19 October 2008

Vacation by the Numbers

20: # of hours traveling on a bus
9: # of bottles of wine drunk during the week
1.5: # of liters of rum drunk during the week
733: # of kids who invaded the pool at Rio Claro like ‘Night of the Living Dead’
1527: # of bug bites (now scars) on my legs
3: # of poor schmoes who got to sit on the bucket in the aisle of the bus because there were no more seats
1: # of kids who puked while sitting on the bucket seat
2.5+/-: # of hours in taxis
12: # of Stations of the Cross carved out of salt
8: # of extra people who had to stand in the aisle because there weren’t enough seats on the bus
2: # of unwanted dogs in my lap due to the extra people
40: # of minutes for the flight home from Bogota
18,000: # of pesos to needed for an adventure!
1: # of times I sprained the rubber ankle, taking a digger and tearing my knee to shreds in the gravel

In a nutshell, that was my week off. It was a ton of fun, very relaxing, and a little bit stressful at times (have you ever tried to flag down a bus on the side of a major highway?). We had some amazing food in Bogota (as always) and, surprisingly, in Villa de Leyva. We stayed at an awesome resort in Villa de Leyva, where we were able to pamper ourselves at the spa with massages and nails, not to mention the steam room and sauna (which I’ve never before enjoyed-must have been the fresh pineapple and eucalyptus). We also went on a horseback tour of the area around the town, which was super fun, aside from the fact that I can’t get on a horse to save my life!

I’ll get some pictures up here soon. In the meantime, check out my friend Jen’s blog for a more detailed account of the trip.

04 October 2008


All I ever wanted. Vacation have to get away. Vacation, la la la la la la la lah.

Leaving tomorrow for Rio Claro. Then on to Bogota and Villa de Leyva. Should be a relaxing week. And if not relaxing, I'll see a lot of the country through the bus window.

25 September 2008

The Car Blew Up

Well, sort of. We think it's going to be ok, but it sure wasn't fun last night.

Here's the story:
We get home from school to find that the dog had gotten into something and has some strange swelling on the right side of her face. We walk down to the nearest pet place, which advertises a vet, to get her checked out. Of course, the advertisements mention nothing about the vet only being in on Saturday.

So we walk home and head off to another vet, not knowing exactly where it is. Mind you, this is around 5:30 pm, right during the heart of rush hour. Traffic is ridiculous.

So we drive over to where we think the place is, but we don't see it so we continue up the hill (err..mountain) thinking it must be farther. Traffic is insane, we're stuck at stoplights, it is not pleasant.

We get to the top of the hill (probably a mile or so) and decide that the place must be back down at the bottom near the first turn that we weren't sure of taking. Now we have to head back down the hill, but the city has so many one-way streets that this is a major production. We essentially 'go around the block'--a very large block--right in our own neighborhood.

So we're chugging along (which is normal for the car), about 4 blocks from our apartment when we hear this really loud 'pop.' The car dies and I turn the wheel hoping to coast out of traffic. I can't see a damn thing for steam in front of me (which at the time I wasn't sure was steam or smoke) and I tell Jenna, through the laughter, that the car blew up.

This is when the panic hits me. It's no longer funny. The car is dead, and I don't have any idea who to call or what to do. These 2 nice guys on a motorcycle, though, do know what to do. They point out a hose that looks like it's supposed to go from the water reservoir to the engine. But there are at least 6 inches of hose gone. And the street is flooded beneath the car. The guys tell us that our hose is very common and they can fix it. So they hop on their bike and take off, telling us 'Stay here. We'll be back in 30 minutes.' (all of this 'communication' is occurring with our bad Spanish and one of the dudes' little bit of English) Where are we supposed to go? And how? The car is stuck on the side of the road! We can leave it there with the keys in the ignition, wash our hands of it, but we'd still have to pay for it.

So we wait. And sure enough, the guys come back, put the new hose on, fill the reservoir up with water, and we're good to go. The guys were really nice and helpful. We tried to give them money when they left to get the part, but they wouldn't take it; we could pay them when they got back. We paid them $25 for the part and their help. They almost wouldn't take extra money, but we made them.

We never did make it to the vet. We came home, ordered pizza, and went to bed. And Charlie's face is fine today. Go figure.

22 September 2008

New Mailing Address!

I keep forgetting to mention that Jenna and I have gotten a Mailboxes Etc. box. Which means that we have an address in Miami where mail (and packages) can be sent, and then it is forwarded here to the MBE office for us to pick it up. Mail is actually guaranteed (or at least insured) this way, which is much nicer than the former method of crossing our fingers that it makes it to our house.

I'll send out an email with the address. If I miss you for some reason, let me know.

21 September 2008

Pictures Link

Hi Again, everyone! Here is the
to my pictures. Please let me know what you think.

Sunday Laziness

I'm having a hard time getting moving today, despite going to sleep nice and early last night (before 11). At least sitting on the couch has given me the chance to catch up on some blog and online photo stuff. It's about time, right? I'll post a link to my pictures as soon as I can get it to work for me.

Things here have been pretty ordinary. School is going pretty well, although not without problems. Administration continues to be less than effective, and my kids are far from angels. But overall, I think things are better than they were last year (or at least, the end of last year).

