Friday, August 29, 2008

A link to civilization

Yesterday, I decided I'd had enough of not being connected to the outside world from home, and my roommate Tara and I went to the superstore here, La 14, and bought a TV, a TV stand, and a DVD player. This story gets a little more interesting I promise. The idea was to buy these items, go upstairs to meet some friends for dinner, then get a mani/pedi, which only costs $15 by the way. The way electronics work here is you tell the salesperson what you would like, they take it out of the box, plug it in to make sure that it works, and then they repackage it all. As they were testing the TV, I decided we probably needed a DVD player as well, so the saleslady told me all about this one that was on sale. I decided to go for it, not really looking at the box, even though I hadn't entirely understood all the bells and whistles that were explained to me. As they were testing the DVD player, they also took out of the box two microphones. So, I guess I just bought a DVD/karaoke machine! Bonus. I haven't hooked it up yet, but it was another language barrier moment that was awesome. So, we left our purchases downstairs and went to meet up for dinner. Tara and I decided to split what we thought was a salad/appetizer/fried plantain thing that we saw the chef making. What we didn't realized when we got the food, was that it was a plate with a piece of lettuce on the bottom, deceiving tomatoes around the sides, and plantains on the top. The inside was a monstrous pile of different kinds of meat. So, it was essentially a meat salad of some sort. It was good, but way too much for even 2 of us. The best part is that, we had also ordered 2 pinchos de pollo, which I thought was just chicken on a skewer. The waitress then brought out the pincho de pollo, another side salad, and a potato...for each of us. It was the most food I've ever ordered, ever. The waitress brought it out, struggled to find room on the table for all of it, then must have looked at our horrified faces, then said to us, "para llevar?" which means "to go?" Of course we said "si." So, now we had a huge bag of more meat with us, but we decided to get our nails done anyway. This all seemed like a great idea at the time. I basically felt like I had to do it last night, because we have the second grade Open House with the parents tomorrow morning (yes, a Saturday) and I'd heard that the parents are kind of into making sure you're well-groomed, that it's a bit more important here than what I'm used to. So, after getting my nails done, I took the bag of leftover meat, went back downstairs, paid for our TV, TV stand, and DVD/karaoke machine and left to hop in a cab home. The next part is just ridiculous. The TV of course did not fit in the trunk or the back of the cab, so we decided to take it out of the box. The only problem was, we had just gotten our nails done and they didn't have those little dryers, so they were still wet, mine were at least. Luckily, everyone around us came to help out, the cab driver, another cab driver, the workers at La 14, and even someone just passing by. I told my roommate that I felt like such a princess, having everyone do all of this for us...untape the box, take out the TV, unpack it, take off the plastic, break down the box, load it all into the cab, etc. It was pretty ridiculous. I'd love to know what these helpful people were all thinking about Tara and I. So, tonight I'll be setting up all my new stuff, although it's not that exciting because we STILL don't have the internet or cable or any real link to civilization at home. That's why I'm writing you all from work right now. Way to use my time wisely, I know.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Plastic Surgery

In Cali, plastic surgery is a part of life apparently. There are many, many women walking around with huge knockers and even butt implants, ala J. Lo, although supposedly hers is real. There is also this nose I keep seeing everywhere, it's a cute nose, but it goes up a little on the end, kind of like Nicole Kidman's I think. There is also a very strange attitude about it all, well, strange to me. It's completely normal and even a status symbol of some sort. It's very common to see taped up boobs, even with the high school kids here I've heard. It's also very normal to see a taped nose. Yesterday, one of my second grade girls took a sticker from her notebook, and put it on her nose, like it was taped up after a nose job. It was a bit shocking, but I guess it's just part of life here. I don't think I'll be getting any plastic surgery while I'm here, but I may get my teeth whitened. I've heard that getting lasik on the eyes is cheaper here too than in the States, so maybe I'll look into that.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My first weekend out

