Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Welcoming Committee

So, one part of moving to a new place that can be really challenging is meeting new people and building solid relationships in order to have a support network and to feel less alone.  In my first month in Colombia, I began to draft a post about some of the great people I had met thus far...but then I thought, what if they read this?  How will they feel about me talking about them to the "world"? (this is a public site after all) And what if someone else reads this post and is upset that I didn't write about them?!  ... in the end I nixed the post.  Yesterday, nearly 6 months later, one of my good friends here in Bogotá posted this on my Facebook wall:
You know what?  I took the time to read your blog just to realize you haven't mentioned your dear co-work/bad-(and, sometimes good)- Spanish-words teacher/ lunch partner/ friend: Me.  Thanks a lot, man.
So I feel I've now been given the green light to write about some of the people that have graced me with their presence and enriched my Colombian life.  This only the short list...if I tried to write about every person who has had a positive impact on my time here in Colombia - the post would be 100 pages long.  So for now...drum roll please...my Colombian dream team:

Halloween party - such style!
David & Sandra
David was a teacher at Gimnasio La Montaña (now he is training with the government to work in international relations).  He was the first person to invite me to do something and to get my out of my hotel room (where I lived for my first two weeks in Bogotá).  We - David, his wife Sandra, and I - went out for pizza and then met up with others from La Montaña at Hard Rock Café (very gringo!) to see a Red Hot Chilli Pepper cover band.  David and Sandra are an incredible pair.  They both have traveled quite a bit and are fluent in English, Chinese, and Spanish (their first language).  They regularly invite me to meet them to go dancing or have a beer, and Sandra and I are still trying to find an evening where we are both free to go to yoga together.  They are up for anything, are super interesting to talk with, and are just about the nicest people you could ever meet.   Because they know how challenging it can be to learn a new language (and how easy it can be to avoid practicing), they almost exclusively talk to me in Spanish.  David, no matter how much English I speak, only speaks back in Spanish.  Sandra will often help me with difficult Spanish translations for my English expressions.  It is wonderful.

At the school holiday party.
Francisco (Pacho)
Pacho is the one who pestered me to write this blog.  While that might make him seem a bit full of himself, he really is quite humble and caring.  Pacho was one of the very first people at the school to introduce himself to me and continues to be an awesome friend.  We sit close to each other in the teachers's room and laugh about silly things, when time get stressful (think report card time!).  We eat lunch together when our schedules allow it and rather frequently Pacho will give me a ride home (whenever he has a car).  This is a HUGE favor, because my bus route can be terribly slow.  In the beginning, I needed a tremendous amount of help knowing what was being said, where I needed to be and what I was supposed to do, the phrase "Pacho, explica la Kate..." (explain to Kate...) has become a joke amongst some of the middle school teachers.  While we generally speak in English together, Pacho is very patient when I do speak in Spanish and gently corrects my numerous errors in pronunciation, conjugation, and grammar.  He also makes errors in English every once in a while, just to make me feel better about myself. :) Pacho can be counted on regularly to grab a beer after school on Fridays and is usually up for doing things when others are looking to get out of the house (unless he's gotten too comfortable on his couch and gets sucked into some professional sports events).  I was very worried for a while, because last semester he was a substitute for a teacher who has since returned from maternity leave.  Thankfully the powers that be are looking out for my sanity, and the school shifted Pacho's responsibilities to cover another teacher who is now out on sick leave.  Hooray!  Pacho is a patient and hard-working teacher, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the school will have a permanent position for him next year.

In la ruta, celebrating Lili's birthday.
Liliana is in my bus route.  She speaks fluent English, spent a large amount of time in the U.S. studying it, and was another person who reached out to me early on when I arrived in Colombia.   She would invite me to dinner with friends and also invited me to her birthday with her family.  Liliana is a passionate woman and I can always count on her for intellectually stimulating conversation.  We don't agree on everything but it is so nice to have someone with who I can ponder themes of religion, education, love, life, etc.  For a while I was attending a Bible Study-like group with Liliana.  While in the end I decided it was not for me, it was so kind of her to welcome me into a personal part of her life.  Liliana not only shared her ideas on the world and her dreams for her future with me but she opened up her family and friends to me as well.  My social circle grew quickly because of her.  I even got to attend my first Colombian wedding after meeting her niece (the bride) just once!  She has wonderful people in her life and many of them have important fixtures in my Colombian life as well.

