Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Johnny, you were right!

As much as I hate to admit that my little brother was right, I'm going to have to go ahead and just admit it. Johnny asked me before I left, "aren't you going to miss Iowa football, Cubs baseball, the Bears, and Chicago style pizza?" I remember Natalie, his girlfriend, said in the background, "It's not you going to Colombia, it's her!" I also believe that I replied very smugly, "Oh, Johnny, you just don't get it...giving up those things is easy when you're in a new country, learning a new language, and a new culture." And I also believe that I said I wouldn't miss those things because I'd be having so much fun trying all the new foods and watching all the new sports and TV shows here.

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

Another fun translation

Well, supposedly we're supposed to get the internet today, I'm not counting on it though, because if there's one thing that six weeks of waiting for internet in Colombia has taught me, it's to not get my hopes up. I remember learning this lesson in Puerto Rico too, but I'd since forgotten it...I spent too many years in Chicago I guess.

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

Meet the Parents

A couple weeks ago I had Open House...on a Saturday, but I'll get over that eventually. It was a totally different experience from the Open Houses of Berwyn and Waukegan, Illinois. It was different from Puerto Rico too. First of all, the other teachers had prepared us newbies for ALL the parents to come, which I'm not used to at all. They said it's very unusual for parents to miss Open House, especially the Second Grade Open House, since they are the "new kids" to the Primary wing. I had also been told to get my nails done and dress up a little. I was used to the getting dressed up part, but not the nails. I've never worried about them before, so I was thinking that I really should prepare a more formal presentation and be ready to be scrutinized I guess. What I found that day was a pleasant surprise. I gave my presentation, met everyone, then had a few minutes to stand around and socialize a bit. The energy in the room was great, most of the parents already know each other so they were all chatting. Then, one of the moms asked me so genuinely, "So, Carrie, how are you adjusting so far?" I thought that was the nicest thing to say, in fact it caught me off guard a bit. I told them that I loved everything about Cali so far and that the only hard part was all the bug bites. Then, they just kept asking me questions and it was just so unusual for me. I'm used to parents coming to Open House, not feeling comfortable talking to me, then skipping out as soon as they can. These parents though seemed to want to take me out for a beer and show me around Cali, it was pretty wild. One of my friends Jeremy, who teaches third grade, did get asked to go to lunch with one of the families from Open House afterwards. He and his girlfriend got a tour of Cali, went out to lunch, then were offered manicures and pedicures. They were also offered a free stay at a beach house on an island nearby whenever they'd like! So friendly.

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

Goodbye to Larry

Well, the good news is that I was being an idiot before with my TV and I hadn't changed the setting from antenna to cable. Once I did that, I not only discovered that I had 80 channels, but that I don't really have CNN from the States anymore. We get CNN, the British version, as well as CNN the Spanish version. It's been really great, we even have a bunch of channels like Cinemax, FX, Fox, etc. to waste my time watching. We also have ESPN, but it's in Spanish, so it's all soccer, all the time. They did however broadcast the Steelers game the other night, much to the delight of my roommate Tara from Pennsylvania. It was dubbed over in Spanish and pretty entertaining to hear them mispronounce the players' names. Still no internet connection, which is very frustrating when you were planning on using that as a means to communicate with everyone you know. Perhaps by Christmas we'll have that set up. At least I have those 80 channels and my DVD/karaoke machine to keep me busy. In fact, I looked around yesterday for karaoke CDs and I came across mostly salsa and merengue ones, until finally I found a real gem entitled, Rock en Ingles. It has a song by Cinderella on it as well as "Send Me An Angel" from the 80s. I believe my roommates and I are hosting a party for Halloween, so we may just have to break that one out for everyone's listening pleasure.

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

Oh, Larry, how I've missed you.

I feel as though I'm caught up with the news, just a little bit though. I found out last night that if I moved the TV upstairs, that we're still getting cable from the last tenant! This is both a good thing and bad thing. The good thing is that we now have 7 channels instead of 2 1/2. The other good thing is that we now get one channel in English, CNN. So, I got to watch Larry King Live last night, and boy was I excited. I've never once watched Larry in the States, but it was nice just to hear about the campaign, even if the whole show was just about Obama's lipstick on a pig comment. The bad thing is the fact that we still have cable means that our cable/internet is still not hooked up!

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.