Photos of English Day and Culture Week

Hey let’s talk about our big event that we held at San Pio X: English Day! It was the first time that the school has had an English Day, a big event for the entire school that takes place during the entire school day (well, 8-1230) instead of like an hour or two (or less).

Our English Day was during our Culture Week, and our first day (Tuesday), we had a parade where each class dressed up as a theme (Corpse Bride, Vampires, Disney, etc.) – this was a lot of fun! I have attached some photos for you to see, and for me to see and remember too, of course!

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On Wednesday, it was English Day! My co-partner and I organized this mostly between us with some help from the teachers (thankfully!) and it was a bit more chaotic than was necessary, but it was still fun. We had two parts, a time where the students would perform in front of the big group of the entire student body (how scary!) and then a time in separate classrooms where the students would be free to mingle as they wanted and just see what’s going on. Unfortunately, we only had 4 classrooms instead of the planned 12, but hey, things change and you have to go with the flow. Things certainly seem to change more often than is necessary here in Colombia haha, but that’s part of the day-to-day life.

Here are some photos of the Wednesday English Day!

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I’m still in the deciding stages of what to do for next year, and it’s nice to have options. Here is essentially how I’m thinking:

  1. One of my (near) future goals is to teach English in Japan. I want to earn a higher salary, high enough to save money for my retirement, for instance. I also want to learn the Japanese language and experience the Japanese culture in a significant way.
  2. Teaching English in Japan is very competitive. Thus, I want to stay here in Colombia teaching English because I want to have more experience teaching, at least more than 5 months! Gotta be competitive! Also, I want to get experience teaching solo instead of just continuing with a co-teacher.
  3. I do want to stay here in South America because I still haven’t done Peru or Chile or Argentina! I don’t want to leave until I’ve done some more of these countries, maybe even working on a winery and a chocolate farm! How fun would that be??? And of course seeing the Amazon and doing the Inca Trail!
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Teaching with my whole self

(I also sent this blog post to the Heart For Change program, so if you find this post somewhere else, they have my approval to share it lol!!)

We all bring different things to the table for our students, not just our fluency in English. For me, I take great pride and joy in bringing my own experiences, desires, ways of thinking, concerns (essentially, my culture) to this new scene. While it’s a delicate balance between imposing your culture and sharing your culture, and I’m sure I don’t do it perfectly, I liked how they phrased it during our training: it is important and desired to bring your whole self, including your culture, to the schools where you are. One way I’ve done this is by singling out specific kids that I believe have untapped potential and letting them know that I notice it, and that I hope they develop it.

Not that any teacher wants to show favoritism, but one aspect of me being honest and being my true self with my kids is by remarking on potential when I see it. When I was in high school, for instance, I felt very stifled, and so I have a special concern in my heart towards actualizing potential, and especially for young people. Here are two stories about kids in my classes that I’ve singled out for an extra conversation.

There’s a kid in my 10th grade class who performs about in the middle of the class, with moderate effort and, in my opinion, moderate intelligence. One day he was giving a presentation with a group over the budget of Colombia, and when he took that moment to gather himself before speaking, the entire class got silent. Complete silence, at least in my classes, is not common, and especially not for student presentations. Honestly, I find it hard to get the kids to be quiet when I’m teaching, and I’m liked by the students and I’m in the role of teacher. My co-teacher probably commands more respect than I do, but even she has a tough time getting all of the students to be quiet (never?). This kid, without asking them to be quiet, got them to be quiet by sheer presence and intent to speak. I was amazed, and I noticed this.

I thought about speaking to him about this event, and so a couple days ago, I approached him sitting down on the bleachers during their break, and I sat down next to him. I described this scene in the classroom. I tell him that it’s amazing he has that level of respect among the classmates, and that respect like that is something that can only be earned. I told him that I don’t know much about him, but that he has a lot of potential because of his ability to garner respect like that, and I closed by saying I hope that he has spent some time thinking about what he wants to accomplish in his life – because he can do it. Isn’t it tremendously easy to just follow the flow instead of being self-determined?

