31 August 2007

Holy Crap!

I really did move to Colombia.

I still have to pinch myself at times to make sure I'm not dreaming. Am I REALLY living in this kick-ass apartment on the side of a huge mountain, actually getting up before 6 am every day, and teaching great kids whose net worth is more than mine will ever be?


And there have still been no kidnappings. Sweet.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

This was how Jenna referred to a cab ride the other night. And it really was.

We had just come out of the dentist's office, where she was getting a filling replaced and I was providing moral/speaking support. We tried calling a cab, but it had been raining off and on all afternoon, so no cabs were open. So we walk up to the main street (Avenida Poblado) to try to hail one. Next thing we know, the sky opens up in a torrential downpour. Now our shoes are soaked, there are still no cabs, and Jenna is threatening to pee behind a bush (which is actually quite common to see here).

Finally, a cab comes by and I ask if he'll take us to our apt. We're in hysterics by now, and he is telling me that he cannot take us (of course I can't understand why). So I look at Jenna, and she says 'Esta bien?' (it's ok?), and I climb in the car. He proceeded to drive like a bat out of hell, cussing us and traffic the entire way to our place, passing cars, honking his horn, weaving in and out of traffic, gunning it between speed bumps. It was great. Better than any ride at Elitch's.

10 August 2007

Catching Up

Hey there everyone! Sorry it’s been so long—still don’t have internet at home and trying to find the time to blog at school actually seems wasteful, what with all of the lesson planning and preparations that need to be done.

I’m posting a few new posts right now, so be sure to scroll down for the first one. I promise I’ll have pictures up soon—maybe this weekend, even.

Not Alone Anymore

Sunday I actually went to church with this girl Alma, who is a new teacher, and her roommates Julia and Karen who were here last year. It was awesome to be able to go to church, but it was kind of weird. The music was pretty good, even though I didn’t know the words, the songs, or what the words meant. I was madly using my Spanish-English dictionary, though. The sermon was pretty difficult to figure out, but I did recognize a few words here and there. I had a wonderful walk home afterward, and was able to check out a little bit more of my neighborhood. Or barrio, as we say here. Hee hee—I live in the barrio.

Sunday afternoon was made even better with the arrival of my roommate, Jenna. She’s feeling fine and doing fine after her stint in the hospital in Miami. It’s so nice to have someone else around. We’ve done a bit of exploring together, and our very broken Spanish is at least entertainment for the folks around us. The porterias recognize us and are ready to dial when we come out to their booth. Of course, the one downfall to having a roommate so far is that I find myself staying up late chatting instead of sleeping. Which makes the morning come that much sooner. It’s been tough being on the bus at 6:45, but thankfully it’s light out and will continue to be light out at that time through the year (the whole living-on-the-equator thing). It could be worse.

Not only has my roommate livened things up here, she helped me figure out how to call the US from my home phone, without even using a calling card. Of course, I’ll probably have to sell a kidney when the bill comes, but it was worth it to talk to mom and dad!

Second Weekend and All’s Better

My second weekend started off with a fun happy hour with the new teachers, our HR contacts, and some of the returning teachers. After my first weekend, I think people were worried about me, so my principal assigned me a new host ‘mom’—Ana Maria, who actually came to find me during the math institute. She called me Thursday night to tell me that she’d been told there was a happy hour planned and she would pick me up at 6:00 to go. It was nice to have a ride.

Saturday morning I went downtown to Parque Bolivar with 4 of the returning teachers for the San Alejo ‘craft’ fair, which is held the first Saturday of each month. It’s a huge fair, with vendors from all over the area. There were so many awesome things I wanted to get, but I held myself back and only bought a few note cards and some homemade candles.

On the way home, I decided to check out another one of the nearby malls. I treated myself to lunch at a little pizza place where the waiter spoke English and was very helpful (I told him that the next time I come in, I’ll speak Spanish.) Afterward, I grabbed a few groceries and headed out to catch a taxi to get home. I can’t remember the exact number, but no less than 5 cabs told me they wouldn’t take me. Since I couldn’t understand what they were saying, I don’t have any idea what the problem was. I was pretty frustrated, but determined to take a taxi all by my berry self. Finally, a woman and her parents, who had also been waiting a long time for a ride, beckoned me to ride with them. The driver wasn’t sure about my location, but he took me to a nearby hotel and told the doorman there that he needed to find a cab that knew where my place was. I finally got home nearly an hour after I started trying.

First Weekend Meltdown

So, my first weekend in Medellin wasn’t the best. I had planned to go to dinner at the apartment of 3 of the other new teachers. After my nap, I gathered all of my stuff and called for a cab as instructed in our ‘Welcome’ packet. The phone rang once, I heard some rambling in Spanish, and the line went dead. I found that odd, so I double checked the number and tried again. Same thing. I tried a few more times, all of them ending the same way, in what I’ve now figured out is a message that the line is busy. Not to be discouraged, I headed down to my porteria (doorman) to ask him to call. It was difficult getting my question across (see previous post), but I finally figured out I needed to bring him change to make the phone call. By this time, I was totally frustrated and decided that I was not going anywhere. I went back up to my apartment and called the girls to let them know. They proceeded to call the taxi company themselves to get me a ride, but twice were disconnected near the end of the call. I ended up eating over-priced spaghetti (have you ever tried to find something familiar in a foreign grocery store?) and going to bed early.

The next morning I called Jen and the Tinas (above-mentioned coworkers), and they were so nice to come pick me up in a cab so that we could all go shopping. While I waited for them to get here, I did a bit of crying over the fact that I was all alone in a city that I couldn’t even get a cab in, my roommate hadn’t made it here yet, and to top it off I hadn’t even figured out how to call my parents yet! All I wanted to do was talk to my mom! I had to put on my big girl panties and deal with it all by myself!

After shopping, we all had dinner at their place, and I ended up spending the night in their maid’s quarters. Seriously, if it weren’t for the lack of closet space, I’d have moved in right then. The girls were so wonderful to me and really knew how to step in and help.

Sunday brought the start of the math institute hosted at our school. It was a great learning experience. We had kids in the morning, with experienced teachers working with them as facilitators (instead of lecturers), and in the afternoon we had professional development and discussion. It was awesome to see other teachers in action again, and learn some new things to do in my classroom (or, not do, in the case of leaving markers on the students’ desks when they are done making their name tags). We also had a chance to work with teachers from other cities in Colombia, so we not only made professional contacts, but reservations for future trips. I have all kinds of places to stay in Bogota!