In La Calera for lunch.
Juan Carlos
Perhaps it is wrong to list the boyfriend fourth, but this is the order in which I met these wonderful people.  Liliana introduced me to Juan Carlos during a trip to Suesca.  The introduction was not planned - we ended up bumming a ride off of Juan Carlos at the last minute, when Liliana's brother decided to head to Suesca earlier than we could be ready - but the connection was immediate.  The entire ride to Suesca, Liliana and her son, Marco (sooo adorable), napped in the back seat, while Juan Carlos and I listened to music, struggled through Spanish conversation, and somehow found ourselves laughing and enjoying ourselves immensely despite the language barrier.  The next 48 hours continued in the same fashion.  We drank and laughed, we took turns riding a bike because neither of us were in good enough shape to go the whole way, and bonded over a love for empanadas.   Juan Carlos continues to be a wonderful friend in adventure - he is extremely patient (with both my Spanish and my crazy I'm-a-gemini-and-so-I-have-a-right-to-change-my-mind-regularly antics), is always up for adventure, is willing to let me learn to drive a stick-shift using his car (again, despite me screaming in frustration both at the car and at him), and is just one of the most selfless people I have ever me.  He makes delicious arepas,  has a very large family with which he is very good about staying connected, and has a killer sense of humor (despite the fact that I can only truly appreciate about 60% of the jokes... the rest go over my head because of the Spanish).  He is an architect and works very hard but his schedule is also flexible which has allowed us to see Los Nevados and plan a few more trips here and there in the months and weeks to come.  As you all know, I am extremely independent but Juan Carlos has somehow been able to carve out a spot in my life, just the right size, that gives me the alone time that I need but also makes me soooooo appreciative that he is in my life.

These are the people that I can regularly count on for support and fun.... the network is growing and there are other people that I regularly work with and talk with...so perhaps, they too will earn some space on this blog....I definitely still need to share about the folks with whom I live, the gringos that I've been getting to know better and are helping me to stay sane, the curriculum committee that is keeping my brain challenged, and the folks with whom I work (although that could be a little bit trickier) .... stay tuned...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lazy Sundays

They're the best.

Enjoyed a delicious breakfast: Tomales Tolimense, pan con queso and café con leche. Yum!

Then spent the afternoon reading here, in the courtyard outside by house.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Going to the Dentist - Part 2

My view from the Transmilenio.

So today, I traveled on the Transmilenio alone AND I went to the denist...alone.  I felt so adventurous because the teachers in my van were so impressed that I was taking the Transmilenio alone and going to Quirigua (far, far away).  Really it was not that big of a deal but the weather was perfect and it was mid-afternoon so I was happy.  Also, now that I've identified some of my frustration as part of my stage 2 culture shock, I'm really trying to accept my new home with all its surprises and differences... on my way home, however, I decided that the healthcare system - especially for dental care - is just not something that I will ever get used to.  No. Way.

Two weeks ago,  I made an emergency appointment to visit the dentist because I was convinced I had cavities.  After 2 or 3 minutes of poking around, she told me she could find nothing wrong with my teeth.  She did sign off, however, on x-rays (which I still have not gotten because I have to go to another location and then return to the dentist for her to look at the x-rays....and then of course if I have cavities I have to make another appointment and return to the dentist.  No thanks.

The dentist also suggested I get my semi-annual cleaning, so today I returned this time on my own to get my teeth cleaned.  When I got to the dentist I had to wait about 45 minutes (even though I had an appointment).  The problem was the building lost water for awhile...awesome.  When they called my name, I signed a consent form and then sat in the chair.  The dentist poked around my mouth again, sprayed some water, had me spit every 15 seconds because they don't have that convenient sucky tool, and then she asked me if I brought my toothbrush and floss.  I did because I brushed my teeth at school before leaving for the dentist...but what?!?!  She then proceeded to instruct me on how to brush my teeth using my toothbrush and toothpaste to sort of clean my teeth.  So weird.  Yes, I'm judging, I know.   Anyway, that was it.  An hour to the dentist and an hour back to my house for a lesson on how to use my toothbrush. 

I'm wondering if my complete astonishment with this system is evidence of my privilege in the U.S.  I've always had health insurance and a good job (or parents with good jobs) to cover a large chunk of the expense.  But what is the health care like for folks without insurance?  Or work?  I know there are clinics - many of my students used them in Houston.  Do they also receive this absurdly low level of service?!  Yes my dentist visit was free, but now I'm wondering what I could get if I was willing to pay $25 (the typical co-pay for a visit to the doctor in the U.S.).  In six months, I plan to explore these other options - even if that means paying a little extra...or maybe even a lot extra.  If anyone knows more about the health care system in the U.S., please share.  I've become very curious...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gringo Tuesday

 So after having conversations with a few different groups of people about Gringo Tuesday, I decided to give a try with some friends this week.