There’s another kid who’s recognized as an athlete in the school, and he barely tries in my English class (I’ve heard he doesn’t try much in his other classes either). But this young man is really, really smart. For not trying, he recognizes grammar patterns remarkably well, and his vocab ability is far beyond what one would expect because of his lack of effort. I always make an effort to encourage my kids honestly whenever possible, and so I remarked on his ability to learn difficult concepts extremely quickly.

Moreover, a couple weeks ago, I wanted to change up the class organization for small groups and pick the groups for them, instead of our normal policy of “let them pick their own groups”. Change is good sometimes! I also wanted to organize the groups based on my co-teacher and I’s perception of their intelligence level, which my co-teacher hadn’t done before. We picked the groups together and I told her I wanted this kid in the “smart” group. She agreed to it, but because this kid hadn’t been doing his homework essay in the class (I noticed), I went to him privately after the class and told him that I was putting him in the group with other smart kids for our next class, and that to stay in this group, he had to finish the homework assignment. Everyone else in his group had finished, and they were going to use the homework assignment as a group next class. After that class was finished, he said he liked the group and would enjoy being in the same group again.

Unfortunately for this same student, he has expressed to me his desire to be a professional soccer player, and though we haven’t talked about this, I’m worried that he is letting his academic performance slip because he is wanting to focus all of his energy on soccer. I think there can be a time and place for narrowing your options down to 1 to incentivize yourself to succeed, but when you’re 17 years old, I think that’s a bad idea – at that age, it’s the time to be developing yourself in a whole bunch of areas to find what areas you like, you can succeed in, how to improve yourself in a wide variety of things. Not to limit yourself down to be a professional soccer player! And how much more does this matter when you have a lot of potential in a lot of areas! He can do anything that he wants to if he applies himself!

Anyway, I just share these two stories to say that part of what bringing my true and honest self means is encouraging some of my kids with (perceived) great potential, especially potential that may not be recognized by their other teachers at the school.

Sometimes it’s easy for us to have blind spots when, as teachers, we look for kids to do well in our classes or to do well academically. I know I have mine. However, I also have some advantages! I’ve been away from school for a while and value things other than academic achievement. I’ve also not spent years and years with these kids, so my impression of them is completely untainted by their past history. Lastly, it’s hard for me to remember anything about their academic achievement, let alone their names. So it’s like getting a clean slate for me every time! Hahaha.

Thus, while I have some blind spots like everyone else, I also can recognize things that maybe my co-teachers don’t. And honestly, based on conversations with other fellows, I think many of us fellows have soft spots for those with unrecognized potential, and especially for the “bad kids” of the school that we feel are written off too quickly.

As an English teacher, I want my kids to have every possible opportunity to master my subject, and experience the joy and self-confidence and critical-thinking that accompanies mastery of any topic. But as a human being who’s more than just an English teacher, I also want them to be self-determined and to actualize their wide variety of potential and to be different and unique and self-determined toward whatever they want to accomplish without just going with the flow or (self-)limiting themselves. I bring this to my school for certain people that stick out to me, and I’ve derived a lot of value from doing this – I’m sure other teachers have too!

Good is the enemy of great – and encouragement.

This blog post will mention two important things to me: how I spend my time (which recently changed) and my experience teaching, now that I have 2 months under my belt. Let’s start with a general overview of my life and the way I spend my time.

(Quickly: above, there are some of my students and my co-teacher Luz Elena on the far right in the black jacket.)

As you may recall, I teach 24 hours of classes a week, with 2 different teachers (well, 20 hours with Luz-Elena so she’s my primary coteacher and 4 with Sandra, so most of the time with Luz-Elena) and 3 grades (9th, 10th, 11th). This is my official job, and that requires me to have co-planning, homework grading, fill-in-the-blank exercises, songs, and trying to come up with games for the kids. Everything, basically.  Also, because I teach from 6am to 12:30 basically every day, I wake up at 4:30 to have time to postpone my alarm (20-30 mins), to eat breakfast, clean up and organize myself, and get out the door to be at school on time. And it’s not easy to get up at 4:30am every day – I need naps!

