Saturday, December 6, 2008
This is back at the park, in this section called the Bamboo Forest.
Ah, the pool at our hotel. So relaxing.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
This is inside my bathroom, it's apparently a steam room, but unfortunately, it doesn't work. I'm not sure it would be used though if it did work since it's 80+ degrees here everyday.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
This summer my dear friend Amy came and stayed with me the week before I was moving here. So, in the midst of trying to finish up two grad school classes, pack, get rid of furniture, sell a car, buy last minute stuff, see friends and family one last time, and all the other craziness that goes along with moving so far away...I had my own personal secretary, one who is really good at finding information on the internet. One of the things on my ridiculously long list of Things To Do Before I Move was to find out how to sign up for an absentee ballot in Chicago. What my secretary found for me was that I could either go down to City Hall one more time (I'd been there approximately 9 times the previous week) or just figure it all out after I moved. I decided on the latter, since I really didn't want to wait in any long lines again downtown.
It occured to me about a month and a half ago that I needed to figure this all out so that I could vote this year. I've been preaching to kids for years how we as citizens of the U.S. should not take our right to vote for granted...blah, blah, something about women in other countries not being able to vote, etc. So, you're darn right I was going to figure it out. Instead of grading papers one day at school during my prep time, I devoted the entire break to looking online to see how to do this. I wouldn't have been really worried at all, I've voted absentee before, but that was in another place where sending and receiving mail wasn't a problem.
According to the information I found, I could print out an absentee ballot registration form or I could've turned the same thing in before I left. Well, luckily my friend Stetson was going back to the States for a wedding that weekend, so he mailed a bunch of ballot requests in for all of us who were too lazy to do it before we came here.
About two and a half weeks later, I received the absentee ballot in the mail. I was super excited because I'd heard how unreliable the mail is here and I really didn't want to be a liar after all these years of teaching kids how important it is to vote. I voted and then gave the envelope to my other secretary (don't I sound important?) who is really the lone secretary for the entire elementary school. I asked her if she knew how to mail it to the States and she said she'd talk to the big boss about it.
About a week later, the envelope was returned to me with an apology that they couldn't mail it. This was about a week and a half ago. I quickly asked around and found out that you could mail things to the States from a place near the grocery store I go to a lot. A few of us were in the same boat with our ballots, so we all went there after school and found out that to get them there in time for yesterday, it would cost $70,000 pesos, about $40! We decided to not pay for it, it was just too much money, but then I remembered a parent meeting I'd had a few days before that. The parents told me they were taking their sons to Florida for some medical tests, but the kid in my class told me they were going to Disney World for his birthday. I don't really care which of those stories are true, I just saw a way to get our mail to the States.
I promptly went home and emailed the parents in my awfully broken Spanish and never heard back from them. The student in my class was in school the following Monday and I asked him if his parents had understood my email. He just kind of laughed (I'm assuming because of my horrible Spanish email) and said that he could. I made him repeat to me what he was taking and why it was so important that he not forget. By the way, of course this is the least responsible kid in my class with the messiest desk, cubby, and bookbag. That's why I went with him to his bookbag, made a joke about where he was putting it so he'd remember, and then watched him walk to the bus to make sure...what? was I afraid he'd get abducted or something. Well, I am in Colombia, so maybe my fears weren't SO ridiculous. He made it on the bus and got back to school yesterday. I immediately asked him if he'd remembered to mail our ballots. He again just kind of looked at me and smiled and said yes he had.
I realized yesterday and wrote on my facebook page that I entrusted my absentee ballot to a seven year old on his way to Disney World, and that is a fact. As I was watching the election results come in last night on CNN I was pretty amazed by the technology with the maps and comparing from years past, and especially by the woman they hollogrammed into the studio, Princess Leah style, from Grant Park. I wonder how we can have the ability to do all of that, but why I couldn't just vote online. Ughh, politics.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
As I was trying to buy more and more earrings, I kept turning around to find scary, painted men and women on stilts. It was pretty amazing to see them walk through the crowded streets without falling.