Gringo Tuesday is event (held on Tuesdays, duh.) to bring people from different countries and who speak different languages together for conversation practice.  Colombians go to practice their English, and the Gringos pour in by the droves to practice their Spanish and/or find people to speak English with when their brains need a break.  The event begins at 7pm.  From 7pm until about 9pm, the lights are bright, there are couches, chairs and other comfortable seating scattered throughout the bar - La Villa, and strangers sit down to talk with one another.  After this the lights begin to dim, the furniture is moved piece by piece, and the conversations end so that the dancing can begin.

I didn't arrive until 8:30pm, so I missed out on the quality convos and on a Tuesday night with a full day of teaching to look forward to on Wednesday, I was not up for the late night of partying that so many folks are looking for (because they have no jobs and are simply passing through Colombia for a few weeks...maybe a few months).  Still, I think the concept seems great and will probably give it another shot - arriving at an earlier time.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Culture Shock

So, I've obviously heard about culture shock and experienced it briefly while I was in Florence.  I specifically remember a trip to the grocery store just outside of the city and wanting to buy sugar...but I didn't know the word for sugar and couldn't find anyone in the store who spoke English.  After about 30 minutes of scouring the aisles, I found the sugar in the beverage aisle next to the bottled water.  I mean, what?!?!?

I've been in Colombia about 6 months now, so I figure I'm out of the culture shock zone, right? Wrong.  About two weeks ago I started finding myself feeling frustrated with everything.  My bus is late every day, the Internet isn't dependable, I don't have a bathtub, I just want a gosh darn salad, the traffic is horrendous, teachers spend more time talking than working, my God the RAIN!!!!, my salary is too low, I miss my car, why is the health care system so freaking confusing and why do I have to travel a total of 2+ hours to see a dentist for 10 minutes!?, where are all the brilliant English-speakers who enjoy sitting around and talking about education, love, life, etc., and why is there not a single cutesy coffee shop in this city for me to do my work!?!?!  (Note:  Logically I am aware that some/ the majority of these comments are greatly exaggerated, somewhat insulting, and sound as if I believe Colombia and the U.S. are one and the same....emotionally, none of that matters)

At first I chalked it up to PMS...but PMS doesn't last two weeks...three weeks...  I'm also suuuuupppper tired all the time.  I have a list of things that I want to do - places to visit, things to try, books to read, Spanish to study, friends to write to - but I found myself spending more and more time watching episodes of all my favorite American television programs on Cuevana.tv (and some of my not-so-favorite shows... I mean do I really need to watch Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars?  I'm pretty sure the answer is no).  I can also sleep for 14 hours straight when given the chance.  That is also not normal for me.  Some folks told me before I left that because I'd be spending so much time translating in my head to communicate in Spanish, that I would be very tired, but after six months?  I wasn't so sure.

Last night I began to do some research and I've self-diagnosed myself with culture shock.  Turns out culture shock has several stages.  The first is the honeymoon stage.  This I think is what we all usually experience when we travel - we are excited and in awe of our new environment.  We love learning and trying out a new language, the new scenery is gorgeous, and the food is just so good!  We meet new people and soak up all the glorious novelty of it all...and then come the second stage: negotiation.

According to Wikipedia says (yes, I know, not acceptable for graduate research papers...or any research papers for that matter...but for this situation, it serves my purpose and describes to a tee):

Negotiation phase

After some time (usually around three months, depending on the individual), differences between the old and new culture become apparent and may create anxiety. Excitement may eventually give way to unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger as one continues to experience unfavorable events that may be perceived as strange and offensive to one's cultural attitude. Language barriers, stark differences in public hygiene, traffic safety, food accessibility and quality may heighten the sense of disconnection from the surroundings.[4]
While being transferred into a different environment puts special pressure on communication skills, there are practical difficulties to overcome, such as circadian rhythm disruption that often leads to insomnia and daylight drowsiness; adaptation of gut flora to different bacteria levels and concentrations in food and water; difficulty in seeking treatment for illness, as medicines may have different names from the native country's and the same active ingredients might be hard to recognize.
Still, the most important change in the period is communication: People adjusting to a new culture often feel lonely and homesick because they are not yet used to the new environment and meet people with whom they are not familiar every day. The language barrier may become a major obstacle in creating new relationships: special attention must be paid to one's and others' culture-specific body language signs, linguistic faux pas, conversation tone, linguistic nuances and customs, and false friends.
The red, bold, italic, and underlined phrases are those that I can especially relate to.