My four extracurricular activities were, as you also probably remember, salsa lessons, Spanish (including lessons), Muay Thai gym, and Linear Algebra. These are all very meaningful and important activities to me, but I was not getting enough time to do them all well, and certainly not to do them and also take care of myself mentally and physically and enjoy my life. Needless to say, Spanish, naps, and gym time took hits. Ideally I would nap for 1-2 hours a day, but that never happened because I was too busy – and I found that I went weeks with studying Spanish about 3 hours a week. Unacceptable! Because my sleep suffered, my quality of life suffered, and I couldn’t hang out with friends! In fact, went 2 weeks without seeing any friends during the week.

I treasure realizations, and I had one a week ago. I was watching some old guys having tintos (Colombian little coffees), and I thought “Man, I wish I could just people-watch and drink a tinto like these guys”. Unfortunately, I’m always on the go and can’t enjoy nature or my city or just hang out with friends!

Well, I cut an activity today: salsa lessons.

Yay I’m already feeling better! LOL maybe I’ll even get back to meditating and stretching!

 

 

We also had a parade to celebrate our “neighborhood” so here are some photos of the kids.  Each “class” had a theme, like 50s, 80s, Punks, Mafia, Indians, and I forget the others. They’re so cute.

 

 

 

Alrighty, now moving on to teaching.

I love teaching. I love my kids. My co-teacher, Luz-Elena, is very supportive of me and cares about improving her English and is open to my ideas. She’s fantastic and I’m lucky to work with her, though because we are so similar in personality and type, we also have the same strengths and weaknesses (class discipline being one weakness). We found out, unofficially as of now, that the Ministry of Education will continue the program next year and she blurted out in front of the other English teachers, “Yay Joshua can stay!!” LOL.

My other co-teacher is fine. She doesn’t seem to care about teaching, certainly not about improving her teaching, and just generally seems to view it as a job that is “good enough”. Thankfully, we get along well enough, and that’s about as good as I expect it can be, given how different we are. At least she lets me do what I want within her general constraints, and that’s great.   She also contributes to my ideas/plans, and her ideas are good!  I’m happy to incorporate her feedback into my plans lol.

So here are a few things I’ve noticed about myself qua teacher.

  1. I consider myself terrible at negative extrinsic motivation (punishment, for instance), and great at fostering intrinsic motivation (like using encouragement, charisma, positive reinforcement, stickers, etc.) My charisma and sense of disappointment/happiness seems to work for most students, and I do feel that one of my strengths is getting people to like me based on my charisma and then maximizing the effectiveness of my charisma. However, when that doesn’t work, and let’s be honest, sometimes it just doesn’t work… it’s a bit tougher! I’m still trying to figure this out…
  2. I treat my kids like they’re adults. I don’t mind if I have students that don’t want to learn English – maybe it won’t be useful to them, or maybe they have things that are more important to do during my class. I don’t feel the need to impose my values, or my agenda, on you. Maybe English won’t help you in life – I don’t know. Occasionally, I’ll have kids doing like math homework in my classes, or have kids in the back just not paying attention or napping, and I don’t bother them, though I consider it important to know what’s going on (e.g. what they’re doing) in my classes. In the end, I act as if it’s their time, and ultimately their life, to decide as they see fit. For me, as long as they don’t bother other students, then it’s fine. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet figured out how to either get the “bad” students to stop distracting other students, or how to integrate/motivate them in the class – at least not for “enough” of the time. Besides the whole “have respect for your classmates (be quiet)” or “shhhhh” which is, at best, a temporary solution to a long-term problem, I’m not really sure what to do.
  3. We recently had an observation in our class with a person from the pedagogy oversight “board” of the Ministry of Education. I got a lot of great ideas from him, so I’m very excited to integrate these into the class.
  4. However, he also got feedback from the kids, and here was my students’ feedback:

    a. Joshua is really good at one-on-one teaching. Why did they say this?  Well, when we give the students work to do in pairs or small groups, I will wander the room to answer questions, define vocab, explain missed grammar points, etc. The Colombian teachers stay up at the front the whole time. 