This art show was a few weeks ago and I went with some friends on a Saturday night. It was in Cali, just in a different part of the city where I feel like I'm in San Francisco sometimes. The roads are narrow and hilly, the houses are colorful, and the people-watching is some of the best I've seen.
Here's Tina...Stetson has no idea she's behind him.
Tina, Tara, and myself. I think Stetson bought these for us out of pity for the little boys selling them.
This is Pachito, the parrot who was outside our window at the hotel Sunday night. He was Stetson's new best buddy and kept us entertained with the few phrases he knew: "Hola," "quiero cocoa," and "Pachito."
Here's the courtyard in the middle of our hotel. The owners were so nice and the place was just charming as you can see.
A view from the streets of Santa Rosa.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I found it very interesting though that some of the students here were freaking out at first because they didn't realize they could take their bullet proof windowed cars. There are kids here that are taken to and from school in heavily guarded modes of transportation. It's all very interesting to me. It doesn't scare me, it doesn't make me nervous. We've been told over and over again that the FARC and other guerrilla groups are not out to kidnap American teachers, they may be out to get family members who have a lot of money though.
After all my complaining about not having the internet at home, we finally got it that same day last week. My own computer seems to be giving me some problems now, but my roommate lets me use hers, so I'm feeling better about that. Still updating my blog from work for some reason, maybe I'm avoiding all the work I have to do today.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
He was right though. I am freaking out because I'm unsure if the channels I have will be broadcasting the right baseball playoff games and I'm wondering every week what is going on with Iowa football. I was able to watch the Bears game this week, but I'm sure that might be the only one since it was a night game. But, what's really getting me, is the lack of good pizza. I can't even explain how much I'm craving something that resembles pizza from the States. I'd even be happy for a little frozen pizza at this point. Which leads to my next story of mistranslated information...
Last Friday night I went home, fought off a nap, and then decided that I didn't want to go out. All I really wanted was a pizza and to watch the presidential debate at home. So, I decided to take a little Spanish test and see if I could order a pizza over the phone. There's a Dominos here, so I thought it'd be the closest thing to normal pizza I could find. By the way, there are little pizza stands everywhere here and I've been trying them all out, but it's just not good pizza. For example, my choices last week were to get Hawaiian or meat, so I chose the meat. I ended up with all kinds of ham, sausage, and what looked like chopped up hot dogs on my pizza! I've found it very difficult to find anything without meat and I prefer veggies. Anyway, it took two and a half hours, but I did finally get my pizza. Basically, they had the wrong address and I wasn't sure how to call back and tell them that they never showed. Plus, I had to figure out if I was even hungry at that point, but I pressed on because I didn't want to fail the test. I'm pretty sure that when I did call back, my broken Spanish sounded something like this: "I called you and the pizza no came." To which the lady handed the phone over and yelled out, "Es la gringa" which means, "it's the gringa." I did get my pizza, and no, it was not very good, and there were many miscommunications with the delivery guy, but I did get pizza, so that is something to be proud of I guess. And, I did watch the debates.
Friday, September 26, 2008
My roommate Tina just called the Telmex guy who we've been dealing with, the one who doesn't seem to know anything and doesn't do his job very well. He's been saying for a week that someone is coming today (by the way we had a choice of either today or November 17th...I thought that was a joke, it wasn't) but Tina just called him and he seemed to not know anything about someone coming to install it today. Ridiculous.
Anyway, other than that ongoing annoyance, things are good here. The weather is still 85 and sunny everyday, which is just fantastic. The mountain views are gorgeous, did I mention that I can see them from my balcony at home? And the Spanish is coming along. I have my good days and my bad days with it, sometimes I'm right on and can understand everything and even think of words I'd like to say in response...and other days I don't understand a word and I can't seem to think of one word I've ever learned in Spanish.
