When I graduated from high school I worked for a summer with the YMCA in Bogotá, Colombia. William Arrango, then a young YMCA staff person, picked me up from the Bogotá airport. That night, on the way to Camp Bochica, we drove through the gritty streets of Bogota. Along the way, I saw police chase a man in a white shirt. He gave up, raised his hands, and the policemen beat him with a club. We didn’t stop. Farther on, the engine hood of the pickup we were in popped open. William couldn’t see anything. He leaned on the horn and skidded to a stop in the middle of traffic. He reattached the hood and continued as if that was normal.
Bogotá is 8,500 feet above sea level and the overnight camp was much lower in the Andean mountains. William drove like he didn’t want to lose a second. As we sped down those dark roads I prayed that the hood wouldn’t open again. We arrived safely late that night and I couldn’t see anything of the camp. William put me in one of the cottages and pointed to the sink faucet. This was his advice about drinking that water. “Muerte primero.”
The next morning I awoke to green mountains, cows grazing on hillsides, and flowers and palms—even orchids—growing wild. Camp staff was at work cutting down wild grasses with machetes. Sometimes I saw tarantulas scurry across the basketball court. Later some of the groundskeepers killed and butchered a cow on the a cement slab we used for outdoor lunches.
Here are some pictures of what the camp looks like today, almost fifty years later.