    b. Joshua encourages us a lot. In fact, the students now encourage each other, or make fun of each other (both, honestly) by repeating words in my tone that they hear me use all the time: “Awesome, wow, fantastic, amazing, very good”. It’s kind of hilarious, but it’s special too. I’m happy that those are the words they’ve learned from me!!

    c. We have more fun with Joshua than Luz-Elena. Hahahaha. Of course they do!! I’m the best!!

    d. Luz-Elena focuses more on grammar and Joshua focuses more on pronunciation. Hmm not sure if that’s true or not, because I also love grammar, but I think that’s a positive in their mind. They’re not wild on grammar lol. Certainly not like me!! I love grammar!!

    e. We want more visuals. Hmm not sure how to accomplish this without the use of technology, but I’m thinking about it.

  5. Here’s what I hope to integrate into the classes, after hearing about his input.  First, I want to have a unifying “narrative” of the class explicitly listed on the board and organize the class and class activities around this unifying narrative (like “today, we’re learning about what you have to have to travel to the USA”) instead of just a list of activities.  Also, more visuals! Hahahaha. We’re gonna see how this goes…sans technology.   I’m going to have a part of the board be with students’ names and their complex words or phrases or grammar points, as a way of encouraging them to challenge themselves and be an inspiration to the rest of the class.
  6. I would like to share with you a positive story!I have a student named Bryan who is a pretty independently-minded kid. He sits in the back along the wall, keeps to himself, and normally just listens to music and tunes us out. No problem. He’s funny though, and he would usually enter the room, take one of my markers, and write “don’t fuck” on the board lol. I would laugh, acknowledge it, and then erase the whole thing. Well one day, my co-teacher saw him throw a paper ball back at someone, and also saw the “don’t fuck” on the board, and decided that was a very serious incident. She had him write in the discipline book, which requires the parent to come talk to the teacher about it, and this was unfortunately not his first trouble with teachers. His mom spoke with 4 teachers, as a matter of fact, and when she came to talk to us, she was already crying. Her son was threatened with repeating the grade, and it was hard for her to get ragged on by teachers regarding her son.  Understandably so.

    Well, I really like her son. He’s really cool and funny, and I have no need to force my values, nor English, on him. I leave him alone mostly, though I enjoy seeing what he draws in class, and I’m even happy to see him using English cuss words in the correct way.

    When I am introduced to the mother, who’s crying, I start out by saying what a pleasure it is to meet her, that I like her son a lot, and that I’m so glad he’s in my class. I tell her how I especially like his confidence in himself, his independence, and how I was NOT like that when I was his age. She started smiling, and then we parted ways.  (I try always to encourage when possible, but I only speak truth for encouraging words.)

    Later, Bryan came by to talk to us separately and to try to figure out a way to improve his grade. He got some extra homework as extra credit, but then the co-teacher talked about how he has so many problems with his behavior.  (I thought “What??? He’s fine! He doesn’t bother anyone!) and one of these problems, get ready, was his atheism.

    At this point, I intervened and said “No, that’s not a problem.” They both turned to look at me, and I repeated myself. “Not believing in God is not a problem,” I said, and the teacher repeated herself, saying yes it is.