Now this post is not meant to be a depressing one.  In fact, it is a relief!  I'm not losing my mind and I'm not clinically depressed.  This is normal and according to Wikipedia (and other sources - don't worry) by the time I've reached a year I should feel more like myself and be able to navigate my new country with ease and a sense of normalcy.  I'm also hoping that if anyone out there is every feeling this way when they travel - they will have read this if they are a close friend or it will miraculously appear in Google to help a fellow traveler out.

Until I reach 12 months, I'm trying to stay fully aware of my feelings and why I'm feeling/acting the way that I am.  I'm exercising and eating well.  I'm studying/practicing Spanish to try and overcome some of the more frustrating communication barriers.  I'm setting up Skype dates with friends and family (let me know if you're interested!).  And I'm letting people know what I'm going through so that the friends that I do have here don't abandon me and so I can talk through it and laugh about it, until it disappears.  Still, that doesn't mean I wasn't slightly (okay extremely) perturbed today when I went to school early to play basketball with the girls team only to find after practice (when I begin my weekly pray for hot water) that there was no water...none.  Which meant I didn't get to shower.  It also meant the availability of coffee was limited (you do NOT want to be around me before I've been caffeinated).  Throughout the day the school also lost electricity, followed by Internet...oof. 

Still, a wonderful friend from who lives in Houston, Texas but is from Colombia offered these wise words to help me along:
Do not worry, everyone of us who happens to live in a foreign country has to face the same feelings and cultural shock. You'll survive and the experience will be really wonderful for your life...it also means that you're out of the box. A difficult situation for a little while with the best results for your life. When you are in a foreign country your cultural awareness and background get stronger, and the best of all, you'll begin to see the world in its real dimension. The best for you.
Thanks Stella. :)  I hope to see you soon in Bogotá!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A day at the Polo Club

Yes, that's right.  My friends who think I'm uppity (I'm not), will love this.  Juan Carlos and his friends love playing polo.  Juan Carlos has took a bit of a break from playing, but we decided to go with a friend to watch (I had never seen a polo match) and to get out of the city.  It was a beautiful day and I've been feeling antsy lately.  Here are some of the photos from our excursion:

The view from the dirt road that led to the club.
It really exists!

Sitting in the car, watching the game, soaking up the sun - lovely!


I got to do a little riding as well - although I'm totally clueless and can never imagine trying to hit a ball with a stick running at full speed on one of these things!
My second lesson driving stick-shift - in this beast of an SUV!  So fun!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Comite Curiculó

So some of you may know that in addition to teaching I am a part of the curriculum committee at my school.  This opportunity was one of the reasons I chose the job over others when looking to move to Bogotá.  The committee is made up of only 5 people:  the director of the school, the director of academics, the director of bilingual education, and the director of technology.  How I ended up on this committee among all the head honchos of the school, I'm not sure but it is the most interesting part of my week.

The committee was advertised to me as a committee working on reforming the school's curricula to include 21st century skills.   I love discussing curricula, developing curricula, modifying curricula, etc. and have yet to see a school that is doing an excellent job of teaching 21st century skills in a systematic way that ensures students are really learning.  So this seemed like a challenge that I would enjoy taking on.

As I said, it really is the most interesting part of my week.  It makes my brain hurt - which I like - but it can also be frustrating.  The meetings are completely in Spanish - except when we're reading texts that are in English.  Also, we don't have agendas or take minutes, so sometimes it is unclear what we are trying to accomplish.  In addition to this curriculum reform, we also plan Rondas or observational rounds in which the committee, along with all the heads of departments, spend a morning observing classrooms in 15-minutes bouts and the afternoon discussing trends that we are noticing.  So sometimes in these weekly meetings we are discussing curriculum and other times we are discussing pedagogy.   I realize these things go hand-in-hand but I still find myself lost at times.

Despite this though we have really interesting conversations about what countries are having success with their students, what measures of success are important, how to we get teacher buy-in if we want to effect change, and what does it look like to incorporate 21st century skills into a curriculum.  We read articles and books and research standards from a variety of locations, 21st century skills, and various assessments including PISA and Colombia's SABER, developed by ICFES.  This weekend I am reading the PISA standards for each grade level and the book Who's Teaching Your Children? by Katherine Boles (a Harvard professor) and Vivian Troen.  So fun.  I bust my butt all week at school with the goal of not having to do planning work over the weekend so I can enjoy this research.