As I finally felt better and was able to socialize this weekend, I realized that I love Colombia so far! Friday after school was the annual "we're finished with the first week of school" staff party, which was supposed to be at our boss' house (on campus), but since it rained a lot, it was moved to the cafeteria. There was free beer, appetizers, and very loud music. It was fun, but also kind of strange to be drinking where your students were eating lunch a couple hours beforehand. After that, some of us went to this teacher's apartment, Mac is his name. We continued to drink and hang out. The girls ended up dancing in the living room to Madonna songs while the guys sat outside and drank together. It was all very middle school of us. Then, since we had skipped dinner, Mac who has lived here for 6 years I think, took us to this place to eat called Segundo's. It's basically a big huge grill and you can order whatever kind of meat you want, I had baby beef, it was delicious. I'm glad I'm not a vegetarian, it would be next to impossible to eat here. (Bethie, if you're reading this, you would hate it.)

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 First Week of School

I'm finally feeling a little bit better. I still have a nasty cough, but the antibiotics the doctor prescribed seemed to have taken care of the flu-like symptoms. It was not a very fun weekend (the last one). I tried to just sleep it off, it didn't work. I had no energy to do anything, which is really a challenge when you don't have a television, or the internet to keep your mind occupied. I have nothing against reading of course, but even that started to get a bit old, because that was my only option. So, it's good to be feeling normal again.

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 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

Pictures of School

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.
Here's the front of my classroom. It looks more like a classroom now that I've been putting up beautiful bulletin boards.
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.

These flowers outline the administrators offices.
Yes, I'm teaching second should be very interesting.

Here's one of the many walkways leading to the various parts of the campus at school.
This is the huge mango tree steps away from where I teach and also where I will wait for the bus to take me home each day.

2 down, 9 to go

Well, I guess it's pretty common to get sick when you move to another country. I was told not to drink the water, but I think that the virus I have (nothing major, just feeling achey and have a low fever) was due to one of my favorite things about Colombia...the kiss hello. As the newbies we've met so many new teachers everyday and it's customary to kiss hello,an air kiss, but still that's a lot of handshakes and kisses in the last few days. It's hard to get comfortable when the weather is so warm here. Walking around with a 100 degree temperature when it's 87ish outside is not so pleasant after all. Oh well, at least I'm getting fresh air everyday. Coming soon, I'll post some pictures of my classroom which only has three walls! I have a beautiful view of trees and mountains outside everday. This is quite an improvement from teaching ESL in the dungeon last year, no windows, no fresh air. I'm all about extremes I guess.

I'm the second out of 11 new teachers to get sick. This guy Rob had a bacterial infection and missed yesterday at work. He's back though. I asked him what he did, and he said his wife called Tom, our new teacher guide that helped us shop and find apartments, and he called the pharmacy, ordered an antibiotic, then the pharmacy delivered it to their apartment! I almost wish I was really sick so that I could experience that, I'm so impressed with the health care here so far. Speaking of health care, we have a doctor on campus at school. So, I just popped down to his office a few minutes ago and he's the one who diagnosed me and took my temperature. I had to have him convert my temperature from Celcius to Farenheit, well, because I must have missed that day in math. He was funny, he downloaded it and put it on his desktop. I guess he may be expecting a few more of us new guys in his office in the near future.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Finally, a few pictures

An extremely old, old church.
If I recall correctly, this is Simon Bolivar, although at this point in the city tour I was feeling like a tourist and I guess I started to take pictures but not really listen to our guide, which is Tom from school, who tells you things that are half true anyway. There's a story behind the pointing, something about pointing toward the big, giant Jesus to blame him for something...that's all I got.

Here's a group picture in front of El Cristo Rey (the big, giant Jesus) I'll bet you can find me with the palest whitest legs of the entire group can't you? From the left, it's Scott, Tara (roommate), Kate and Jeremy, Lyndi and Rob, Caleb and Angie, Ben and Laura Elena, and myself.

Here's a view of Cali from up in the mountains. I couldn't tell you where I live, except to the South, which would be to the right side of the picture if you're directionally challenged like me.