This is the first weekend since I moved here that I don't have any obligatory meetings, workshops, or outings. So, I'm really excited about that. I've purposely been noncommital to any planmakers because that's just the way I am and also I am going to relish the time to do whatever it is I want to do this weekend.
There was one cute story from school this week, one that I can recall at the moment. This student came in and we were sitting in a circle in the classroom getting ready to do a community circle activity. Anyway, this kid has trouble remembering to raise his hand and he blurted out (as he was motioning that his stomach was very bloated) that he felt like he was "embarassed." There had been a bake sale that morning and the kids were all sugared up, so he was trying to say that he felt pregnant (embarazado). I had to explain that I've made the opposite mistake of saying I felt "embarazado" when really I meant embarassed. I wonder if there's any way to find the origin of those two words to see if they come from a common one? That would be interesting. Amy, why don't you get right on that, since you're my researcher for statues in Colombia.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I had my own experience with some parents about a week or two ago. I was invited to one of the girls' houses. She's new this year and the mom wanted to make sure she is making friends, so she invited all the girls to her house for a little after school party on a Friday. I also was invited. I wasn't sure if it was appropriate or not for me to go, but I decided that I came here to experience Colombia and that maybe this is a part of it. I took a taxi to her house because I played basketball that day after school. The house was a bit hard to find but absolutely beautiful. Very big, very open, and a huge back yard with a pool. The girls were swimming when I got there, so I talked with Paula's mom for awhile. She asked if I wanted some juice and one of her maids (yes, I said one of...she had three total) brought me a glass of juice on a tray. Not used to that! Then, after making perfume and cupcakes with the girls, a couple other moms stopped by and stayed to chat. One of them decided that she would call her driver/maid/nanny (?) to come drop off appetizers and a bottle of wine. So, I found myself drinking wine and talking American politics with three moms of my students. It was fun, but I felt a little out of place, especially when they started talking about how it was so important to do background checks on the people hired to work in the house such as the maids and nannies. We kept being catered to, which was the other strange part for me. Everytime I thought it might be a good time to go home, another glass of wine was poured and more snacks brought to the table. I ended up getting a ride home from one of the moms, which was so nice of her, but still so weird because my student was sitting in the back seat asking me what I was going to do for the rest of the weekend. The whole experience felt a bit bizarre, but also lovely at the same time. It feels nice to know the parents a bit, I'm not used to that as I mentioned.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Other than that, I feel like I've just been working a lot. My days here are kind of longer than I'm used to. Part of the problem is that for some reason my internal alarm clock keeps going off at 4:30 a.m. and I don't have to get up until 5:30 a.m. So, by the time I get home around 4ish, I'm fighting those afternoon naps like you wouldn't believe. So far, I'm winning.
Speaking of 4:30 a.m., I woke up last Saturday morning at that exact time and then was cursing my body, as usual, when all of a sudden I realized that my bed was shaking. It took me a minuted to realize that I had woken up in the midst of an earthquake. Not having experienced the earthquake that supposedly happened in Chicago a few months ago, I had no reference to what one would feel like, other than just reading about them. It only lasted about a minute, then all was calm again. I did confirm the next day with my colleagues (yes, I had to work on Saturday again) that it was in fact an earthquake. I guess I'll need to read up on what to do when there is one, because I'll be honest, my first thought was that it was just a little one and I was hoping it wouldn't last long since I needed my precious sleep. I guess I wasn't thinking very clearly. Good thing it really was only a little one. I guess they're not all that uncommon here.