Have I mentioned that Jenna got a puppy? She's a beagle named Charlie. She likes to chew on stuff, including my toes and much of Jenna's skin. She has a pretty big bark, but I've found that barking back helps to put her in her place. I'm not sure how much I like having a puppy around. I don't hate her by any means, but I sure don't love her. And I am annoyed by her. I don't think I'm really a pet owner.

Next Saturday a bunch of us are going out of town to Santa Fe de Antioquia, a small colonial town not too far away. There is restaurant there that is hosting a wine tasting event which should be a pretty fun time. Apparently the weather there is really nice, so I'm planning to spend a lot of time poolside. As rainy as it has been here, I'm needing the sun.

I'm also looking forward to our October break coming up soon. I'm going on a little bus trip with my friends Jen and Tina. We're going first to Rio Claro for 2 nights (which I don't actually know much about aside from it being on the way to Bogota), then on to Bogota for 2 nights where we will certainly enjoy some great food, then to Villa de Leyva for 3 nights of relaxation (apparently it is a colonial village also, with some sort of fossil museum and a spa). We've decided to splurge and fly home from Bogota to save the 9 hours it would take to bus back.

I guess that's it for now. I'd like to say that I'll be better about updating more regularly, but that would be a hollow promise.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Vacation started with staying up half the night with Sarah and Jenna before a crack-of-hell trip to the airport to send Jenna on her way back to California. That day I got to spend one last day with Sarah, who has moved on to greener pastures in China. The next day I hitched along for the ride to take her to the airport, and I did cry some on the way home. It's been a few months since she left, and I do dearly miss her.

A few days later, I made another trip to the airport, this time to pick up my very first visitor to Medellin. My drive up was uneventful, until I missed my last turn and had to take an extra trip around the roundabout ('Look kids: Big Ben, Parliament'). No problems, though. I got off at the right spot the second time and made it to the passenger pick up area with plenty of time to wait for Brian to get through security and make it out.

We spent a few days in Medellin, which included checking out the Botero statue plaza outside Museo de Antioquia, riding the metro cable to the new library on the hill, showing off my school grounds, typical lunch, and sangria followed by Ron Medellin in the park (Parque Lleras) with Tina H.

We took a night bus to Cartagena, which was a much more pleasant experience for me than for Brian. I took one of the super-duper sleeping pills I'd picked up (only ONE each day) and crashed. Poor Brian was in a jenky seat that jerked back and forth with the acceleration and braking of the bus. Oh, and don't forget that it's windy mountain roads and he got a little seasick. He was a little worse-for-wear when we got there.

We spent 4 nights at this great little hostel/motel within the walled city of Cartagena, Casa Relax. We spent our time tooling around and checking things out. The walled city is amazing--the architecture is just beautiful--and we walked up to the castillo. One of the days we tried to take a boat trip out to the Islas Rosario with our hotel owner and other guests there, but we got totally rained out and had to turn back. I was soaked to the core and will never again ignore the 'wash before using' warning on a brightly colored towel (I was also blue from the dye). The following day gave us much better weather and we were able to get on a boat to the islands with tons of other tourists. The boat ride was fun, but the overall trip was less than spectacular. We ended up at a beach, Playa Blanca, which was touted as the best beach in Cartagena. It was disappointing; the beach itself wasn't that great (I've actually been to so many better ones just in my travel here) and it was saturated with vendors. Vendors who would NOT leave us alone. Apparently 'no gracias' doesn't actually mean anything. One guy, I finally had to basically say that I didn't care how cheap his bracelet was, I did not want it. It was less than relaxing. In fact, much of Cartagena was full of these vendors who were very pushy and would not leave us (allegedly) rich gringos alone. Some of the highlights of Cartagena:
  • Sunset drinks at Cafe del Mar, on the wall overlooking the ocean.
  • Awesome eating, most notably Pelikanos, where we got a full meal including appetizers and dessert and a full bottle of wine each, for roughly $40. Total. And that is actually pretty pricey for Colombia.
  • Views from the top of the Castillo.
  • Museum of Modern Art, where we got in for $1 each.
  • The beautiful churches and the unexpected wedding we got to witness.
  • The emerald salesmen-lord, they were everywhere! And there were promociones (sales) all the time!
  • Running all over the walled city looking for a bottle of wine that wasn't 100 degrees.
  • Buying beers from the only street vendor who kept getting in trouble and being asked to leave the area by the police.
  • Unexpectedly running into Daisy and Luke and getting great advice on where to eat and where to stay next on our adventure (keep reading for more info).
From Cartagena we took a collectivo (smaller bus that moves faster and doesn't take as many passengers) to Santa Marta/Taganga. There, we met up with a travel agent (recommended by Daisy) who booked us for two nights at one of the most amazing places I've ever stayed. We stayed at a house named 'Barlovento' which is on the coast of the Caribbean, just on the outside of Colombia's Parque Tayrona, near Venezuela. The house is on a cliff over the sea, and all of the rooms have at least one completely side in order to hear and see. It was truly amazing. It was actually hard to sleep for the crashing of the waves on the rocks. The first night we were the only people in the house, which was very strange and isolating. The second night there was another guest at the house we got along with really well, and the 3 of us talked and drank into the night in the blackness that was the power outage that hit the few houses in our area. The place is, as Daisy so eloquently put it, Casa Fantastica. Although it was a tad-bit unnerving to be so isolated, it was perfect for some relaxation and I would totally go back there.

