Friday, October 19, 2012

What do I really know?

What do I really know about Colombia?  Turns out not a whole lot.

This evening, as a favor to my friend's cousin, I participated in an interview about my knowledge, opinions, and interpretations of all things Colombia....well, not all things, but certainly a LOT of things.  The interview lasted about an hour and I stumbled non-stop in an attempt to answer questions.  Sadly, however, after a living here more than a year, it turns out there is a LOT I do not know or have not noticed...although some of the questions I also thought were quite bizarre.

What is the national animal?   Apparently it's a condor.  I thought it was a vulture but didn't know the word for vulture in Spanish so I explained that I thought it was bird that eats dead animals.  Lovely.  The interviewer looked at my like I was totally crazy but the camera man nodded and told her I was correct.  After the interview I looked it up - and the condor is a type of vulture. Oh, and the Spanish work for vulture is "el buitre".

What religious rites do Americans practice?  Ummm...well considering the incredibly large number of religions in the U.S. I had a very hard time answering Spanish.  After the interview I suppose I could have mentioned baptism and communion...and perhaps with the ridiculous amount of fighting over the sanctity of marriage and whether or not same sex couples have a right to this ritual, I should have mentioned this as well.  What can I say?  Too much pressure.  I talked about the incredible percentage of people that only attend church for Easter and Christmas.  What a lame response.

Do you think Colombians are optimistic?  Turns out Colombians have a reputation for being optimistic.  I would never have made that generalization on my own - especially because folks out work can be so negative and complain...although I suppose I do a good share of complaining as well.

The questions went on and on.  For every question I could answer, there was a question that I responded to with a blank stare or a "que"?!  It certainly made me realize that I completely unaware of a lot of what is going on around me, it was kind of shameful.  Lesson learned?  I need to open my eyes and start taking in the scenery.  Oof.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


So my last post was more like a diary entry.  Sorry.  But it was on my mind and I'm starting to think that I might have more success if I put my hopes, dreams and goals on this blog, because folks will hold me accountable.  Maybe?  Anyhow, yesterday I had a few inspirational moments and was reminded of another piece of inspiration from the past. So I thought I'd share.

Last night had dinner with a good friend who I hadn't seen in months.  She loves to dream, thinks big, and is constantly encouraging me.  She helps me to see the impossible (or at least terribly daunting) as possible.  We talked about personal goals and professional goals and I came to some conclusions:  1) Yes, I'd like to find someone to share my life with BUT right now I have amazing friends that are filling that void just fine.  2) There is a lot I want to accomplish and I am fully capable of realizing these dreams...just gotta get my butt in gear and not focus on the things that are not going my way.  Really that was it.  (We were so wrapped up in our conversation, I forgot to take a photo. Sorry.)

When I got home, I got into bed and began reading a book that another friend of my recommended.  This guy sends these craaaaazy long e-mails to friends and family every month or so.  They are dense.  Sometimes...ok, most times...I have to skim because he's way more intelligent than me so sometimes what he says is over my head...other times, well, these e-mails are long.  Time is limited.  Anyhow, I take away 2 or 3 gems from every e-mail he sends, even with my skimming method.  It's awesome.  This book was one of the gems.  It's called Spark:  Transform your World, One Small Risk at a Time.

 I suppose it's kind of self-helpy but it is kicking my butt into gear.  Just from one 30 minute session (chapters 1 and 2).  The quote that I read seemed to say exactly what I was feeling when I wrote my last blog:
"I want a life full of rich, rewarding love.  I believe we all do.  We all long for lives that are profoundly, deeply, unexplainably joyful.  And whlie we may not always be aware of it, we have a deep longing to be truly good, to be honorable and compassionate, to be able to look ourselves in the mirror and admire who we see.  We crave kindness.  We admire those who are strong, yet gentle, patient, and in control of their thoughts, attitudes, and actions.
That's the kind of person I want to be."
Me too.

