Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Day at the Races

So Friday arrived.  Everyone loves Fridays.  The end of the week, the weekend in sight.  We all have plans.  Sometimes those plans include going out for dinner or drinks with friends until some ungodly hour and sleeping until noon.  Other times they include taking advantage of those two days without work to get the laundry done, by the groceries and get a haircut.  Other times still the plan is that there is no plan and you are going to simply relax.  Ahhh.... Fridays.

Fridays at my school are extra special because we get to leave early - 2:10pm instead of the normal 4:00pm.  Awesome...unless there is an electric storm.  My school is very safety conscious.  We have a group of teachers that make up La Brigada.  They are responsible for training and preparing the school on how to respond in the case of an emergency - any emergency.  The biggest "emergency" we typically have is thunder and lightening.  Don't get me wrong, I understand that lightening can be a very dangerous thing and have no desire to be struck at any point in my life, but to consider it a school-wide emergency remains something quite new to me.  In my 20+ years in education (as student and teacher), Colombia is the only place where I have found electrical storms affecting my day-to-day life.

We have a device that measures the presence of electric storms and their distance from the school.  At a certain distance (not sure what that is...maybe 15 km?), La Brigada has determined that the risk of getting electrocuted is too high.  That is too high to use technology, too high to have the windows open, too high to leave the room you are in (we don't have hallways at our school to get from one place to another you must walk outside).

So on Friday, at 2:09pm, the alarm sounded signaling a state of emergency.  Most of the students had already gotten on their bus but us teachers, all waiting with bags packed were NOT on the bus nor in our cars and had the pleasure of staying at the school for an extra hour to wait out the risk of this passing electric storm.

Here's how we passed the time:

About 5 teachers participated in this great event of office chair racing before we were able to leave.  We each presented our own region/country.  You will all be proud to know that I, representative of the grand ole' US of A, won with a record time of 13 seconds...  my competitive spirit is alive and well. ;-)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bills, bills, bills

So, for the past year I have lived alone and thus have been paying utilities - phone/Internet, electricity, gas, and water/garbage - here in Colombia.  All this time, I've been complaining because I thought the only way to pay these bills was to go to a place with a Baloto (Colombia lottery) and pay there.  You can only pay in cash and so each month (twice a month - because the phone bill comes in the middle of the month) the errand has included walking to at ATM, or several because almost always one of them is out-of-order, taking out cash, going to the little store that is generally only open during normal workday hours so I'm rushing when I get home to get the cash and get there in time and pay these bills.  Some of which, seem almost ridiculous to be paying.  My gas is maybe $5.00 per month,  "Can't I just pay for the whole year upfront?!" I would think to myself until I finally got a wake-up call and found out that I can pay my bills online directly from my bank account, just like in the United States.   Doh.

Lesson learned:  Ask around about things before deciding that things in Colombia are more complicated and frustrating than in the U.S.  (This still holds true for some things but I'm finding more the pluses balance out the cons...I just need to dig a bit deeper).