After 2 nights at Barlovento, we packed up our stuff and hiked out to the highway in hopes of caching a bus to the entrance of Parque Tayrona. The bus never came and we ended up walking the whole way, which was maybe 5 km total, but which felt like AT LEAST 6 km. It was damn hot and humid, and we both had all of our stuff for roughly 2 weeks. It was a good time.

When we got to the park, we rented horses to carry us and our stuff the 45 minutes into the area where we planned to stay, Arrecifes. The horse ride was uneventful, but it was definitely less than comfortable in the shorts I chose to wear. Once we got there, we booked a small cabin for the night and headed off for the beach. The area itself is more of a surfing beach due to the currents and big waves, but there is a decent swimming beach about a 30 minute walk away. We spent a few hours on the beach, but that was pretty much the excitement of our time there. I've heard that there is great hiking around the area, but we didn't have enough time there to do much adventuring. I think I'd like to go back and spend more time there. After one night there, we grabbed a taxi into Santa Marta to catch our plane to Bogota.

Bogota was so different in comparison to the week we had just spent: big city, faster paced, not to mention much cooler weather. We stayed at my favorite little motel, La Casona del Patio Amarillo, and explored the city. We checked out the Botero museum, part of the Gold Museum (which is currently undergoing reconstruction and only part of the collection is available for viewing), La Candelaria, Monserrate Cathedral (and the fantastic view of the city), and a really fun dance club--it was like a frat party: pay to get in and get unlimited drinks until 2 am. It was awesome. Made for a rough morning the next day, but also made for a really fun night.

I'm having a hard time remembering what else we did in Bogota (Brian when you read this, feel free to add in the comments). We decided to take a day time bus back from Bogota, which took way more time than we expected. As soon as we got back to Medellin we took a cab to McDonalds for some good old American food and called it a day.

Brian's last day in Medellin we did some last minute sight-seeing and souvenir shopping, where I randomly met a woman who sells AVON here and a man selling his own cds. The next morning we both left town on a flight to Panama City, Brian on the way to Denver and me to Wyo for some much needed family time.

My time in Wyoming went by much too fast, but it was wonderful. The highlights:
  • 4th of July at the Cabin with mom and Dad, Jason and Christy, Terry and Renee, and Christy's folks.
  • Seeing the cousins at South Pass (missed you Jill and kids!).
  • Sleeping in my bed at home.
  • Dinner with the Gray family.
  • One day with Lindsay, Jeff and Rebecca (ending with being locked out of my own house by Kemmerer's finest).
  • A quick trip to Denver for some live music (Mile High Music Fest) and visits with dear friends-and awesome homemade fish tacos at Brian's.
  • Dinner with Jana and Greg and a trip to Wal-Mart to stock up on necessities.
  • Good, familiar food.
  • Good beer.
  • Wonderful alone-time with mom and dad.
  • Taco Time,
Unfortunately, my time away didn't last long enough to be as restorative as I needed it to be (my favorite thing to do when I'm at home is to sleep in and stay in my pjs all day for days on end--seems to recharge my batteries as needed), but every minute was wonderful and I'm thankful that I was able to go. While I love living here and seeing all of the places and things I never imagined I would visit, I really do miss my family and friends in ways I never thought I would. But that is another post on its own, so I'll end for now.

And that concludes 'How I Spent My Summer Vacation.'

18 August 2008

First Week

I made it through the first week of school fine.  My kids seem like they're going to be a lot of fun.  It's going to be a challenge, but I tried to start things differently this year, so maybe it'll be a bit easier to get them to do something for me.  On the whole, they seem like they really are good people, just really squirrelly.  We'll see what happens.  I do have one class with 21 boys and no girls.  That's going to be interesting.  I have a feeling it'll be a smelly classroom when they're there.  

Today was our first puente (Monday holiday) of the school year.  The only plans I had were to spend time at the pool.  Too bad it's been rainy and cloudy all weekend.  Very disappointing.  I tried today, but a downpour started as soon as I got there, so Tina and I ended up having lunch and bloody marys and going home.  Total bummer.

09 August 2008

Vaca Replay

Aside from the trips to Costa Rica and Tennessee, I did take some other trips this spring/early summer. Nothing nearly as exciting as our vigilante action took place, but a lot of fun was had by all. Here are the highlights. I'll add a few pictures here, but the rest of them will be at Shutterfly. I'll pass on the link when I'm done organizing them.

Guatape/El Penol--April 2008
Guatape and El Penol are two pueblitos about 3 hours away from Medellin. Sarah, Jenna, Jen, and I took the bus up on a Saturday for the night, just to get out of town. Both of the towns are on this awesome lake: some number of years ago (I think in the 1970s) a dam was built and an entire town was flooded. The lake is beautiful; it has all of these fingers and there are tons of fincas built all around it, including one of Pablo Escobar's, which was bombed by the military during one of the failed attempts to catch him. We took a boat tour of the lake and were able to see the cross of the church that still sits at the bottom. It's pretty cool.
The other main attraction here is a giant rock that sticks up above everything else. (I believe it's actually named El Penol, too, but I'm not positive about that.) You can climb to the top of the rock to check things out, which the girls did but I chose not to do. Next time I'll climb up, too.

Bogota--May 2008
We had one of our famous long weekends, including a puente (Monday off), during the first part of May, so Jen, Jenna, and I, along with our friends Tina (Jen's roommate) and Paula (our resident counselor) went to Bogota for the weekend.