Friday, September 12, 2008
This was actually a pretty good story this week. So, there's this guy Tom that helped us move in and has lived here for 18 years. He's in charge of helping the new teachers when they move here for the first year, among other things. So, he's been calling this guy from Telmex (the internet/cable provider) every day for the past month, asking him when the other contract from the previous tenant can be cancelled and ours can begin. He's been told every time that it should be another 2-3 days. So, he asked the guy this week if there was any way to make this go a little faster. The guy told him to go talk to the people at the Telmex office across the street. So, after school on Tuesday, Tom, my roommate Tara, and I went to these offices. We walked in and the security guy and lady at the front desk told Tom that we couldn't speak to anyone about our situation, that it was only corporate offices there. The lady was pretty rude, so Tom told her that she should work on her dealings with the public and then turned around and was swearing in English all the way out. That's the way Tom is. He's loud. That's also why Tara and I decided to ask for his help. So, they sent us to this other tiny office in some neighborhood about 10 minutes away. This "office" was off a main street, had bars in front, and a few ladies working inside. No doors, by the way, you have to talk to people through the prison-like bars. So, Tom relayed our story to this lady, who said that nothing like this had ever happened before and that the original guy who signed us up wasn't doing his job. We put the two of them on the phone together to see if they could figure it out because didn't our teachers always tell us that "two heads are better than one?" Well, not in this case. The woman basically put the ball back in the original incompetent guy's hands...and he told us, yes, you guessed it, to wait 2-3 more days. When we asked for her number so that we could call her for the status of our account, she told us that she didn't have a work phone number, even thought there was a phone in plain sight right next to her on her desk. Strange. So, we went back to the original idiot and tried to see if he would tell us something different if perhaps it was in person. Tom, who towers over this man, still only got our standard reply. The best part of the whole debacle was that when Tom asked the guy if he could change one thing on his own Telmex account, the guy was more than willing to help him out. So, he directed Tom over to this phone hooked up to the kiosk and when Tom picked up the receiver, it was unplugged and the guy was scrambling to plug it in. So, the TELmex company seems to have a bit of an issue getting phones hooked up for it's employees, which is probably part of the reason why we still don't have the internet or cable.
I'm not sure what I learned from this, but I just keep hearing what Tom is always saying to the new teachers, "I'm amazed anything in Colombia works."
Although I still don't have the internet or real cable at home, I do have CNN, so that's at least something. Something I never thought I'd be excited about, but still something.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
Saturday, during the day, the parent association here, invited all the new teachers to a place called Nirvana. It's about an hour drive, north of Cali, and it's a huge environmental haven, where we went on a 2 1/2 hour hike up a mountain, in awe of all the cool looking trees, flowers, and plants. We saw some animals too, some horses, a caterpillar as big as my foot, and some really cool rainforest looking birds. It was really beautiful, I took a bunch of pictures, that I'll have to add later.
Saturday night I went salsa dancing for the first time here. I remember learning the basic steps in Puerto Rico, but it seems that it's just like my Spanish ability...if you don't use it, you lose it. Luckily, I didn't dance, there was a band, so it was more of just watching the band perform and watching other people dance. It was a really fun atmosphere though, oh yeah, and the place was called Blues Brothers, which was odd. There were murals of John Belushi on the walls and other pictures up of B.B. King and I can't remember who else. It made me feel like I was in the States again, but just listening to salsa music.
Yesterday, I didn't do much of anything, slept in and then went grocery shopping. Part of our pay is given to us with these food coupons that we can use at the grocery store for anything, food, TVs, or you can even use them at certain restaurants. They make me feel like I have food stamps, I don't really understand the whole concept of them, they're just like cash, so why do they use them? I haven't figured it out yet. The only problem is that if you use the big amount coupons, the cashier can't give you cash back, so I had about $4 in change owed to me, and had to buy about 2 packs of gum and 4 packs of Halls to try to reach the exact amount.
The kids at school have calmed down quite a bit. I think I forgot to mention that the first couple hours I had 2 boys who every time we lined up, were punching each other in the balls. I talked to them very sternly and basically told them that they could really get hurt doing that (not to mention give up the chance of having kids someday...I didn't mention that part), but every time I turned around, they were at it again. Well, so far so good today, no ball punchers, and they're even getting the hang of listening to their teacher! I guess I'm making progress. Hope you're all doing well.
