The Colombians, Glen Eira, Part Three

“The taste was different for everything.”

An audio snippet from this interview with Colombianito: 

Let’s tell the readers a little bit about you. How old are you?

Nine years old.

I’ve spoken to your mother and father and I know that you have a sister. How old is she?

She is 2 ½.

Okay. So what grade are you in at school?

Three. Actually Three/Four. There are also year four students in the class.

So you are in grade three in a combined three/four class?

Yes.

So perhaps you could start by telling me, what’s a school day like for you? What time do you get up in the morning?

Eight thirty or eight and I get ready for school and then at nine school starts. We do Japanese so sometimes it’s a bit hard to understand but not normally. Sometimes we also learn English. Then we have brain boost. After that we continue and then we eat a snack for about 15 minutes and playtime. Then we have two hours of learning and sometimes it’s Sports. Depends what day it is. Then we have a lunch for 30 minutes and then we have half an hour playtime and then the bell goes. If it’s Wednesday night to Friday night I go home straight away because I have activities. On Wednesday I have tennis lessons, on Thursday I have a rockclimbing and on Friday I have swimming. So that’s normally what I do. Sometimes we have incursions and excursions. For instance, this Friday – yesterday – we made a cake as an incursion because we are doing a health topic. We made carrot cake.

Carrot. Okay. How did it taste?

It tasted good but it’s actually carrot and pineapple because there was also a bit of pineapple. I didn’t know what to expect.

Thank you for mentioning it because I was thinking, “What is an incursion?”, so that helped me. So when you get home on a normal school day, what do you do?

I do my homework. So on Monday I do 30 minutes of reading and then I do Japanese. So I have these tests. School send me 10 words to do at home and I have to practice them. So I practice each word five times a day and then I have a home test and when I get to school I have the school test. If I get eight words right, I pass. So I do that and then on Thursday I do maths because they send me maths. The same teacher that teaches Japanese is the teacher that teaches maths and she sends the homework together. Then I play about one hour on the tablet and watch TV and normally have my dinner and then I get ready and go to bed.

Tell me, what are your favourite parts of school?

Probably playtime and home time.

What are your least favourite parts of school?

Probably the maths.

So what do you do on Saturdays and Saturdays?

We have this thing where one week I go with my Dad and we do something and my sister does something with my Mum and then the next week we do something as a family. We have been to Scienceworks and the Immigration Museum. Since we have a membership it’s cheap. So this week I think I’m gonna go with my Mum and next week it is family time. That’s not the whole weekend though. We still have the afternoon. I might play on the tablet, the same thing as weekdays, and maybe if I haven’t done my homework I’ll finish it then.

What about Sundays?

Sundays, I go to church and at church I play with my friends, so I bring my tablet and we play with something and then, also in church time, they take us to Sunday club.

What’s Sunday club?

It is like a mini service for kids so we do fun stuff but still learn about God.

Anything else on Saturday or Sunday? Sounds like they’re pretty full.

We might catch up with friends in the afternoon on Sunday.

I was hearing from your Mum and Dad that you barrack for the Hawks.

Yes, last week we went to the game and we lost.

I’m sorry to hear that. …  So how old were you when your family came from Colombia?

I was turning five … around my birthday.

What do you remember about life in Colombia?

I remember that there were different types of food. I was used to the food over there. So when we came here and used the same pan and same cooking things and same oil the beef didn’t taste the same, because I think they feed the animals differently. The taste was different for everything. In Colombia, my grandparents owned shop so they would normally pick me up from school and take me to the shop and I’d have a snack. It was like a cafe sort of thing.

Colombiano:  It was a bakery. Here bakeries only sell bread but bakeries in Colombia make bread and sell the bread plus snacks plus coffee. It is like a coffee shop.

So, when you were having snacks, what were your favourite snacks?

In Colombia, the kids drink a lot of soft drink so I like a specific one called Kola Román but you don’t get it here. I miss that.

I’ll make sure I get the right spelling so we can advertise …

… the brand (smiling).

You can be its champion. What other foods do you remember from Colombia?

I also remember a soup, Ajiaco, that contains chicken, little bits – I’m not sure what they are called – three types of potato, sometimes cream. You have it with rice and put that in and have it with avocado. It also has corn.

What other things do you remember from Colombia?

I remember school was different in many ways. It was big. Since I was little, we couldn’t go running around everywhere. We had our own section. If you had gone running around everywhere when the bell goes you could be at the other side of the school and it might take you half an hour to walk to the other side.

So it was a big school.

It was and it had university, I think.

Colombiano: It went up to high school.

Colombianito: It was from kinder to high school and was a big one. It had performing arts on the other side of the school. There was a small glass area so you could do that. I don’t remember doing music that much.

I might check with your Dad if there any other stories you know about life in Colombia. Are there other stories that Colombianito might know about life in Colombia?

Colombiano: Do you remember life with family and cousins?

Colombianito: After the bakery, I went with my grandpa and grandpa to their house.  My aunt and my uncle live there together with my grandma and grandpa. So, this is about a three-bedroom home. The master bedroom had a toilet and there was one attached to the loungeroom. So, if one was occupied, there was the other one.

It is very convenient, when that happens. That sometimes that happens here in Australian houses but not in all houses.