Here's an upclose picture of him, it's really pretty when it's lit up at night and you look toward the mountain range to the West.

This is a picture from our city tour last week. We were headed up a mountain to see the big, giant Jesus statue. (Cristo Rey)

The bug situation

I have been mentioning all the great things about Colombia so far, but I feel the need to mention one slight problem, which I dealt with in Puerto Rico, but had blocked out of my memory I guess...the bugs. Right now, I have about 10 mosquito bites on each leg, mostly at the ankle and knee. I scratched one so much yesterday that it bled, ew. I have been using my Deep Woods Off with Deet religiously, but it doesn't seem to keep them away. I think I'm getting the majority of them at school. Although last night, I kept waking up to a mosquito buzzing in my ear! Not only that, because I can get used to it, but the spiders and cucarachas are prevalent too. Yesterday, I was pulling out a textbook from the closet at school and a cockroach ran out. I guess they fly here like they did in PR. This one only ran away, hasn't gotten it's wings yet. But, on the upside, there is a place called Monkey Island here where I can swing in a hammock all day and hang with the monkeys! Haven't been there of course, but as soon as I go, I'll let you all know of course.

What else, we tried to get internet for our computers at home last night, but when we went to sign up they told us that the guy who lived there before cancelled his but the paperwork never went through. This seems to be a recurring problem here...things take FOREVER!

Ok, well I'm off to another new teacher meeting. Thanks for the comments! Oh, and Amy, I checked for Don Q Limon yesterday and they didn't have it. I'll keep looking though.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I have a home now.

I live in this neighborhood called El Ingenio, it's nice, there is a basketball court right next door and this mansion of a house that looks like it may have belonged to Scarface at some point. Down the street there is a bakery, a pizza place, and a burger place. Oh yeah, and right across the street is a place to get my nails done, it costs approximately $7.00 to get a manicure and pedicure here! I'm looking forward to my new life of luxury. We also had our maid come this morning and she will be doing all our laundry from the past 2 weeks of living out of suitcases, making copies of keys for us, cooking dinner, and oh yes, cleaning! I don't understand what it's like to have someone do all that for me, in fact, it felt really weird when Tina, my roommate who has lived here for a year already, asked Patricia, the maid, to do all that today! We left her money of course, but still, it seems obnoxious to have someone do things for me that I'm perfectly capable of doing myself. I'm pretty sure I can get used to it though. Oh, and just so I don't sound like a completely spoiled American, we do continue to pay her over the summer months and we also pay for her insurance.

I woke up this morning to the sound of birds chirping and a sunrise which gave me a view of the mountains to the east here, which you can't normally see very often. They are usually blocked by clouds. It was divine. I was too engrossed to grab my camera unfortunately, but hopefully there will be many mornings like today.

I've been working in my classroom and attending meetings all day today. It seems pretty laid back here as far as teaching goes. I have a really fun second grade team. Two teacher, Marco and Kate, are both from Canada. Then, Anita is from Medellin. Everyone here is so friendly and nice and willing to help out, it seems like it'll be a fun atmosphere to teach in. Oh, and did I mention that I will only have 17 students this year? That seems like half a class to me, so I'm really looking forward to that.

After school, I'm going to the equivalent of a Walmart (minus all the lawsuits) called La 14 (La Catorce) where I can buy things for my bathroom, kitchen, room, etc. I'm hoping to get my internet at home set up soon also, possibly this week. I've been told that when Colombians say this week, it can mean any week in the next month or so. Needless to say, I'm not exactly counting on it. I still don't have a working cell phone or hot water at my apartment, but how can I complain when all my clothes will be clean when I get home?

Monday, August 11, 2008

I´m homeless!