After living in the city of mediocre food, Bogota was a treat for our taste buds. Our first stop was the Hard Rock Cafe--admittedly not the best food, but it was all kinds of American, which we all needed. We also got Thai, Arabic, and the best Mexican food I've had since leaving the States. And don't forget the beer. Oh, the beer. There is an actual microbrewery in Bogota, which always makes me happy.

Aside from eating and drinking (which took up a lot of time), we toured around the city. We went up to Monserrate, which is a cathedral on the top of one of the mountains in the city. That place has the most amazing views, which are almost enough to convince me to move there. The cathedral also has the world's scariest Jesus--I kid you not. I won't post the picture here, but I promise it's in my batch on Shutterfly.

We spent a lot of time in the La Candelaria area of town, which is the historic district. The buildings and the museums and churches and Plaza Bolivar; they're really amazing. It's beautiful and so rich with history, and the plaza is full of pigeons and people and street performers. I truly can't get enough of it. And not to mention that after 16 (I may be exaggerating here) margaritas, all it takes is an 'I'll pay for it' to get Jenna to climb atop a llama. It was awesome.

Our last night there we went to a dance club and ended up staying out all night. We got back to the hotel just in time for breakfast. Fabio at the front desk was impressed.
(an aside: if you ever decide to go to Bogota, you've got to stay at La Casona del Patio Amarillo. It's fantastic and cheap and they make killer fried eggs for breakfast!)

Cartagena--1st Weekend of June 2008
Our trip to Cartagena was the 'last hurrah' for Sarah, Jen, Jenna, and me, since Sarah has left us for China. It also was a celebration of the Jenna's 3rd Annual 29th birthday. We went big and stayed at an all-inclusive, where we proceeded to spend as much time as possible pool-side with cocktails. We tried the beach for awhile, but there were so many vendors who did not understand the word 'no' (including the guy who kept trying to get me to go out with him under the promise that men from the coast are different from men elsewhere. whatever.) that we decided to stay in the compound at the pool. There we met some seemingly nice guys from Georgia, who later turned out to be racist bastards. It's possible we're actually better off sticking to our own company. The weekend was tons of fun and very restoring. There might have been some dancing in the Bogota airport, fueled by Ron Medellin. Airports here are awesome...they have these little carts that sell beverages and snacks and such. We like to call them 'bars.' And you can carry your drink, whatever it is, everywhere around the airport. In the Cartagena airport, we actually had to make our own bar once we got past security. Here are Jen and Sarah mixing up some ron.

03 August 2008

I may have solved the picture problem

I've started uploading my pictures to Shutterfly. It seems to be working much better and is quite easy to arrange and title them (so much easier than I thought Kodak was). And I've been able to upload over 100 pictures at a time and it's generally only taking about an hour. So much better! Sometime within the next week or so I'll be sending out a link so you all can check them out.

On another note...I start school for real tomorrow. No kids yet this week, but all of the fun pre-year teacher stuff. Oh, and recuperations. If I haven't told you about those, let me know, and I'll be glad to fill you in on what a pain in the ass they are. I can't wait to spend even MORE time on that!

31 July 2008

Green Lightning

It's green. And it's fast as lightning. Sort of. And every trip around town is a bit of an adventure.

Not the best picture, but you get the gist of it.

This one time? At math camp?

So, you may know that the reason that I came back to Medellin when I did was because of the math institute/camp that we're hosting this week. I've been teaching a class to soon-to-be-8th graders in the mornings while other teachers are observing. Apparently they're supposed to see IMP in action. They're sure seeing me, doing what I do. Not sure if it's the best representation of the program, but I'm doing what I can and actually learning a lot about my own teaching.

I found out this week that my classroom has changed. Thankfully, I found out before any of the other teachers got back (they all come on Monday) and was able to very quickly move all of the books and supplies I need. There wasn't even anyone around to share the cart with, so my 2 trips took only about 1/2 an hour. One less thing to deal with.

I also found out this week that I was not chosen as the math department chair. Not that I'm surprised. But it's nice that they finally let me know. And I am mostly happy with who they chose.

Oh, and the logic and sets course that I was scheduled to teach without a book or even knowing how often it meets--it's been given to another teacher. I'm a little disappointed, because I was actually looking forward to doing something new, and to the challenge, but it'll also make my year a little bit easier. Maybe.

Jenna gets back tomorrow. I've been feeling pretty lonesome here in the apartment by myself.

26 July 2008

I die a little bit every time I try to upload photos.

I'm having serious issues trying to share my photos with you all. Of course, with blogger, you can only do one or two at a time and it takes forever, so that's out.

So I tried Kodak online. But it was working for a good 2 hours and I was lucky to get 2 photos online. Mind you, I tried it at least 3 different times (with the same photos) on different internet connections with the same lack-of-success.

So I tried Snapfish. This time the site 'worked' for about an hour to upload my 72 pictures. When I checked on it, there was an error message that 51 of the photos were not a valid format (or something like that). Of the 21 photos that were 'successfully uploaded,' 6 did not show up as actual pictures. Argh!

I'm beginning to think it might have something to do with iPhoto or my Mac, but I just don't know. Does any of you have any ideas or suggestions? Anybody else have a Mac and have similar problems? HELP!

