Day 2 In Bogotá, Colombia

After eating breakfast in the morning, we hopped onto the tour bus and drove to La Candelaria, a historic neighborhood in downtown Bogotá. It is said that Colombia is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world, with 1,887 species of birds alone in the country. Besides for its bio-diversity, our tour guide explained that Colombia is also known for four major features— coffee, emeralds, flowers, beautiful women, and cocaine. The size of Bogotá, specifically, can be compared to that of New York or London, and is the one of the three largest cities in South America.

It rains in Bogotá 250 days of the year, so rainy season is practically year-long. During the 19th century in the 1800s, the British arrived in Bogotá to build railroads and neighborhoods, so the fact that so much architecture in the city is based around red brick is due to the English influence. Something interesting about the city is that it is divided by numbers, with each number representing the class of individuals who live there—1 being the lowest socioeconomic level of status and 6 being the highest. The city’s minimum wage comes out to $280 per month, and for apartments in the level 3 district for middle class citizens, apartments cost $290 per month.

The first site that we came across was Santuario Nacional de Nuestra Señora del Carmen, a beautiful church in the city that has become a staple, followed by a church from the 1600’s that survived the Civil War nearly 60 years ago. From there, we walked to Palacio de Nariño, or Nariño’s Palace—the official home and workplace of the President of Colombia. Antonio Nariño was the first person to translate human rights from French to Spanish. He had these rights printed on pamphlets and began passing them out, but was soon imprisoned for doing so. The palace sits on the same location where Nariño was born, and the President lives on third floor, while the rest of the palace contains important artifacts from the country’s history.

Outside the palace stood various military guards, and upon inquiring more information, we learned that one year of military training is mandatory for everyone upon graduating high school unless you have money to get yourself out of the requirement or unless you go directly to college.

As we continued walking, we came across balconies from hundreds of years ago that were influenced by the Arabians. The balconies were designed for the women of the house with the purpose being that the women could look outside, but no one could see inside.

We then saw the first observatory in all of South America that was built in the 1800s. It was meant to be taller than the Catholic Church but the architect was told if he followed through with his plan, he would have his head cut off.

The next sight was a cloister where firstborn girls were sent to spend the rest of the their lives. Their bodies would be painted when they died to preserve them. The second girl in the family would be married off to a wealthy lord, and the third daughter, or the youngest in the family would have to stay with their parents until they died, which some say is a different type of imprisonment as opposed to being sent to the cloister.

Following the cloister, we came across Plaza de Bolívar, named after President Simón Bolívar. The Plaza is home to the National Capital, the Palace of Justice, and the Cathedral of Bogotá.

As we continued walking, we spotted a building where President Simón Bolívar lived. He had a close female friend who often hosted parties and purposely invited various guests—some of whom were known to like the President, and others who openly voiced their dislike towards him. After getting the guests drunk, she approached them and asked what they thought of him. It was in this way that she found out about an attempt to kill him. She told Bolívar about this plan to kill him right before it happened, and he jumped out the window (pictured below) to escape and run while the people who planned to kill him were entering his house.

Across from this building is a theater built in 1793 but completed in 1800 which is very similar to the one in France, with the only difference being that this one is a little smaller. Shortly after seeing the theater, we came across a house where the Colombian version of Dr. Seuss was born, as well as the Red Cross building in Bogotá. From here, we took a tour of Fernando Botero’s museum, but that will be discussed separately in an upcoming post.

Misioneros Del Camino: The Opening of a Neurological Center

In 1986, Mami Leo answered a call from God to pack her belongings and move to Guatemala to help abandoned, abused, and malnourished children. With $2,700 raised by her and her prayer group, and faith that the Lord would guide her, Mami Leo devoted nearly thirty years of her life living in the mountains, nourishing, educating, and loving countless Guatemalan children in need. Throughout the past month, I have been discussion the incredible milestones that Misioneros Del Camino has accomplished thus far. As the story continues, we pick back up in 2006.

In 2006, a neurological center was established on site, providing care and numerous therapies to children with various neurological disorders such as autism, Down syndrome, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and many more. With a great team of certified therapists, psychologists, and doctors, hundreds of children are able to obtain the necessary treatments that they wouldn’t be able to receive anywhere else.

In addition to special education, various types of therapies are provided to the children at the neurological center including: speech, physical, psychological, occupational, and sensorial therapy. Neurological and psychological evaluations as well as parental and therapeutic training seminars are also provided so that the children can learn to overcome the obstacles faced with their neurological disorders to the best of their abilities.

As you can see in the video below, all it takes is determination and a dream to make a difference in someone else’s life, which is exactly what Mami Leo has been done for nearly thirty years.