Well, supposedly, I move into my new new apartment after work today. The awesome place with the bar turned out to be not so awesome when 2 of the bathrooms flooded and the place reaked of mold, enough to give me a headache. So, luckily, we got out of the lease and we found another place on Saturday. Our new friend Regan (that´s her first name) let us stay in her extra room this weekend, us being myself and Tara, my new roommate and friend. So, all my stuff is just sitting on a school bus parked here at school. It´s pretty much been a nightmare, but at least we found a place. It´s really huge, still 4 bedrooms, this one has 3 full bathrooms and lots of space, 2 floors. The only problem I can tell is that the kitchen is my least favorite color in the world, pink. Good thing I don´t really cook.

Saturday night I went out for the first time here. We went to this place called El Faro, an open air bar blasting rock en ingles y en espaƱol. They were playing a little Guns N Roses and a little Manu Chau, it was a perfect escape from the nightmare we had finding a new apartment all day. They have this drink here, that taste like Ouzo to me, called Augardiente (firewater), it´s terrible. But, Regan ordered an entire bottle of it Saturday night and the group just kept doing shots. I don´t do so well with shots so I only had 2 or 3, but apparently that was our initiation that night.

I started setting up my classroom today. Things are a bit scarce, but I´m pretty resourceful and everyone is so helpful and warm, it doesn´t seem so bad.

I´m supposed to be getting my boxes this week that I shipped down, I hope so because all my school stuff is in those. I also need the clothes and shoes that I shipped. We are supposedly getting our cell phones working by tomorrow, I hope so because I´ve felt pretty out of touch lately.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I've been here for exactly a week

Wow! It's only been a week. I'm starting to feel like this hotel Radisson is my home. In fact, when I was just walking through the lobby, the same exact song was playing as when I arrived at pretty much this same time last Thursday night...Aerosmith, that one from that Summer blockbuster movie I never saw. We've all been making fun of the music from the lobby, the other day it was Culture Club and then I heard a Huey Lewis and the News hit. Some of the 23 year olds I'm working with don't even know these songs. That's when I feel old.

So, I just went to my first movie in Colombia, at a Cine Colombia. When you buy your tickets, which are only 10,000 pesos, which is about $5, you pick your seats from a chart. You can pay a little extra for first class tickets, which we did, because why not. But, I'm not sure what the difference is between first class and not first class. There were a few other differences at the theater. There is this "wall of pop." The wall has a coke machine, then a pepsi machine, then a coke, then a pepsi, and so on for the entire wall. The either/or business of the states apparently doesn't apply here. There are all kinds of different pops here too, like manzana (apple) flavored and other fruit flavored sodas. Here I go, talking up the fruit again. It's just so good here. I can get an avocado for like 30 cents here, I believe they were up to about $3.00 right before I left. They're huge too. We haven't been grocery shopping yet, but I'm so excited to go this weekend. This should be my last night at the Radisson, tomorrow I have to go to school and meet with safety guys and then hopefully sign up for internet and cell phones. After that, more shopping for stuff we need for our apartments. I think we get to move in tomorrow, as long as all the paperwork is finished. It'll be weird to have my own room again. Looking forward to it though. Also, I get to meet the third roommate, Tina, tomorrow. Tara and I have been sharing a hotel room since Miami (last Tuesday), so we've gotten to know each other pretty quickly. Miss everyone at home, hope you're all well.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wednesday, August 6th

So, yesterday I went out to eat some dinner at this place called Checkers, which is kind of the equivalent of a Chili's or a typical chain restaurant, but without a bloomin' onion. I was surprised though at the massive portions we've been served so far. I could split every meal three ways it seems. Anyway, I ordered a water and then the guy said, "Con glass, or sin glass" which I thought was weird that he was asking me if I wanted a glass and also weird that he was using English words. I said that I wanted one. He brought back my bottle of water and glass and I poured it and was talking to Tara, my new roommate, and was completely surprised when I tasted was agua con gas, not glass. I had ordered a mineral water. Oops, I guess I'll just keep making these language mistakes until I become more fluent. I also had not a clue the other day when the maid knocked on our hotel room door around 4:30 p.m. She said something really fast and all I heard was cortinas (curtains). I thought maybe something was wrong with them, so I asked her to slow down please and repeat it, but she just smiled and said the same thing very quickly. I still only heard cortinas. So, I smiled and said, "sure." She then came in and closed the curtains for us, put candies on our beds, and checked to see if we had enough towels. It's all a learning experience so far.