The only frustration is that I am about action.  I am ready to plan, create, do...but we are still discussing.  I want to develop teacher support programs and a teacher career track.  I want to get others involved.  I want to transform my curriculum in order to better incorporate 21st century skills.  Baby steps though.  First?  I should probably keeping working on my Spanish so I can be more vocal in these meetings.  Oof.   :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Going to the dentist

For my first month in Colombia I had insurance that only covered emergencies.  After that I was told that my insurance would cover regular check ups and what not.  Lost in translation, I thought the information I received from a company called Skandia was my health insurance information.  I went along thinking this, until last week when my health insurance card and information arrived for me at the school...only 6 months after arriving in Colombia.  Oops.  I also received information from Skandia.  Skandia assists in savings.  It is required by law the companies and employees but 4% of the employee's salary into a retirement fund.  For me it's a little different - again, forgetting what my contract says I forgot about this money but the school has been putting an amount equivalent to 4% of my salary into this account.  Sweet!

Anyhow, I sat down to read the information, was totally confused and was feeling greatly in need of a dentist.  When I went to the dentist in the States this summer, my dentist said it would be a good idea to get two fillings... this has had me feeling nervous and knowing that I needed to care of my teeth but I just didn't have the energy to try and figure out the system.  With the booklet on my health insurance and my insurance card I felt more prepared.  I asked for help with friends in my bus route and I spoke with folks in HR.  The person who helped me get things done though?  Juan Carlos.  I'm not sure why I just didn't go to him from the beginning.  In less then 24 hours, he called the clinic, got me and appointment AND accompanied me to the dentist.  Good thing because even with an understanding of the Spanish that was being said to me I was totally confused by the entire system...
  1. There are only a handful of locations that I can go because I have the most basic insurance.  Perhaps not ideal - but for me, free.
  2. In order to see a doctor immediately, I could not be picky about the location which meant going to El Querigua - an hour-long Transmilenio ride from my house.   (Transmilenio is the public bus system in Bogotá that I had avoided until today...but now I can check it off my bucket list! Hooray!) I left school at 4pm and got on the bus at 5pm.
  3. You arrive at the clinic - this was an "urgent" visit - take a ticket, and wait to check-in.  You then wait to see the doctor.  I was impressed with the punctuality.
  4. The dentist poked around my mouth and sprayed some cold air on my teeth for about 2 or 3 minutes and then decided that I don't have any cavities but that she will order x-rays for me if I want to be sure.  I want to be sure.  (Again, my dentist in the U.S. told me in July...or August that I have cavities.  Here they tell me I don't.  Do I believe the dentist in the U.S. with the good technology who is going to make $500 if I get these cavities filled or do I trust the Colombia dentist with limited technology who has no incentive to lie to me?  Tough call.)
  5. They don't do x-rays at the clinic.  I have to go to another location, get the x-rays, and then return to the dentist for her to read them.
  6. It's 7pm.  The clinic closes at 7:30pm.  It's pouring.
  7. Juan Carlos and I run down the street looking for an x-ray place that is open - we are crammed under an umbrella barely big enough for one.  We are soaked.  There are no places open for x-rays at this hour.  We stop for empanadas. We agree they are not the best empanadas we've had but are a heck of lot better than being hungry, cold and wet.
  8. We walk 20 minutes in the rain to the bus station and take the hour-long bus ride back to my house.  I arrive home at 9 pm.
  9. I get in my pajamas, turn on my electric blanket, and e-mail my boss to explain why I will have to write my lesson plans in the morning.  I'm pooped.
After all this, I still don't have the x-rays and I need to return to the clinic for a cleaning (in a week and a half) and to have the dentist ready by x-rays.  If I do have cavities according to the x-rays, I will have to return again.  This is potentially 7 - 8 more hours of my life.  Dear God.  Again, all this is pretty much free.  I had to pay about $10 (23,000 colombian pesos).  The school is paying for my insurance, where normally the employees have to pay a percentage from their salary.  So I shouldn't complain - I know this.  It is certainly an adventure though...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Go big or go home!

So this past week, I started getting the same questions from students and teachers "Are you going to the Bazar?"

I tend to be the last one to know about things because only certain things are communicated to new teachers and my Spanish limits me from picking up information from eavesdropping (I have to listen REALLY hard if I even want to understand what folks are saying...and to this discretely? much more difficult).  So I started trying to get information about this Bazar.  And all I could gather was that it was a fair-like event to raise money for the 11th graders.  We then started receiving e-mails about the lack of people signing up to work at "our-Bazar".  This just made me a bit angry because not once had I receive a formal e-mail with any information about this even that was supposedly mine somehow.