Friday, August 22, 2008
The second graders started school this Wednesday, and boy was it different than I expected. First of all, let me say that they are quite possibly the most beautiful children I've ever seen. But, they also have the least amount of listening skills and just school training in general that I've ever had the pleasure of dealing with. I've never taught this age before, and what really made me nervous about it all was not if I could teach them, because I knew I could, but if I could train them. I didn't realize that I would have to literally train them how to sit down at a desk! I had to do that yesterday. I didn't realize that they wouldn't know when it was appropriate or not to speak in class. I feel like I'm teaching giant preschoolers sometimes.
It seems that anything goes as far as talking. I'm still getting used to this cultural difference of speaking (really loudly) whenever they want to, no matter who else is already speaking. It sounds silly, and I didn't believe it myself, but I was definitely warned about this by, well, everyone. I kept thinking, "how bad can it be? They're just kids, like anywhere else?" But, where do you start when it's a cultural difference to talk over people and it's a class difference to talk over teachers, who may be seen as equivalent to the nanny at home? I'm figuring it out at this point (day three with the kids), but I think that this year is going to take every inch of patience that I have left after ten years of teaching.
I don't mean to sound complainy though, I'm actually enjoying the challenge, it's just very different.
Now, let me tell you all about the parents because this was really different for me as well. The parents all dropped off their children the first day and then were invited to stay for a quick assembly for all of the primary grades. The parents of my students greeted me with kisses on the cheek, hugs, offers to help with bulletin boards, and their cell phone numbers. I had a grandmother give me her cell phone number just in case I want her to come in and help with any photography, since that's a hobby of hers. It was amazing really, the amount of parent involvement right from day one. The only down side was that they didn't leave! I think some parents were lurking around the school all day, just waiting to catch a glimpse of their kid somehow. I think I was interrupted in my classroom about 20 times, all before lunch, all for unnecessary, unimportant reasons. It's hard to keep control of a bunch of noisy second graders, when parents just wander into the room throughout the day to say hi. But, that seems to have subsided since the first day.
What else is going on, so I had a really bad bug day yesterday. We had a cockroach in our kitchen in the morning, so I had to Raid it to death, sorry little buddy. I didn't really feel bad, though, I must be honest. It was upside down, stuck on its back, which made me wonder, how does a cockroach get stuck like that? Was it running across the floor too fast and all of a sudden it did a running flip, but never made it all the way around? Then, I got to school, removed a pocket chart hanging on a bulletin board, which revealed the biggest spider I've ever seen...as big as my hand. That's right, take a look at your hand and imagine a big black, hairy spider, with cool little yellow stripes. Not ugly to look at, but not fun when it's right next to the calendar which you have to use in 20 minutes with a bunch of kids. So, I went to get Marco, the only male on the second grade team, and he was about to get it into a cup and put it outside, when it crawled behind the bulletin board! For all I know, it's still there. Calendar time yesterday and today was the fastest I've ever done it, about 2 minutes long. I'm sure it's more afraid of me than I am of it, but still, that thing was huge! Then, I had lunch duty which I specifically wore long pants for, but my poor, uncovered feet got eaten so badly by all the tiny grass bugs here. My legs and feet are so bad right now that I'm embarrassed to wear skirts or shorts. I took pictures last night, so as soon as I get the internet at home and can upload those, I'll show you how much the bugs here are in love with me.
Again, I feel like I sound like I'm complaining. It's all just very different and I like to keep track of the funny and the annoying parts, so that I can remember it all. I will end on a much more positive note though and tell you that I successfully deposited a check into my new bank account yesterday, which is no small feat here. I'll be more specific next time, I have to get back to my job.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
One of the main fareways to get around campus. These symbols were donated awhile back to represent all the entities who work together to make the school run like the parents, teachers, administrators, community, etc.
This is the side view of my classroom. As you can see, the fresh air will be abundant.
This is the back of my classroom.
Yes, I'm teaching second grade...it should be very interesting.