Saturday, December 6, 2008

My apartment

Oh, the pink kitchen. It was almost the reason I refused to sign the lease, until I told myself that I don't spend that much time in there anyway, so I guess I could live with it.
This is our living room. Our apartment is two levels with the kitchen, living room, two bedrooms (both Tina's right now, but soon to be mine when we swap after Christmas break) and a bathroom. Oh, and there's a maid's room and another bathroom with just a toilet and sink. These last two rooms aren't really used, we don't have a live-in maid, but most of the apartments here have these rooms in case you do have one.

This is at the top of the stairs. Our little TV room.

These pictures are not in the greatest order, but I have no clue how to change them around. So, we're back downstairs now, this is our kitchen table which is right next to the living room.

This is a view from my balcony. It's just showing the neighborhood I guess. Behind the trees on the bottom, left corner is a corner store where I can buy a beer, a coke, chips, mayo, a banana, bread, ice cream, etc. Comes in handy when you just need a little snack.

Here's a view of the other side from my balcony. You can see where my balcony and my roommate, Tara's connect. This is also a picture of the house that reminds me of Scarface. My neighborhood is famous for having mafiosos live here, so they have to spend their dirty money somehow and so they do it by building these lavish houses with marble driveways and other unnecessary things. Fun to look at for sure.

This is the view straight down from my balcony. There is a park right there beyond those trees.

A few updated pictures of my classroom

Here's the view to the outside. I do love it that it's an open classroom. The fresh air all day makes me feel like I spend a lot of time outdoors. Amazingly, I haven't gotten a sunburn since moving here. So, I guess I'm not spending all that much time outside after all.

There's not much to say about these pictures, just a normal, messy second grade classroom. I thought at the beginning of the year, I'd never learn to get my kids to listen, but they do now. I realized that they didn't really understand anything that I was saying to them the first few weeks of school, their English was that limited. That's all gotten so much better now though. I keep these little charts at their table groups in which there are 20 boxes. I put stars inside the boxes when their whole group is listening and following directions. It's a pretty good motivator that's been working for a few months now. It's pretty funny to see them try to get into their seats with the right notebook open and pencil in hand in a rush, all of them yelling to each other, "Stars! Stars!" Oh, I forgot to mention the bribery part. When they earn all 20 stars, they get to choose a reward such as having a group picnic, computer time, play a game, or bring in a stuffed animal to put on their desk for the day. It's amazing what will motivate a second grader.


Here we have some of my beautiful students. They really are some of the most gorgeous looking kids I've ever seen. This was Halloween obviously. Here we have a witch, Wonder Woman, and Hannah Montana.

And, here we have a kid who took off his costume (I can't remember what it was), the Scream guy, and a "Star Wars Guy" (his words, not mine.)

Here we have a princess (?) and Spidey. The princess didn't wear her costume to school, but her mom brought it for her at lunch and the nanny/maid helped her put it on at school. Haven't gotten used to that yet.

Here we have a monster, a genie, and another scary monster. All the classes came down to the gym and there was a big stage set up and each class got to walk across the stage while parents stood around the perimeter and snapped pictures.

My two little witches.

A pirate, an inmate, and another Star Wars guy.

Here I am with a few of the kids right before they got all sugared up. I was supposed to be a mime, but the makeup that the art teacher put on me made me look more like a dead person. Oh well. All in the spirit of Halloween. I wish I'd taken a picture of how decorated my classroom was. I had moms bringing in decoration after decoration and I had to spend almost every prep period I had decorating with streamers, fake spider webs, bats, and balloons. It was crazy. I also had to spend quite a bit of time taking it all down the next week. I guess that will be happening again soon for Christmas.
The best story I have from Halloween has to do with the culture of beauty that is so prevalent here. At the "Halloween parade on stage" which was really more of a fashion runway show, I kept seeing some of the fourth and fifth grade girls dressed up in similar costumes. They had on blonde wigs, their mom's high heeled shoes, gaudy jewelry, and big movie star sunglasses, oh yeah, and little mini skirs and tank tops. I think cell phones may have been an accessory as well. I asked a group of them sitting near me what they were, and they all said simulaneously, "we're Sexy!" idiotic of me not to know. Like my mom said, it's not really common for kids to dress up as an adjective. But, again, I guess anything goes in Colombia. As long as the girls and women are beautiful, then all is right in the world here.