25 July 2008

43 and 45

Pounds, that is. Those are the weights of my 2 suitcases coming back to Medellin today. I successfully navigated the baggage embargo this time. Woo hoo! If you're not sure what I'm talking about, check out #7

I'm back in Medellin now and start our math institute on Sunday. I'm not sure if I'm excited for that or not.

01 July 2008

Homeward Bound

Headed back to the states tomorrow morning. Yay! I'll be in Wyoming from July 3 to 17-ish, then Denver until the 21st, and Wyoming again until the 25th. It's a short trip, but I'm very excited for it.

Denver people...I think we're going to try to do fish tacos at Brian's on the Friday I'll be in Denver (think it's the 18th). More details on that to come, but let me know if you're free so I can email his address.

That's it for now. Have to finish packing!

17 June 2008

Late Fathers' Day

I didn't call my dad for Fathers' Day until Monday, so it's only fitting that I'd wait until Tuesday to post this picture. Have I ever mentioned that my dad is the coolest guy in the world? Love you!

I didn't have any good pictures of the two of us, so I had to use this one. Here dad is doing his favorite thing--cleaning the snow off the driveway!

15 June 2008

Costa Rica Recap, Part 2

Our last day in Arenal we went on a canopy tour of the jungle. They strap you into a harness and you go from tree to tree on zip lines. It was really cool, although you move a little fast to be able to really check out the wildlife around you. Here's a picture of me doing a 'superman' with one of the guides, Antonio.

After the canopy tour we cleaned up and headed out for what everyone assured us would be a 3 hour drive to Quepos, on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. With traffic, crazy roads, 3 road signs (total), and general distance, the trip took closer to 8 hours (including our time at the cevicheria where we stopped for directions and a snack).

When we finally found our hotel, we found our room to be partially unfinished--there was an unpainted wall, outlets and light switches to nowhere, and an electrical box in the bathroom with no cover. There was a minor problem with having no water that night, but we were assured that it would be fixed by the morning. I woke up to Jenna standing in the bathroom door, dripping soap because the water had shut off in the middle of her shower. No shower for me!

We spent the day tooling around Quepos, finding a great little local coffee shop where we proceeded to eat all of our breakfasts there. We still didn't have water at the hotel that night.

The next day we hiked into Manuel Antonio national park. We went on a small tour group and hiked in the back way with a guide. We saw so many cool animals: monkeys and sloths (even one coming down to take his weekly poop) and a jesus-christ lizard (which can run on water). The walk in was through the jungle, really awesome. The tour ended at the beach, which is considered by many to be the best beach in Costa Rica.

After awhile on the beach, we hiked back out and found a restaurant where we could get some lunch and a beer. Apparently, though, it is illegal in CR to sell any type of alcohol on Good Friday. But the restaurant would sell 'sodas' to us. This is Jenna with our 'sodas'--light beer with lime juice and a salt-rimmed glass.

Here are a couple pictures of the rain that hit us while we were hanging out at the restaurant. It was ridiculous!

The next day we were back in the car on our way to San Jose for the night in order to fly out on Sunday. We stopped at this awesome overlook (near Jaco beach) and took some pictures with some other random tourist-types.

While we were enjoying the view, we were burgled by the 2 guys in this car (The picture shows them speeding away).

Here's the story: We had just walked back to the car after taking some pictures, and Jenna switched the lenses on her camera. For the first, and only, time on our adventure, we left the car doors unlocked. I walked toward the ocean and was approached by a guy I'd seen drive up. He was trying to tell me that there were some birds out on the ocean I should take pictures. When I corrected him that the birds were, in fact, in the trees in the opposite direction (toward the car), he started talking about dolphins. About this time Jenna came over to see what was happening. I told her that apparently there were dolphins, but I couldn't see them. I was now bored and turned back to the car. I saw the second of the guys walking between our car and theirs carrying a backpack that looked suspiciously like mine. I checked the car, and sure enough the dude had my bag. I yelled at him (using many choice words that are not appropriate for a family blog) and tried running after him. His friend realized that the gig was up and raced toward the car. I realized that there was no way I'd be able to keep up with them/catch them, and was smart enough to take a picture of the car, in the hopes of turning it in to the police.

Jenna came back to the car, I told her they had my bag, and she responded: "Which way did they go?" We took off after them and I started listing what was in my bag: an empty journal, address book, 2 cell phones that don't work in CR, a fairly old iPod, and a bag full of random crap. Oh, and about 140,000 Colombian pesos which aren't worth the time it would take to exchange them there. I felt a little vindicated, in a way, that the jerks didn't get away with anything too valuable, but then I just got madder as I thought about the principal of the thing.

We found their car parked at a hotel about 5 minutes away. Jenna parked directly behind the car (so they couldn't drive off again) and jumped out yelling at anyone who would listen. Someone from the hotel was able to figure out what I was yelling about and explained it to the rest of the people there, who immediately jumped up in pursuit of the guys who had run away when we drove into the parking lot. They never caught the guys, but I found the car unlocked and stole back all of my stuff. We had a beer to calm down and continued on the drive.

We spent our last night in San Jose, which we'd heard wasn't much to write home about. The people at the hotel told us where we could go to hang out that night, which turned out to be this small, walled-in plaza that had a bunch of different clubs. We ended up drinking too much and staying out all night. It was a good thing all we had to do the next day was sleep on the plane.

That's it for the trip. Sorry it took so long to tell you about it. I guess I can blame it on Colombian time, again.

