying stories all were in it together – teens, parents and children. They stayed back to talk, to touch the puppets and to spend time. They laughed, hugged and joked freely and made me feel relaxed and happy to be here. At the end of my time here my only thought was; “This is a place I could live.”


There are numerous little towns in this world and I feel privileged to have visited this one as a storyteller, to be received with warmth and to be continuing my adventures.


Ok lets be honest, my first day/night here I was a bit of a sook. I felt inferior as the only real non-Spanish speaker and I doubted my ability to pull this off.  A good night sleep and contact with my family helped me to return to a much healthier perspective (thank goodness).

Events of the past two days that make my heart beat deeper, slower and feel fulfilled.


Someone else cooks me breakfast everyday. For a mother of three this is, in its own right, a holiday. Not only that its eggs and arepa (tortilla). I am one happy girl.

Family audiences

I have now done two families shows in the park. The kids, parents and grandparents are ridiculously warm, accepting and gracious. I am telling in Spanish (no translator) and they help with words when they can. They get involved in the songs, they accompany me in the story repetition. The sharing and connection is simply amazing.


My language

I am telling in Spanish – well Spanglish and LOVING it. I am enjoying it as a challenge that both scares and excites me, prior to each event. The sense of satisfaction when I have finished a show is deep.

The festival community

There is easy and immediate warmth between the storytellers and the organisers/workers here at the festival. From day one I have felt friendships begin and grow. There is a lot of music, laughter and warmth. One of my roommates has lent me a dress to wear as it’s too hot for jeans. Another plays guitar or mandolin for us all while we eat or chat. We walk together, travel together and support each other. The organisers and the people who transport us, make sure the tent is set up, the sound, bring water, take us for coffee, etc, etc. They are tired, working very hard and always incredibly kind, smiling and personable. It’s this community they have created nurtures and inspires me personally and in my creative ventures.


Rediscovering my nature

And finally the most important. This is hard to explain but I am a touchy feely person by nature. It is something that I have to suppress, as most Australians are not comfortable with it. Here all people are touchy feely, men, women, children. It is great. I can feel myself loosening up and responding from my heart as every minute passes. I had not realised how much I hold back.


Bucaramanga, Colombia

Whilst travel offers many moments of magic it also creates challenges that test your perception of self. This has been my ‘arrival’ experience.

My flight from Buenos Aires to Bogota went very well. I had four seats to stretch out on and I slept soundly. Bogota was my entry into the country of stay so the place where I face customs. Well, the place I would have faced customs, if I received any bags. Yep, the lost bag scenario.

Speaking in Spanish is a challenge for me. One that I love. Filling out official forms and dealing with organisations is also a challenge. One that I do not love. Put them together on top of 27 hours of transit … Well lets call it a lesson in the art of acceptance.

On to Bucaramanga. with no bag. That’s no clothes to change into, no shampoo, no musical instruments and worst of all, no puppets and I have to get on stage in three hours. By this time I have had 36 hours in transit in total and only a few moments of sleep. 

Needless to say I go to the hotel, meet my room mates and have myself a ‘princess moment’. I mean, really, right now I would like a room of my own to have a personal breakdown in. I want to Skype my family who I am missing and I want to shower and have clothes to change into and id like to lay down on a big bed and have a siesta.

Instead I am given a festival shirt, change and to the shops with me. Now truth be known, I hate shopping malls. Give me a market any day, things that are hand made, crafted, where you meet and buy from those that care. Shopping mall hell armed with a coffee ensues as I buy underwear, toiletries and look for something to wear that night on stage. I am taller than most Colombians and flatter than ALL Colombianas. There were no clothes. A new shirt and same old jeans and to the theatre with me.

I am fourth on the list and have not done a sound check but there is no time for that. I have not eaten but there is no time for that. The theatre is packed. Absolutely packed with lovely warm, welcoming people. I take my spot when the time comes and my interpreter doesn’t. I present my first story in Colombia to a totally Spanish speaking audience in my Spanglish. And the main thing I can think is “Why didn’t I study harder before I came?!”

So here’s to all the bilingual, trilingual and amazing linguists of the world. I salute you. When I get home I promise to study harder.