Today we went to school and met with our principals and he gave us the low down on what we need to know for school. Then, we met with insurance people and I'm so happy to know that I will be paying nothing for my insurance each month except any copay and that I am insured both here and internationally. I also have the option to get emergency service in which you just call an ambulance and the doctor will come to you and give you what you need. It only costs a copay amount for that by the way, which is SO different from the health care I'm used to! Next, Tom, our tour guide, took us to the bank so we could sign a bunch of papers to open up savings accounts. He told us that you're not allowed to use cell phones in the bank because they used to have guys that would watch someone take a big amount out of their accounts and then would call their buddy down the street who would then rob you. Stories like that are a bit unsettling, but again, I think that if you are smart about it all, then it's all okay.

Tara, Tina, and I move into our place on Friday. Tomorrow, we get to go shopping all day for things our apartments might need. Tara wants a hammock for our patio and I want to make sure we have bar stools for our bar that's in the living room. I guess I'll have to buy sheets too since I shipped mine and my boxes aren't here yet. Perhaps I should buy some plates and silverware too.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I don't know what day it is anymore

It's all been such a whirlwind so far. This morning was the first time all summer that I've gotten to sleep in, which is pretty sad for a teacher. It was great, but I still have homework to finish my masters looming over my head, so I didn't really sleep in that long. Again, I'm procrastinating on starting that. I thought I'd write here a bit, then head down to the breakfast offered at this hotel, which is pretty amazing. The fruit here is so good, each day at breakfast I try a new juice. Yesterday it was papaya juice, the day before that, lulo juice (not sure what that comes from yet). The day before that, I believe I had a blackberry juice that I've since forgotten how to say in Spanish. Today, six of the new teachers had to go to DAS, where I went yesterday. All you have to bring to DAS is your passport, but silly me yesterday earned herself a really bad reputation. Let me backtrack just a bit...

I woke up yesterday at 5:30 a.m. so I'd have time to shower, eat breakfast, and be down at Jaime's bus by 6:15. As I went down the elevator, two of the other teachers going to DAS looked like they had all of their important documents with them, so I ran back up to the room and grabbed all the folders I have with those. I looked in my purse and saw that I had my new green passport cover which my dear friend Luma recently gave me. About half way to DAS, which is about an hour away to the north, I looked inside that green cover and realized that my passport was not actually in it. I immediately told the other two teachers I was with who calmed me down and then I told Jaime, the bus driver who has been helping us all week to find apartments. He called someone from the school to let him know, then he pulled over to the side of the road and used a cell phone of a guy who sells minutes here. These guys are everywhere and it seems that they are the human equivalent of a pay phone. Luckily, my roommate Tara was still in the room (asleep of course) when I called the hotel and she was able to find my passport and take it to the front desk, where Julian from school picked it up, and delivered it to me at DAS. So, I basically brought every single important paper I own to DAS, except for the only one I needed, my passport. Lesson learned. Jaime will never forget me now. I'm glad I'm making the first impression of being pretty much a complete airhead. My excuse is a severe lack of sleep in the last 6 months of my life. Not a good one, I know.