So we’ve only had one bathroom houses. So the change wasn’t that big but still it was a change.

Tell me, what are some of the things that your Mum and Dad have told you about life in Colombia?

I remember when my Mum was little they were in something like Chadstone in Colombia  – a big shopping centre. They were affected by the FARC, they’re called. I’m not sure. I think it stopped and maybe it’s not that big. So they were doing a lot of bombing. So I remember my Mum saying there was a bomb while she was in the shopping centre and she had a chocolate ice cream and she had to drop it to concentrate.

Was that on running?

Yes, because they were running.

Well, that sounds like something important and scary that happened to her when she was small. What other things have your Mum and Dad told you?

The roads are different in Colombia and more rocky.

Is this what you remember?

Yes. Not all the roads are like the ones here that are planned and have got lines. In Colombia they are a bit more off-roadie so sometimes there will be holes in the roads or the footpaths, but mostly on the roads.

So thinking about when you first came to Australia, you told us about food being different. What were other things seemed really different when you came here?

I couldn’t understand anybody. I didn’t know English. So I went to the school I’m at now which is bi-lingual but since Japanese was more similar to Spanish I got the Japanese and I wasn’t getting any English. So they sent me to a school where they only teach English specifically. There was play but most of the time they were concentrating on learning English. So I went there for six months and I learnt English and then I came back to this bilingual school. So that was a change, when I went to English school and then came back, because I already knew the English then so the Japanese was a bit harder in some way because I was understanding the English.

What was it like to learn a new language?

In that school there were people from many countries. I remember I was friends with a boy from Korea, and another friend, I think he was from India. They were learning English as well. I was in the lower classroom and I was the prep. There were higher classrooms. I was friends with a man from Japan. So the school was multicultural.

So, beside the language, what other things do you remember that were very different when you came here.

In every suburb or in every street there’s a shopping centre nearby, so there’s like Coles or Woolworths. In Colombia, that wasn’t always that close and sometimes it would take a long while to go to the shop, sometimes, but sometimes it could be real close. I just remember there’s lots of workplaces. In Colombia, my Mum took two hours to go to work and my Dad also took, I think, an hour and a half, so the workplaces were are a bit further away than they normally are here because normally it takes a half an hour to get to work in Australia. Yes, people often live a little bit closer. Okay … So, that was also a change but it was a good change as I got to see my father. In Colombia I just remember with my dad … he worked … I only saw him in the morning and on the weekends. He would come home really late and start really early in the morning. Here he still starts early in the morning but he doesn’t come that late. So that’s also a good change. Not all the changes were bad.

I’m just checking with your Dad… Are there other stories about how things changed that you think Colombianito might know that he might be able to tell us?

Colombiano: I was thinking that the main change was the food and he has confirmed that today.

Are there things from Colombia that your family make here?

Arepa, these little round things that have cheese and butter, I think. I’m not that sure. My Mum knows how to make then but my Dad doesn’t know how to make them, but they still tasted little bit different.

So we have this chocolate drink in Colombia called Chocolisto, and since I was not eating that much food my doctor recommended medicine to add to the Chocolisto. I could taste it, so my parents cut down the medicine. I could still taste it so they kept cutting down the medicine.

Did the amount of medicine ever get so small you couldn’t tell?

Colombiano: No. We gave up.

Colombianito: This is because kids have a better sense of taste than adults.

Sometimes it can be hard for people who come here to find all the ingredients that they need to make things. Are there other things that it might be helpful for the reader to know about food in Colombia?

Colombiano: Yes. We used to have a lot of fruits: different types of fruits you don’t find here or if you find some of them they might be quite expensive. In terms of ingredients we might find almost everything but the food still tastes different even with the same ingredients.

Food is important.

Colombiano: We did spend some time with extended family; that was another the difference.

What do you miss about Colombia?

I miss my family but I don’t miss them that much because we normally talk to them and they have been coming sometimes.

What are some of the things you like about Melbourne?

In Colombia, we didn’t see many parks but here there are lots of parks and stuff you can do. I remember that in Colombia you had to hold an adults hand because it was a bit dangerous and someone might take you, so that’s kind of a change.

What don’t you like about Melbourne?

(Pause)

If something comes to mind, let me know. So if someone saw you out on the street or here in the library and they didn’t know you, what might they be surprised to know about you.

That I do sports, because I seem skinny. I do rock climbing and tennis and swimming

What’s your favourite?

Tennis.

What do you like about tennis?

I’ve been taught more so I like it more than the other sports.

How long have you been doing it for?

About two years, 2 1/2 years.

Is there anything else you think the person reading your story might like to know about you?

In Colombia, we don’t normally find coins. Here I find them close to the train station and I always check the machines. My friend he says Tuesday is his lucky day and he often finds one dollar on the ground near the station.

So where are you finding these coins? At the station or are they near the gate at the station?

Some people forget to take the change.

Okay. And your friend says Tuesday is his lucky day. I will have to check out my station.

Read the Spanish language version of this interview at the blog, De Colombia Hacia Australia (From Colombia to Australia), with our thanks to Colombiano for translation.

This interview is part of the This Is Us Australia project. If you are interested in taking part, please read our Project Description and use our Contact page or email us at thisisusaustralia at gmail.com.

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