04 June 2008

Another Take on Sid

Ok, so my picture of Sid is not very good. Check out this link..it's a story about a man who actually raises multiple Sids. I believe their official name is 'Hercules Beetle.'


We decided to free him. He started chewing through the wire-mesh cage that Jenna found in the science lab and we weren't sure he'd actually make it while we were gone to Cartegena for a 3 day weekend. We opened the door of the cage and left him on the balcony the night before we left. He's not there anymore and he actually chewed a different hole in the mesh.

28 May 2008


This is Sid. He's our 'pet.' We found him attached to our curtain on Monday night. After a lot of hysterics and calls to two boys who fell through, Jenna was finally able to corral him into a water pitcher with lid. We gave him some mango to eat. He seemed happy.

Then, at about 2:30 yesterday morning, I was awakened by whimpering from Jenna's bedroom. Apparently, Sid didn't like his cage all that much and had escaped. He moved the lid across the room, and then continued on his merry way into her closet. She woke up to hear him chewing on a thick plastic bag. I went in to investigate and was given the task of finding him. Meanwhile, she's whimpering/laughing/screaming while standing in the middle of her bed (she wasn't sure of his location and was afraid she'd find him on the floor). I found him attached to one of her shoes and somehow managed to get him back in the cage, although not without stunning him a little bit. It was pretty eventful.

We think he may be dying now. It's sad, really. But he is one ugly mo-fo.

Colombian "Snow Day"

We're on consecutive Day 2 (and day 3 of the last 2 weeks) of no school due to the roads up the mountain being closed. You see, we get a lot of rain here. And apparently lately it's been way too much for the ground to handle. So there have been massive mudslides that have covered the road and made travel impossible. I'm not complaining one bit. The last 2 days, I got to sleep in. And today I even got to take a nap.

We got a call that we have to go in to school tomorrow, though. Somehow they're getting all of us teachers there, but no kids. It'll be a good work day for me, considering I was gone all last week.

For those of you who didn't know, my friend Sarah and I took our middle school Destination Imagination team to the Global Finals in Knoxville, TN last week. It was a lot of fun, but very draining. By the 2nd day I think I was running on pure adrenaline and caffeine. It's hard to say exactly where our time went, but I can guarantee that it wasn't used for sleeping.

A few highlights of the trip:
1. Watching the kids re-vamp their play and somehow manage to pull it together to present to the judges.
2. Watching the kids work together and do an awesome job on their instant challenge; in fact, the best I've ever seen them work. I was so proud!
3. Shopping! A lot! As ashamed as I am to admit it, I was really glad to get to go to WalMart. Did you know you can get 4 pounds of peanut butter for, like, $7?
4. Embarrassing the kids by wearing 'Do Not Disturb' eye masks (you know, for sleeping) all day in the mall and the airport, just for fun.
5. Witnessing Sarah drive the 15-passenger van that was larger than most of the buses our kids take to school here.
6. Watching the girls run after the van because we were tired of waiting for them, so when they got close to the door we took off. Twice.

We had a really great time, but I was very much glad to come home. And then I lucked out and got 2 more days of rest before having to go back to work. Very nice.

I still have the rest of Costa Rica to write about (including our vigilante action). Stay tuned. I promise I'll finish it one of these days. Since the Costa Rica trip, we've taken a long weekend to Bogota (my new favorite city), and Sarah, Jen, Jenna and I are going to Cartagena this weekend to celebrate Jenna's 3rd Annual 29th Birthday. I'm very excited to see what Cartagena and get some good beach time.

11 May 2008

Feliz Dia de La Madre

Happy Mothers' Day to all of you mothers out there! Love you mom!! To commemorate this day, here's a picture of my awesome mom and me last summer with Uncle Ross.

15 April 2008

Costa Rica ReCap, Part 1

Our Costa Rica adventure began at 3:00 am on Sunday when we got up to head to the airport. Two uneventful flights, plus a nightmare trying to find a change house in the Bogota airport that would give us Colones (which we never did find), got us to San Jose in 6 pieces (2 suitcases, 2 backpacks, 2 persons). We successfully found a change place and were on our way to the rental car place with some duty-free wine and Costa Rican coffee liquor.

Step 2 of the adventure came when we tried to add me to the rental car agreement to share the driving responsibilities and I realized that I'd left my license in Medellin. Brilliant. I was already planning on doing the lion's share of the navigating (apparently Jenna can't navigate herself out of a paper bag), and this just certified I would be in charge of all of it. Which is actually pretty difficult given the state of the roads and towns in CR, and the crappy rental car company map I had. Needless to say, we did have to backtrack some. But we made it.

The first leg of our journey took us to Denny's for lunch. We were both super excited to have something so totally American...living in the backwoods of Colombia, we don't get anything like that. I had some "Moons Over My Hammy" and hashbrowns. It was awesome.
We then headed on our way to Arenal, which is the most active volcano in Costa Rica. The drive was very scenic, but took entirely too long and we ended up traveling at dusk, which wasn't the best for my driving friend. The little town at Arenal was fun--quaint and touristy. We stayed at a hostel (my first ever), which, if you forget about the PVC pipe sticking out of the wall that was the shower (at least there was hot water) and the terrible pillows, was a great place to stay. The staff were super friendly and helpful, there was cable, and the beds were comfortable.

