Monday, November 28, 2011

So much to be thankful for!

So it was definitely a bit sad when Thanksgiving arrived and I found myself riding in the van to school - the only one aware that this very big holiday was in progress.   I found myself missing turnips (that Grandma Naylor makes special for me...because I think I might be the only one in the family who eats them); missing walks in the woods bundled up with hats, gloves, and scarf; and missing the same family stories that are told every year and somehow seem to get funnier with each telling of them.

Still, as it is a day to give thanks - there is certainly a lot that I am thankful for.  I made sure to use this day to let all my students know what it is about them that I am most thankful for.  I wrote them each a thank you note and before I passed out the note I explained what the holiday is all about.  They loved it - and many of them took the time to say what they were thankful too.

Also, I wasn't alone for the holiday.  My cousin Drew flew down to visit during his long weekend (Wednesday through Sunday).  It was so nice to see a familiar face and not feel like I was totally isolated from the Naylor/Cottrell clans.  I signed him up for an all-day tour of the city on Thursday because I had to work and then on Friday he came to school with me and helped teach 3 of my classes.  So fun!  Every night we went out for great Colombian food, drinks, and fun.  On Saturday, what was supposed to be a quick lunch up in the mountains turned into a road trip because on our way down the road was blocked so we had to drive an hour away from the city before we could connect to another road that would lead us home.  It ended up being an awesome addition to Drew's trip, as he got to see the Colombian countryside.  So thankful for Drew's visit, as sharing with someone else reminds you of all the wonderful things that you have in your life.

I've also been overwhelmed by life lately.  This is the time of the year where the work starts piling up - there are holiday parties, Secret Santa games, final exams (which means LOTS of grading), Christmas shopping, packing, I've also squeezed in a visit to Ecuador scheduled for December 7.  So what does this have to do with being thankful?  Well, the reason that a lot of the work is becoming overwhelming is because I have developed a nice little network of friends here.  I now have lots of plans each week - and so the quiet nights I used to have at home are dwindling.  I am back to needing to work on the balance - but I so thankful that I have wonderful people to experience Colombia with!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Suesca: A weekend getaway

This weekend was another long weekend – or puente (bridge) as the Colombians say.  I had another chance to get out of the city with friends.  My friend Liliana’s brother, Willy, owns a bike shop and on the weekends runs bike tours in a small town called Suesca known for mountain biking and rock climbing.  In the town he owns a small hostel as well.
On Saturday, a friend of Willy’s, Juan Carlos, picked up Liliana, her son, and me – and we headed to Suesca for the weekend.  The town is about an hour away but within 15 minutes of leaving the city the air is clean and fresh.  We drove the whole way with the windows down, playing great music and laughing.  We also stopped at this amazing little restaurant that served the typical Colombian foods – meat, potatoes, plantains, and yucca – and drank Refajo, a refreshing beverage made by mixing beer with a typical soda (kind of like cream soda) called Colombiana. 

We arrived to Suesca around 4 pm and spent the entire afternoon and evening relaxing at a little restaurant in the center of town.  It is impossible to visit this town and not be relaxed.  Everything slows down the minute you get there.  Everyone in town knows each other and so we hung out at this restaurant like it was our own home.  We played music, ate empanadas and pizza and soup.  We also drank Canelazo - basically Christmas in a cup – it’s a hot beverage with cinnamon, lime and aguardiente – and in the crisp evening air of Suesca it is the perfect thing to sip to stay toasty.  

Around 8 pm, what felt like the entire town met up to play basketball.  Basketball is not quite as popular in the Colombian as in the United States.  Generally, I find that in the U.S. most guys can pick up a basketball and have a decent game.  In Colombia, no.  It was SO much fun, but we played 8 on 8, which is kind of ridiculous and the players were not good at all – traveling, shooting the ball over the backboard (repeatedly), etc.  I looked like an all-star and I haven’t played basketball in ages!

We ended the evening by heading to the hostel and enjoying a good night’s rest. 

Early the next morning, we woke up around 7:30 in the morning to head into town for breakfast – eggs, empanadas, and coffee.  Again, this town is very relaxed.  We took our time, enjoyed each other’s company, and eventually headed back up the hill to the hostal to get ready for our bike trip.  Things were not quite as organized as I expected.  The bikes didn’t have toe clips (I’m used to riding with clip-in shoes…I realize this sound pretentious but once you’ve used them it’s very difficult to enjoy riding a bike any other way).  I also had no water, a helmet that was extremely tight, and was scared to death that I wouldn’t be able to keep up.  I had decided that I wasn’t going to bike.  Liliana was going to follow behind in her car anyway because she had her 4-year-old son Marco with her anyway, and just wanted to enjoy the beautiful scenery.  Juan Carlos said that he would like to bike ride and so Liliana, Marco, and I began to follow him in the car.  After about 5 minutes up a very steep hill, Juan Carlos stopped and said he needed a break and that I should ride for a bit.  They totally tricked me into riding! :-)  But I was so thankful.  For about 2 hours, Juan Carlos and I took turns riding.  When one of us needed a breather, the other would hop on the bike for a bit.  The views were breath-taking, there wasn’t a single other car on the road, and the weather was overcast and cool – perfect for the strenuous work.  After the two hours, we finally reached the downhill and I flew down the hill for a good 10 minutes or so.  Absolutely awesome!  When the car caught up with me – the roads were extremely rocky so going downhill is easier on a bike – Liliana decided she was going to give it a try.  She was feeling out-of-shape and weak but she missed biking so she got on.  

This may have been the second highlight of the week because I got to drive!  As some of you may know, I LOVE driving and I have not been able to drive since I got to Bogotá because I, 1) Don’t have a car and 2) Can’t drive a stick-shift, which all the cars in Bogotá are (for the most part).  Juan Carlos’ car is also a stick-shift but he knew that I wanted to learn and told me this was the best place to do it.  I "learned" pretty quickly.  I spent the next 30 minutes driving down the road practicing going from parked, to first, to second, and back down.  I probably sounds silly but I was in heaven!  I am not quite ready to cross off “Learn to drive a stick-shift” from my bucket list – I still need to learn how to reverse and practice with the other gears – but I am off to a great start and am SO happy about it.

We returned to the city on Sunday evening but it was a perfect getaway for the long weekend and I hope to return often!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fiesta de Disfraces

It has been waaaaay too long since I have written in this space.  I think that's a sign that I'm getting busier and busier - but I also suppose that means there are more things to write about!  I'll try and be better about writing at LEAST once per week.

This weekend was a long weekend - which means I have Monday off.  Very nice.  On Saturday night I visited a fellow teacher's home for a belated Halloween party.  Not a whole lot to share there.  Costumes (disfraces), food, alcohol, and dancing.  Pretty normal stuff.  But the pictures are fun and so I thought I'd share a few.  :)