This was a view from a bridge at the Coffee Park I visited. One of the great things about living here is that you see every shade of green all the time.

Another great thing is that it is not uncommon at all to see birds of many beautiful colors. This blue one is one of my favorites.

Love birds, more of my favorites.

This is a view from my hotel room of the plantation we were staying on.

This is back at the park, in this section called the Bamboo Forest.

Ah, the pool at our hotel. So relaxing.

For Thanksgiving, we had a long weekend. That's the nice part about working for an International School in Colombia. I get a few of the North American holidays and the Colombian ones as well. So, last weekend, my friend Lisa and I decided to venture out and take a big trip to San Agustin. It's a long bus ride from here, about 12 hours, but we had Thursday through Sunday off and it's supposed to be this really neat place where you can hike and see all of these ancient ruins and statues. Well, a couple days before Thursday, we decided we should probably start planning a bit. One of the biggest differences between life here and life back home is that there really is very little planning that goes on. If you want to go on a bus trip, for example, you just go to the bus station and you catch the next bus, there is no schedule to follow. Then, when you arrive somewhere, you just find a place to stay when you get there, you don't have to call ahead and make reservations, unless you're staying somewhere a little pricier. Well, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving we started hearing from people at work that there were volcanic eruptions recently near San Agustin and that it might be impossible to take a bus there. So, we quickly had to come up with Plan B, which was to go to Armenia, a town in the coffee region, about 3 hours from here. Lisa's boyfriend knows a travel agent who found us an all- inclusive deal to stay in a hotel. (I guess for this trip there was a little bit of planning involved.) We left Thursday morning and took a bus for a few hours. The bus trips are a safe way to travel here and it's a very inexpensive means to get somewhere too. For instance, it costs the equivalent of $10 to take a 3 hour bus trip. It's only $25 to go about 10 hours away. You never know exactlly what you're getting, there could be air conditioning or not. There could be a lot of stops or not. The one thing that seems to remain consistent is that the buses fill up and the seats don't leave a tall gringa much leg room. Oh, and there seems to always be a very violent, dubbed movie playing. This last trip, they were blasting one of the Rambo movies in Spanish. I tried to just sleep, but it was a pretty bumpy ride.
One of the most interesting things happened on the bus ride to Armenia. We were about two hours away and one person had already been dropped off. So, there was one seat open. At the very next stop, a woman, well a young girl who looked about 20 years old, got on the bus with her 4 or 5 year old son and her daughter in hand, who was just a baby. The 4 year old was dragging their bag behind them and the conductor put it into the trunk for them. I kept thinking, "there aren't enough seats, where will they sit?" They got on and the mom took the one empty seat, holding her sleeping daughter. And, a woman siitting in front of her, took the 4 year old onto her lap and he proceeded to fall asleep in her lap...a complete stranger's lap! Who does that? Colombians I guess. I kept wondering if they possibly knew each other somehow, but no, it was obvious they didn't. I also kept thinking that if I were the woman sitting in front of the mom, would I be nice enough to let her kid sit on my lap and take a nap?, I wouldn't. But, I'm not Colombian. I also tried to imagine being that little boy. Could I have sat in a stranger's lap at the age of four and taken a two hour nap? No. But, I guess I grew up where strangers were scary and bad. It was an interesting cultural difference.

So, the rest of the trip was great. Lisa and I were literally the only guests at the hotel, because nobody else apparently gets off work for Thanksgiving here. We had the whole restaurant to ourselves, the pool to ourselves. It was great. The place was cute, had a bunch of different house-like buildings with wrap-around porches and benches and hammocks hanging outside to lounge in. Our all-inclusive deal also included an excursion, so we went to this place called Parque del Cafe (Coffee Park). We thought it was just a tour of a coffee plantation, which it was, but it was so much more than that. They had hikes to see Indian monuments, a coffee plantation and museum, and even a couple of roller coasters and rides. The bumper cars were fun. All was well until I got the flu, but I will spare you all the details of my bus ride home with a fever. Not so much fun, but I like to focus on the positive here.