Well, the weather was absolutely perfect on Sunday (and Saturday for that matter) - sunny, about 70 degrees, a cloud every once in a while to keep the heat down - perfect.  So I rounded up Juan Carlos and we drove up to the school (in terrible traffic because everyone in Bogotá had the brilliant idea of getting out of the house).  Well, when we arrived I was totally surprised - in a good way.  This was a real, professional-ish carnival/fair.  There was tons of food, games, rides/things to climb and bounce around in for the kids, and entertainment (music, dancing, etc.).  I ate Sushi, Juan Carlos some sort of pork dish and then pizza (the guy can eat!).  After this we got in line to play Tombola.  People here love this game!  Basically, you buy a ticket and when its your turn you pick a number.  The  number corresponds to a prize.  You're guaranteed to win something - although some prizes are better than others.  Students told me about people winning a stick of butter and dog food.  But then other people have won bikes, drum sets, and weekend getaways.  Juan Carlos and I won a set of products from a Bath & Body-type store and a set of wine glasses.  Not too bad for $4.50... but kind of silly.  After that we watched the Carnaval-esque dancers and then played miniature golf.  Sadly, I got my butt kicked...I tried to be a gracious loser - but oof.  Juan Carlos didn't even know the rules!!!

Anyhow, a great way to spend the weekend.  I'm glad I didn't blow off the event. :)

Trying to look happy after losing at mini golf.

In line to play Tombola!

The entertainment was so fun!

No words.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My favorite things: Empanadas

I have an addiction: empanadas from El Kiosko.  If you lived two blocks from the place, you would too.

This place makes the best empanadas in all of Bogotá.  If you are not familiar with empanadas - here in Bogotá at least - they are fried pockets of dough (made of corn) filled with delicious things.  I always get carne (meat) but they have cheese and chicken as well...and everywhere you go they are a bit different.  You eat them with lime and aji (hot salsa...there are different kinds) - YUM!  I generally order water to try and balance the fried (unhealthy) deliciousness with something that my body actually needs, but they go wonderfully as well with Colombiana - a delicious soda made in, duh, Colombia.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Getting out of my rut

Yikes!  It's been nearly a month since I added to this blog.  I apologize for those of you who like to read about my various escapades.  I have no good excuse, except that living in Colombia has started to feel normal and when that happens nothing seems blog-worthy.  However, after having a wonderful and much-needed conversation with my dear friend Sophia (also a blogger who has just recently moved to Berlin), she reminded me that there are others who read this and even if there aren't this will be an excellent "scrapbook" for me 5 years from now when I want to reminisce.

So, my goal is to start sharing the highlights of my week (with pictures) of the things that I love in my life to matter how trivial they may seem.  Again, sorry for the lack of pictures but here are some of the highlights that have taken place recently...and perhaps in the near future I will expand on some of them:

1.  Recently got in touch with some Americans  - we have the Teach For America connection - and have had some fun get-togethers with them.  It's a handful of American-Colombian couples so it's a great balance of speaking in English (it's a nice break) and practicing Spanish (greatly needed).
2.  Went to a pub to watch the Giants win (woo hoo!) with this lovely group of people.
3.  I am a part of the curriculum committee at my school and as my Spanish improves, I am starting to feel more and more useful.  This month I suggested that members of the committee and the department heads also be observed during Rondas (rounds) and we did just that.  It was nice to have people in my classroom, see that great work my students are doing, and my recognized for my hard work.  It was also awesome to see other excellent teachers in action - made Rondas much more of a balanced discussion about what works well in the classroom and what other approaches are less effective.
4. At the very beginning of the month I had the opportunity to attend a wedding.  It was beautiful and SO much fun.  I've included some pictures from that event (probably the last time I took a photo here) to make this blog less boring.
5. I've begun applying for some consulting jobs as a way to make some extra cash, further develop my skills in curriculum writing, and fill some of my extra time feeling helpful. Will keep you posted - hopefully with good news.
6. Started practicing with the girls basketball team every Monday morning at the school (at 6 am...oof).  It is a killer workout and so fun to get to know other students.  I also think the coach appreciates having an extra hand.  Which I could practice with them more but I have a weekly department meeting the other morning that they practice.  So sad...but glad I'm finding at least a little time to exercise.