The idea the book presents is that we need to take small risks every day, every week, always in order to  make our lives what we want them to be in the moment.  Planning for the future is not a bad thing but it can drag you down and I know for me give me a constant feeling of slight (or sometimes serious) dissatisfaction.  You have to read the book to really understand what I'm saying - the author has a much better way with words that I do - but just the first two chapters have impacted me.  I've identified my risk for the next week and already put it into motion. Not going to say quite yet what it is  - but will share soon when I have more info on the results.  ;-)

Finally, in addition to identify my healthy risk for the week, I also started making a list of lots of things that I want to do to.  Again, two chapters = inspiration, I couldn't stop brainstorming.  Anyhow, I was reminded of a favorite poster of mine, which I think I've shared before because I'm always saying I don't have enough time.  The poster's time?  Stop watching tv.  So I've given up the tube for the rest of the month to see where that gets me.

The link to this poster, if you want to buy it.

This might just be another diary entry-like blog post, but perhaps what inspires me will inspire you as well.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The future is a blur

I think I'm having a bit of a crisis.  Maybe it has something to do with almost being 30.  Or maybe it's just me.  I'm getting antsy.  I'm worrying that I'm not doing enough with my life.  I have this constant inner dialogue  - it's a fight between my "I'm going to save the world" me and my "I just want to relax and enjoy life as it comes" me.

I came to Colombia to learn a second language.  It seemed a valuable skill, especially after being in a Masters program where it seemed I was the only one who did not speak (at least) two languages fluently.  To work internationally, a second language is critical.  To work in schools in the United States, Spanish is becoming more and more important if I want to reach the families of all learners.  Still, I'm here now and I'm so happy about learning Spanish but I want to do more.  I hate to say teaching isn't enough because teaching is tough and it's an honorable profession but for me I need something more.   But what? And where?

This is where the "relax and enjoy life as it comes"me steps in.  I like living in Bogotá.  I've got great friends and life is simple here...or simpler than life in the U.S.  I don't have a car and don't really want a car.  I don't constantly feel the need to go shopping for new clothes or obsess about my weight.  When I visit the U.S., I'm attacked by the intense consumerist nature of EVERYTHING and find myself wanting, wanting, wanting...crap I don't need.  The weather here is beautiful - although I am missing fall.  I have a comfortable income that doesn't permit me to do anything too crazy but also doesn't prevent me from doing most of what I want (just non around-the-world trips for me at the time).

Still, I'm getting to a point where I want to settle down, buy a house, invest in hobbies (I don't do that here because if I leave the country all my stuff won't fit in 3 suitcases and it will cost a fortune to ship), meet someone...but where do I go?  Where can I live a healthy, relaxed, limited-consumeristic-pressure lifestyle?  Where can I find a job that challenges me and let's me dream and develop and pays me a comfortable salary that would allow me to buy a house, visit family and friends often, and not worry so much about money?   Where can I find love?  (Yep, I've reached the tipping point...I'm ready).  I just don't know.

For now, I'm looking for projects here in Bogotá to keep me busy and to inspire me, trying to get back into running and yoga, searching daily for potential jobs for next year, reading lots (to keep my mind fresh), taking an online course on Mathematical Thinking (it's awesome) and trying to enjoy the great people I have in my life... still, if anyone has advice, recommendations, thoughts, some immense wisdom to solve these mysteries of life, etc.  I'm all ears!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Los Llanos with my Students

I spent all of last week, Monday through Friday, traveling with 44 of my fifth graders and 5 other adults.  Phew!  It was exhausting but it was also AMAZING.  As I wrote about last year, when I traveled to Santander with my 6th graders, at my school, every grade goes on a week long trip each year.  The fifth graders go to Los Llanos.  Los Llanos are the plains to the east of Bogotá, between the mountains and the Amazon rainforest.  It is flat, flat, flat, hot, hot, hot, and suuuuuuper humid but also beautiful.