Monday we spent around the town of La Fortuna, where we found a great little shop to get really good Costa Rican coffee. The shop was run by the owner of the coffee farm, and we had a chance to talk to him all about how they run the farm. Jenna and I both ended up sending 5 lbs of coffee home to our parents, and we bought 4 1/2 for ourselves here. We went a little overboard. Check out their website:http://www.godowntoearth.org/ That night we went on a night hike at a nature preserve, where we saw a three-toed sloth, some caymans, cool bugs, and frogs, including this little guy who was quite elusive.
Tuesday we got up early and headed out on the 'combination tour' touted as the best way to explore the area by the folks at our hostel. We started out at the Arenal Hanging Bridges, which is a trail through the rainforest that goes over something like 14 different bridges, some fixed and some suspension. We got to see a ton of really cool plants, to take in amazing scenery, and to watch some animals. We saw some spider monkeys playing in the trees, and we heard a ton of howler monkeys but were unable to see them. This is a picture from one of the last bridges we crossed, looking down at one of the earlier bridges.

After the hanging bridges hike, we headed through La Fortuna to hike down to the La Fortuna waterfall. It was a pretty normal waterfall, but the day was really hot and the hike down included something like 800 steps, none of which was actually the same height as any other.
Jenna and me at the top of the falls:

G'Nome made the hike, too, although the trip up damn near killed him (and me)!

The next stop on our tour was to the west side of the volcano, where we hiked up to the most recent big lava field. Arenal is a volcano different from what we were expecting: it doesn't actually spew liquid lava. The pressure and heat build up and force huge boulders out the top that roll down the side of the mountain until they reach a stopping place. So in a catastrophic eruption, huge, on-fire boulders rain down on the land and leave behind craters. It was pretty cool to see the remains and to hear the stories of what happened. The white 'streaks' you can see at the top of the mountain are the trails of rocks that we watched come down.

Jenna and me at the lava flow (as they say), sporting our Keens-bought especially for this trip.
The tour ended with a trip to the Tabacon Hot Springs, a resort built around the river which exploits the natural hot springs of the river for monetary gain. Don't get me wrong; it was really nice to take a hot soak after our long day, but it was a little over the top. There were upwards of 10 different pools with different temperatures and features. And there were about a million people, too.

Since this is the end of a day, it's the perfect stopping place for me now. Stay tuned for Part 2. The adventure continues...

15 March 2008

Viva Costa Rica

Hi all. Jenna and I are heading to Costa Rica tomorrow morning for Semana Santa (Holy Week). We're renting a car and driving from San Jose to Arenal (where there's a huge active volcano). We're staying there for a few days and then heading down to the Pacific coast to Manuel Antonio and spending a few days on the beach. We're both looking forward to some away. At the very least, it'll be an adventure.

I'll update on the trip when I get back. (Notice there's no promise of a time frame here.)

20 February 2008

Yo Soy Cansada

...I'm tired. Just can't catch up this week. Jenna and I were up late Friday after a Valentine's party, and then my body had the audacity to wake up at 7:30am on Saturday. Seriously.

Didn't get to sleep in on Sunday, either, as we went out to breakfast with some friends. The food was decent, but just not the best breakfast. I REALLY miss going out for good breakfast...the supercakes at Egg Shell and Incredibles, the eggs benedict at Dozens, the amazing biscuits (and everything else), plus the killer bloody marys at Lucille's, breakfast burritos smothered with green chili...all of it. Here, I can get scrambled eggs (huevos revueltos), bread with the salty white cheese that is so common (pan y queso), and don't forget, the Paisa arepa. I would give almost anything for a good, American breakfast place...even Village Inn or IHOP. Alas, I don't see one coming anytime soon. :( At least the coffee is killer.

14 February 2008

Happy V-D Day!


Here's to not getting any!

06 February 2008

Yo Tengo Muchas Dolor en Mi Cabeza

Which means that my head hurts. A lot. I have had a migraine since Sunday night and am wiped out. It totally sucks. I keep telling myself that it will go away, but it doesn´t. Which makes Ms. Z an unhappy camper. Thankfully, today is a pretty easy day with only 2 classes and work time in the afternoon, but I really don´t feel like doing any work. I just want to sleep.

So I guess that´s it for now. Just had to complain a little bit, in my effort to update a little more frequently. Happy Hump Day!

05 February 2008

March for Peace

Yesterday was a big day in Colombia. People all around the country (and world) mobilized in a march to protest FARC, the group that is responsible for the kidnappings that people hear about. Check out this link from CNN for more information:


We held a mini-march up here at school, where we heard from people at school who have been personally affected by kidnappings, either themselves or their family members. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that there really is a single group of people in this country with enough power and enough hate that they continue to pull off the terror that they do. And then they have the audacity to blame it on the President and the government...

If nothing else, living here is opening my eyes to how good we really do have it in the US (even with Cheney running the country)...and how not-so-good so many other countries have it.

04 February 2008

3 Months of Catchup

I'm finally sitting down to do the catchup (not to be confused with ketchup) I've been dreading. Thankfully my students are working well today and I have the time.

1. When I left off, I was headed to Bogota to visit another school and get some more math training. The visit was fantastic--the school, CNG, has a lot of really good things going on and the people were very fun to hang out with. It was nice to see students actually working and learning in math class. My travel buddy and I had a chance to tour around the city one day. We went to an area of town called La Candelaria, which is historic, with Simon Bolivar Plaza and the Hall of Justice. We also took a tram up to the top of a mountain (whose name escapes me) to see the Monserrate cathedral. The view was amazing!

