Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sundays in Bogota

This weekend was a very low-key weekend.  I have finally gotten caught up on my work, which means I don't bring work home (lovely!), but it also means I have a lot of free time.

This Sunday I took advantage of this time as a chance to relax. :)  On Sundays, a large number of the streets are blocked off for citizens to bike, run, walk, etc.  Cycling is the second most popular sport in Colombia, so folks LOVE this time!  I decided to use this as opportunity to try running again.  I am still not feeling one hundred percent used to the altitude but the weather today was perfect - sunny, clear and about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  After my run - yes I survived but it was only for about 30 minutes - I bought a newspaper, made breakfast and spent the day lounging and reading.

I've inlcuded a picture of my breakfast for a few reasons: 1) To prove that I am eating.  My host mom seems concerned as every time she sees me the next question following "Como estas?" is "Comiste?" (Did you eat?); and 2) I'm trying out all the new fruits here and have discovered a favorite - pitaya - it's the yellow fruit in the picture with the white insides with black seeds.  It tastes a bit like kiwi, but sweeter and there's more of it! To eat it you cut it in half and then scoop out the inside with a spoon. DELICIOUS!

Election Day at GLM

On Wednesday we didn't have classes at the school because it was the students' election day.  Instead it was a day of discussions around tolerance and democracy, a very formal presentation by the school band and the candidates that are running, an AMAZING lunch with more Colombian food than I could possibly eat, and bizarre performances by acrobats and a theater group (that put on a 45 minute production of the earthquake in Armenia without words....unfortunately I didn't know there had been an earthquake in Armenia and I couldn't understand the introduction to the presentation, so I had NO IDEA what was going on....turns out the folks who were supposed to know what was going one were also very confused). :)

Anyhow, the day was very interesting the director of the school presented a lecture on tolerance to the middle school.  To my surprise I was able to understand the entire presentation and it was very interesting.  She began my talking with students about what they thought intolerance meant.  The students talked about mistreating people because of their race and their religion.  Maria Mercedes then pointed out that at our school students don't really differ a whole lot in terms of race and religion but that she sees a lot of intolerance among the middle schoolers.  They begin to share examples of intolerance that exist in our environment - "she's fat", "he's ugly", "he only wears x brand so he must be poor", etc.  It was very interesting.

With the sixth graders, following this presentation, we watched some clips of Latin American soap operas with examples of people making fun of people because they are poor.  The kids laughed a lot.  They were then asked to share all the jokes they knew about poor people.  More laughing.   Then the director of the sixth grade started showing pictures of real poverty - starving children, people sleeping in the streets, and the children got very quiet.  "Not so funny, is it?" she asked.   The students then made a pact to be tolerant of each other and of others.  The last activity was to blow-up balloons and tie them around our ankles.  They represented the weights that were used to make sure slaves and other indentured servants couldn't escape.  We then got to pop the balloons.  The kids walked around all day with strings holding popped balloons around their ankles.

Overall, the election day was successful.  The students - at least the fifth and sixth graders - seem to be happy with the results and they were very mature about who they voted for.  One fifth grader "I'm voting for Torrijos because he is serious.  The other candidates are making jokes and are too confident that they will win.  Torrijos cares."  Wow.  Not once did I hear "because he's cute", "because she's my friend", etc.  I LOVE these kids! :)

Furthermore, the rest of the week has been amazing.  I don't know how long it will last but I really feel like the discussion about tolerance stuck with the students.  Thursday and Friday were incredible - the students worked together and were supportive of each other.  Again, I LOVE these kids!  Also, after every class, every activity, every paper I give them the students say, "Thank you Kate".  Ahhh, it's love.  :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jazz al Parque

This weekend I finally got out of my house! :)

I went to Jazz al Parque with some friends from school to see John Scofield . The weather gods were in our favor - finally - and it stopped raining long enough for us to enjoy a picnic and listen to John play for about an hour and a half. I'm not sure I was supposed to bring in food or wine but my friends assured me if I just acted like I didn't know what the security people were saying when they checked my bags, they'd let me in.  I didn't really have to act.  They security guard asked me something about comida.  In English I responded, "I'm not allowed to have this?!"...and then he let me pass.  They then explained that it is considered very Latin to try and find a way to trick the system or get what you want out of a situation, and that can be bad...but in this situation for wine, cheese, crackers and fruit with our jazz, playing the clueless American was worth it. ;-)

(In the picture from left to right: Sandra and David.  They are married. David is a history teacher at my school.  Sandra teaches at another school.  They both speak English, Spanish and Chinese (Crazy!).  After living in China for a few years, they both understand the desire to learn a new language and so they are very helpful.  Next is another David.  David de musica.  He is a music instructor at the school. Next is Anita.  We actually ran into her at the concert.  She is a primary school teacher and rides on my bus with me.  She is very sweet.)