Each day the students got to experience different aspects of life in Los Llanos.  Monday we stayed on a farm.  We went zip-lining through the forest (and saw monkeys!) but we also learned (kind of) how to lasso a cow and milk a cow.  The milking a cow part has been on my bucket list, after doing I have no idea why (it's kind of gross), but I did it and can now check that off my list!  

On Tuesday, in the morning we visited a local school and worked with the students there to re-paint one of the buildings with classrooms.   We then traveled a bit farther to a place where we camped for two nights.  The roads to the campgrounds are horrible so we had to take a Chiva.  A Chiva is like a party bus.  The seats are around the edges of the bus and the middle has a dance floor.  There are flashing lights and the music is blasting - the kids LOVED it...the teachers a bit less.  When we arrived the kids learned how to set up a tent AND set up the teacher tent for me and my friend Mariana (Sweet!).  We then ate dinner and played charades.  

On Wednesday, we walked to a farm of rubber trees and learned how latex is collected from trees.  We even got to collect some of the latex and create what looked like rubber band balls.  The material smell absolutely wretched but it was fun.  We then got to cool of in a nearby swimming hole.  My intention was to just get wet, cool off, and get out but there was a dock to jump off of and I think every student asked me to jump with was a much less relaxing activity than I'd anticipated but fun all the same.  In the afternoon, I got to relax and read while the kids participated in a scavenger hunt.  That night we had a campfire and reflected on the trip.  

 On Thursday, we headed to another hotel.  The kids were able to play in the pool in the morning (good thing because I was having some serrrrrious stomach issues - one of the downsides of traveling to new places and trying different foods that my body is not used to...wah, wah).  In the afternoon, we took a truck out to a fish farm and learned how they raise the fish and we even got to do some fishing.  I caught nothing.  The second activity was kayaking.  It was perfect weather and there was a gorgeous sunset...and of course that is when the battery of my camera died.   The hotel transported a hot meal for us out by the lake so we had a dinner alongside the lake with Tiki torches.  When we returned to the hotel we were exhausted, but there was band waiting to play for us - joropo - typical music from Los Llanos.  They taught the students some dance moves as well.  When the evening was all over we were pooped.  But it was a great way to end the trip.

On Friday, we packed up and headed back home - but of course stopped for lunch at a great restaurant where we ate (way too much) picada with mamona (veal).  Very tasty but I then slept for 3 hours on the bus to recover.

Great trip - got to see a new part of the country, bond with my students, and learn quite a bit.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Birthday Diva!

Today, I head to Los Llanos with my fifth graders for the week.  I am very excited about the trip but today is also the birthday of someone who has become a very good friend.

Natalia aka Diva, is a teacher at my school and is always there for me when I'm stressing out, freaking out about ridiculous school policy or need help with Spanish translations or my new job as course director.  Natalia gives me a ride home nearly every day and having a friend to vent with at the end of a long day is an absolute blessing.  In addition, to being someone I can always count on, she has taught be a ton of Spanish (both formal Spanish and highly inappropriate expressions...both important to know),  has introduced me to the best (and cheapest) empanadas in my neighborhood as well as a great beauty salon near my apartment ($4 manicures anyone? Sweet!).  She has a huge heart and is an amazing teacher and I'm so thankful to have her by my side at the school.

Because I'm not going to be in town on Saturday, I was able to organize a birthday celebration for Diva on Friday night.  We headed to our friends house where we had delicious cocktails and delicious food:  mozzarella with jalapeños, melted camembert with French bread, asparagus wrapped in bacon, and then chocolate fondue with fruit, cookies, and marshmallows for dipping. YUM!!!!!

On Sunday, I joined her and her family for a traditional asado in a park just outside of Bogotá.  The celebration included una hora loca...because, duh, it was a party.  Haha, of course it's normal for 5 people to play music and dance around in masks for an hour at a public park, of course.  But soooo much fun!

Happy Birthday Diva!!!