Today I get to work on that infamous homework, go try a new juice for breakfast, then head over to this guy Tom's house. Tom's been with us since we arrived, he's originally from Iowa, but has lived here in Cali for 18 years. He's extremely sarcastic and completely fun and helpful. He's shown us every available apartment in what we are calling the gringo triangle of safety part of town and has taken us all around trying to get us acclimated to the city. Today, we are going to his house for lunch and a juice workshop, as well as to talk about cultural norms. I love this kind of stuff, so I'm very excited. Plus, it's nice to have a morning to myself, not sitting on a bus looking at apartments. All the new teachers decided yesterday on where they're going to live, so we're finally finished with that.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

My third day in Colombia

Yes, I'm procrastinating right now. I should be doing my grad school homework and I plan to do that in just a few minutes, but first I wanted to share what happened today. The bus picked us all up around 9am and today we took a tour of the whole city. Jaime drove us to the top of the mountain range here, which reminded me a lot of what it's like to drive in Puerto basically just barrel up or down the road that's only big enough for one vehicle and hope that nobody is doing the same thing going the other way. There is big huge Jesus statue here too, smaller than the one in Brazil, but still quite large. As soon as I have time to add pictures, I'll be sure to show you. It had lights strung all over it so that at night we can still all see it. We drove around and saw the downtown area which is quite beautiful and hilly. It reminded me of San Francisco and Old San Juan, two of my favorite cities. We drove by the zoo which was apparently modeled after the San Diego zoo, so that's sure to be a field trip coming soon. We also stopped at several old churches and statues. The traffic is pretty crazy so far, I can't imagine driving here. We've been able to take a big school bus everywhere and we've been fine as far as safety goes. Many of the new teachers here seem really concerned with that whole issue, but to me, it seems just as safe so far as living in Chicago. Apparently the only people who get kidnapped are ones whose families are connected, if you know what I mean. I'm just a poor teacher, so I only have to worry about petty street crime, which I'm already used to coming from living in a big city. We went to lunch at a really nice place where we had traditional Colombian food, sancocho. They brought soup with yucca in it, and then I thought I was finished, but they brought out a HUGE chicken breast with tostones, rice, and salad. It was entirely too much food for one person, but I'm glad I tried it. Everyone in the restaurant and really all over the city was staring at the big group of gringos walking around together all day. It kind of got old feeling like a tourist, but I guess that I'll learn to deal with it. It's hard not to compare everything to Puerto Rico, but since that's really my only latin american reference, I'll just go ahead and keep doing that. The food seems pretty similar, lots of fried things...empanadas, tostones, and these things called arepas, which don't have a whole lot of taste, but are good nonetheless, kind of like a piece of corn bread.

So, supposedly, the drama with finding apartments has ended. We've seen a million of them, and some people wanted the same ones and kept changing their minds, so it's been weird and overwhelming for some. Luckily, my new roommate Tara is really laid back about it all like I am, so that's a relief. It doesn't look like there will be a repeat of an Alissa situation from Puerto Rico. Lots of the new teachers want to live together, I think they are concerned with safety. But if it were up to me, I'd much prefer to live somewhere with just my two roommates, so we'll see what happens. The apartment that we're taking has a little bar area, four bedrooms, and three bathrooms. Oh, and it also has two balconies and these really charming stained glass windows. It's in a really nice neighborhood and is very close to school and to a gym, grocery store, and mall. I'm excited about it. We'll hopefully be moving in next week, perhaps by Tuesday. I have to go to this place called DAS tomorrow to get all the rest of the paperwork needed to be here, we have to get these ID cards which we need to carry around with us all the time.

Off to work on that paper...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

My first 48 hours

Hello! So, I've been in Colombia for a couple of days now and I'm loving it already. Right now I'm staying at the Radisson hotel, so life is easy. The hotel is basically the same as any one you'd find in the states, there's a pool, business center, continental breakfast. The biggest difference is that the coffee and fruit they serve in the mornings is so amazingly good I can't even begin to describe it. The coffee is strong and delicious and always around. The fruit and fruit juice is so fresh and they have all kinds of new fruits I've never seen nor heard about. It's all very fun to try. I was told not to drink the water, but so far, I haven't had any problems whatsoever. That's about all I have to report today, I have very limited time for internet access and very busy days getting accustomed to everything. The past 2 days have been all about apartment hunting, but I think my roommate and I found one today that we really liked. It has 2 really nice balconies and 4 bedrooms and is a whole lot cheaper than anything I could afford in the states. I'm really excited to move in.