Half Marathon Training Weeks 7 and 8

By the end of week 6, I noticed that my right ankle was hurting every time I put pressure on it. I took a few days off from running and began cycling instead. I was only able to run 9 miles throughout the week, which was less than I had run in just one day the week before. Nerves were beginning to course through my body, seeing as the race was only three weeks away. Normally I would never complain about being given an opportunity to take a break and relax, but this definitely wasn’t a good time for me to do so. Lucky for me, a week off from running was apparently all I needed, because when I ran for the first time during the beginning of week 8, I felt better than ever! I ran 28 miles throughout the week and completed my longest distance run of 11 miles without passing out. If you ask me, I’d say that’s a success. The young girl pictured below being carried on her mother’s back is Darlin. She is 4 yrs. old and has Cerebral Palsy. They live in a very poor village about 20 miles from the Neurological Center. To bring Darlin to therapy, her mother has to carry her daughter on her back to take a bus that leaves her about 5 kilometers from the Center, and then she walks the rest of the way with her daughter on her back. To return home she does this again. She has been doing this since 2011, to help her daughter. Darlin has made fantastic progress! She is starting to take her first steps and is saying a few words. Hers is a long road, but there is hope. A few short years ago she would not had any hope and no access to help. These are the people who Misioneros Del Camino are helping – children who would normally have no access to help and parents who love their children but are too poor or isolated to get help for them. Stories like that of Darlin and her incredible mother are what have been motivating me to train for this upcoming Sunday’s Half Marathon, and they are the reason why I continue returning to Guatemala year after year. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that more children like Darlin can be helped, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link.

Darlin and Her Mother

Darlin and Her Mother

Half Marathon Training Weeks 5 and 6

By this point, I’ve come to learn that there’s no point in dreading my daily runs. It’s something that has to be done, so I might as well learn to accept it and try to look forward to it. Okay, so that last part of looking forward to running was a little overboard unless I were to put a Twinkie or donut in front of the treadmill and try running towards that. But with these two weeks of training, I’m officially at the halfway mark of training, with only four weeks left until the half marathon! With the fifth and sixth weeks having concluded, I completed my longest distance run of 10 miles in one day and reached 27 miles throughout week 5 and 28 miles throughout week 6; which to put into perspective is 27 more miles than I even drive each week!

Meet Carlitos, pictured below. In May 2013, Carlitos being only 18 months old, was rescued by the authorities, when his mother was caught beating him. She beat him on a daily basis and would take him out to the yard, hose him down with cold water, then leave him in the sun all day. His skin was charred and scorched by the sun, and had bruises on his face and body, swollen by a form of malnutrition known as kwashiorkor, which, if not treated early, can cause developmental disorders, and death. Carlitos could barely stand, let alone walk. He is currently thriving and doing better than anyone could have expected.

Stories like that of Carlitos are why I am running in this week’s Miami Marathon, and why I continue returning to Guatemala year after year. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that we can help future children like Carlitos, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link.

Half Marathon Training Weeks 3 and 4

Going into my third week of training, I had received a generous amount of donations from friends and colleagues, but the donations seemed to have stopped coming in. Running was as boring as I imagined it would be, and no T.V. channel at the gym was able to make it more exciting. I was beginning to lose focus on the end goal, as feelings of doubt continued to arise.  I had to research something on the Internet for school one afternoon, and upon looking up scholarly articles for the assigned topic, I somehow came across the name of the woman who started the orphanage in Guatemala. I looked into the site and found a radio interview with her, which I listened to later that night when completing my daily run. The interview, which can be found at: really helped give me a motivational push to get back on track and realize that I wasn’t just running for myself, but for a cause bigger than me. And with that, I was able to complete my third week of running, in which I had run 23 miles, and by the end of the fourth week, I had run 24 miles.

Born and raised in Cuba, Leonor Portela moved to Miami where her husband served as an Air Force pilot. Three years later at the age of twenty-six, Leonor’s husband was flying for America in the Bay of Pigs, when his plane was shot down and crashed in the ocean. Years later, after hearing about the devastating 1976 earthquake in Guatemala, Leonor was moved to action and decided to assist in volunteer efforts abroad. She traveled to Guatemala to help out, and came back to the States in shock of the country’s destruction and the conditions that the children were living in. Having found her purpose of saving the children of Guatemala, it took ten years to find the financial help and support that Mami Leo needed, thanks to her prayer group.

In 1986, Leonor sold her home and moved to Guatemala with $2,700 raised by her prayer group, where she opened up a home for children, currently known as Misioneros Del Camino. Starting off with three children, Mami Leo, as she is affectionately known, began collecting donations to bring in more children. One of the first children was a two-year year old girl who weighed only 12 pounds, and had tuberculosis as well. Doctors swore that she would have no more than two weeks to live, but she is currently living in the United States as a straight-A student in school. One of the other children that Mami Leo took into her home had been dipped in scalding water by his parents, and had undergone other atrocious treatments by them as well. Mami Leo carried him, mute and lifeless in a harness for days, and on the fourth day as she put him to bed, he broke his silence and asked, “Por que me quieres?” which translates to “Why do you love me?” He now attends law school and returns to the home to help out whenever he can.

There are roughly 10,000 children living on the streets in Guatemala alone. Nearly 100 out of every 1,000 child will die of malnutrition and hunger. As Mami Leo exclaimed in the above interview, “It’s not only saving a child, giving them food and shelter; anybody can do that. But to give love, to make them citizens that are proud of themselves and not ashamed of where they come from, and become good Christians, I think that’s the job.” Throughout the years, Mami Leo has saved and cared for over 2,200 children and has provided interim care for thousands more. During her time in Guatemala thus far, she has provided educational, nutritional, and medical support to over 42,000 children in the country.

This is the reason that I am running in this week’s Miami Marathon, and the reason why I continue returning to Guatemala year after year. If you would like to help contribute to this incredible cause so that we can help fulfill Mami Leo’s mission, please feel free to click on the below link. And if you would like to learn more about Misioneros Del Camino, please feel free to clink on the bottom link.