Afterward, we went to a low-key bar nearby a friends house and spent the night talking. It was very nice. Everyone speaks Spanish and English - and they are all very encouraging about my Spanish. We spoke Spanish for a large portion of the night but I think when they noticed me zoning out (because my brain was exhausted) we switched to English.

I feel very lucky to be at my school, because it is full of such kind people. We talked about taking some weekend and/or weekend trips to explore some different parts of the country (very exciting!). So hopefully will have some photos to share...sorry I haven't been better about taking photos. Eventually I will post photos of my school and students.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Que chicharrón!

Today I was finally planning to get out of the house for the night and meet an acquaintance (from when I was here in March) for dinner. It was going to be a restaurant called Local that serves typical Colombian food (yum!).

Was is the key word because today it also rained. Public transportation in Bogota as far as I can tell is pretty terrible. Additionally, there are a LOT of people living in this city and too many cars on the road...and when it is rainy - everyone decides to drive.

This evening my host my called 3 taxi companies for me trying to get me a ride to the restaurant. None had cabs available. Her daughter's boyfriend agreed to drive me. This restaurant is 60 blocks from my house - blocks are pretty small though. After driving for an hour I was 20 minutes late. I don't have a phone yet (getting one tomorrow after I pick up my Colombia ID card which should be ready) so Jose (the driver) called my friend for me. He was still at his office standing outside trying to get a cab - and had been for an hour. Augh.

So, Jose and I returned back to the house - after another 45 minutes in the car of course. It turned out to be a good Spanish lesson because Jose speaks no English and so we did our best to make conversation in Spanish - wish I had it on video!

Still, while there are many wonderful things in Bogota - traffic is not one of them. Today was the perfect situation to use my current favorite word: chicharrón (loosely translated: pain in the ass, complicated/unsolvable situation).

Will have to try being social another night. And I need to figure out the buses - although they also looked like a nightmare to be on today - people were packed like sardines.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

La gripa or Soroche?!?!

I just completed by second week of teaching and I am totally wiped out. Yesterday, I was nauseous with a fever, a headache, and a sort throat. Most of these symptoms are symptoms of both the flu (la gripa) AND altitude sickness (Soroche). Not sure what it is but I slept from 4:30 pm on Friday until 11:30am on Saturday. Still have a sore throat and feel terribly weak – but have been able to get around – do laundry, get some school work done, etc.

Despite feeling sick – two weeks into this adventure I’m still confident it was the right decision.

My Spanish improves a little bit more each day and getting familiar with the Bogota slang: querida = very nice, friendly, good, wonderful (usually about a person)
chicharron = a situation that’s a total pain in the ass
chevere = cool
…there’s a few others as well but they are less appropriate for this space. ;-)

Teaching 6th and 7th graders is a challenge – but I’m glad I’m doing it because it’s making me a better teacher. I’m learning so much about how children learn, it’s awesome – AND exhausting. Even more so when I feel like crap.

Hoping to get my energy back soon so that I can explore that city and work on building friendships here in this new city.

Mi Nueva Casa

I know I already wrote about my new home - but I made the move on Thursday. Olgita Lucia- my host mom- cleaned up the room and added a desk next to the windows for me. So nice! She also bought new sheets and comforter and there are about 3 other wool blankets under the comforter as well - nights get pretty chilly in Bogota but not with the bed that Olgita has set up for me. I've included a pic of the room.

Olgita goes away every weekend to her second home on a farm (la finca) in the mountains. Will try and get some pics of her, Camila (her daughter) and maybe even Andres (another teacher who lives on the third floor - but is rarely home). I will definitely get pics of the dogs as well because they are SO cute.

To get to school now I take a bus. It's a minibus owned by one of the teachers. Several teachers and I pay her to take us to and from school. The school agreed to pay my first month of transportation - so I could figure things out. I haven't decided if I will stick to this route or try and make friends to carpool with. The route is pretty convenient but a bit pricey. I do wonder if she is charging me more than the others...but there's really no way of knowing without being rude.