2. Thanksgiving weekend I went with some friends to the coastal town of Santa Marta--near Cartagena on the Caribbean. The resort was awesome; we could sit in the sun all day on the beach, and go back to our air-conditioned bliss room. Yay! The weekend was very relaxing and a lot of fun. Be on the lookout for a photo link in an email soon.

3. December brought a long awaited Christmas vacation trip home. I did get a chance to spend a few days in Denver, where I saw The Nutcracker for the first time ever with Brian, enjoyed a fantastic Saturday breakfast at Lucille's, caught some local live music--check out the band Paper Bird at http://www.myspace.com/paperthebird--, went to church, drank some great coffee, and got to see most of the people I'd hoped to (if I missed you, I'll catch you next time).

4. I spent the rest of my vacation with the family in Wyoming. Jason, Christy and I got to see Jerry Joseph play in Jackson which was completely awesome. Jason surprised us with massages at the hotel the next morning, which was almost better. At the show I ran into some of my students from student teaching, which was fun but a little weird. When I asked them if they remembered me, I pointed out that I was considerably younger then, as well as something about being considerably less drunk.

5. We spent Christmas with all of the cousins and kids in Eden, which was as nice as it always is (even with a little different Christmas tree). It was so much fun to watch the kids playing on Christmas day.

6. The crew all came over to mom and dad's to help me celebrate my 30th anniversary with pizza and cake. Lindsay and beautiful Becca came, too, so I got my baby fix. :) Have I ever mentioned that other people's kids are great??

7. Had a relaxing rest of the vacation, until I started to come back here. Dad and I nearly didn't get of Kemmerer to go to SLC the day before my flight due to the snow. We did make it, but it was crappy. The next morning at 4:30 he dropped me off at the airport and we said our goodbyes. About 30 minutes later, I found out that Continental has a luggage embargo to Latin America around Christmas time. I was allowed to travel with 2 bags, 50 lbs each, absolutely no excess (no matter how much I wanted to pay). Mind you, I had 4 bags with around 215 total lbs of luggage. Fantastic. I called dad and told him he needed to come back to the airport to, at the very least, pick up the stuff I wasn't going to be bringing. I proceeded over to the wall with my bags and started shuffling stuff. I had stuff everywhere. I was that girl in the airport. Dad showed up, shook his head, and dove in to help. Needless to say, there was no way I was going to make it on the plane that day. Case in point: We got one bag all organized, weighed it, and found it was 64 lbs. So we went back to the shuffling, thought we had it, took it to weigh, and found it was 63 lbs. It was a nightmare. On the way back to WY, I told dad that if I'd have thought he had his passport with him, I'd have bought him a ticket on the spot to bring my stuff. I ended up changing my ticket to fly after the embargo was over--Jan 16. And as it were, on the 16th I actually had to purchase a duffel bag from the airline to get my two big bags to less than 70 lbs. I have way too much stuff.

8. The extra time at home gave me a chance to hang out in Pinedale with dad at Jason and Christy's. I had a good time helping him scrape and paint the walls. There's something very satisfying about painting, about watching the room transform before one's eyes.

9. Nothing too exciting has happened since I got back to Medellin. School is pretty much the same, although I've been very cognisent of my attitude and am trying to go with the flow a little more. I've resigned myself to the fact that things are not going to go the way I'd like them to (and believe they should), and I've decided to do the best that I can with what I have. I've also not been drinking as much...which must be a good sign.

10. Some friends and I checked out a local hole-in-the-wall salsa club last weekend, which was a super fun time. Man, these Colombians can dance! I'm definitely not the best salsa dancer, but I gave it the old college try and I don't do too badly when I let myself follow.

11. Next up on the agenda is to plan a trip for Semana Santa (the week before Easter). Jenna and I are hoping to pop over to Argentina, but we're not sure what we're doing yet. I'm excited!

03 February 2008

Hermosa Dia

It's been a beautiful weekend. It's hard to believe that it's February 3...I just spent some time laying out at the pool. The sun and the breeze were perfect--just what I needed to recharge. You see, I'm a little hungover today. I was out dancing too late last night and drank a little bit too much rum. But it was a fantastic time!

Yesterday we went to our first San Alejo artisans market of the new year. I picked up a few small treats for myself and have stared a wish list for next month. I never tire of checking out all of the stuff that's there.

My date Friday was nice. Dude got lost trying to get to my apartment (actually a pretty common occurrence). The conversation wasn't nearly as scary as I'd anticipated. He's very patient and helpful with my lack of Spanish knowledge. I had my notepad and Spanish-English dictionary handy and all was good.

I guess that's it for now. I'm in the middle of a recap of the last couple months which I'll post soon. Tomorrow I'm giving a test in all my classes, so maybe I'll have some time to finish it up.

31 January 2008

I'm Pathetic...

But I have a date tomorrow night.

Dude is the tallest Colombian I've seen yet. He seems really nice; or, every 3rd word that I can actually understand is nice. He doesn't speak English, and my Spanish is still quite low (although I have started Spanish class). Thankfully, Jenna speaks quite well and was able to take over the phone conversation last night. I'm much better in person when I can look for cues and context. The phone is tough!

More info on the date will come afterward, as well as what's been happening since November. Happy 2008!