    “Nope, it’s not, and I don’t agree with you,” I responded. We agreed to disagree, which is great that she and I can be honest with each other, but later I went to Bryan and I said privately, “hey, don’t worry about what she said, you’re fine, and I’m an atheist too!” I think that improved our relationship and, in fact, I can tell that he’s trying more in our class.  It doesn’t actually matter how well he does in English to me (nor does it matter for getting into university which, oddly enough, only looks at test scores), but it IS important for me to have good relationships with my students, and I think I’ve succeeded with him specifically and with mostly all my students generally. 🙂

  7. Teaching is really rewarding for me. Yes, there are good days and bad days, though for me it’s mostly good days (thank goodness I’m with a Spanish-speaking Colombian teacher and not by myself in the classes).

    I really love it when students “get it.”

    I love it when I tell kids that they’re smart (I never lie, so I don’t tell everyone they’re smart lol, but if I have something nice to say, I make a note to try to say it).

    I think it’s so important to encourage others, both as a way of motivating them to be better in my class, but also because encouragement, and especially at a young age, is so important for their future! By encouraging my kids, I feel encouraged.

 

 

Manizales 3-week update

It’s been three weeks of teaching English in a public high school (9th and 10th grades) in Manizales, Colombia, and I’m happy to see that it is exceeding my expectations.

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We went through 9 days of training in Bogota before we were flown out to our respective cities. 9 days isn’t a lot of time to go from zero-to-hero, but I actually felt pretty good about the training. In each small group (of about 20 people?), there were a couple people that had quite a bit of teaching experience, or even specifically teaching-English experience, and they had some really great input and recommendations for us, whether it be with discipline, classroom management, time management, games to play with the kids, etc. We already knew, going in, that grammar was not going to be our strength – this is why we are joining with co-teachers. We’re fluent in grammar, but that doesn’t mean we understand grammar conceptually or consciously, let alone can communicate grammar in Spanish! Our focus was going to be helping the kids learn more about our culture, English pronunciation, and anything else that our co-teachers would just not be well-equipped for.

Also, their school year is Feb to Nov, so I’m coming in July…the middle of the school year for them.

It turns out that a lot depends on the school. Some schools are well-funded with lots of technology, resources, and well-trained English teachers. Some schools are … not. Every teacher is different with different agendas, goals, insecurities, passions, and varying levels of openness to English fellows, so of course we all will have different experiences. But here is mine!

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My room!  Super comfy bed, spacious area, lucky me!

I feel very lucky because I love my coteacher and my students. Compared to other fellows, I got a fairly poor school. We have computers in the English bilingual room (part of the requirement for having a fellow is to set apart a room for English to demonstrate your commitment), but, alas, none of them have Microsoft Windows…. or any other Operating System. Yay for computers that don’t work! We don’t have wifi or TVs – though we do have a room with a projector that you can reserve if you so wish. You can borrow a stereo from the principal for the class but I just bought my own lol. The kids can’t take the textbooks home because the schools don’t have enough money to buy new books every year, and the kids can’t afford to pay for them if they are lost or ruined. This means the kids write down in their own notebooks any questions and instructions, and then write down the answers (nice use of time…).

Lucky for me, the school does have paper, tape, whiteboard markers, and staplers for those that need the resources! Many schools in other cities don’t!

My relationship with my coteacher, Luz-Elena, really couldn’t be any better. We have really great energy together, she’s very open with me and my ideas, and she likes games. She’s not wild on grammar, which is funny because I AM wild for grammar, but she explains the grammar rules well (we’ve done 2 of the 3 English conditionals) and I think she’s against constant-bookwork. Me too!

Here are some stories that I think illustrate our relationship.

First story!

We’re supposed to have a week of observation, to not intrude in the class and just watch and see how they do things. Not with Luz-Elena! She introduces me as the new fellow and asks me if I want to introduce myself. Fortunately, I was prepared for this. I had markers and a game to do for the kids in mind! I wrote down “answers” like Joshua, 29, orange, black panther, rap/EDM/pop music and ping pong and then had the students come up with the questions (what is your name, age, favorite animal, favorite music, and hobbies). This is a great activity because it talks about yourself, but it also allows you to quiz the students on THEIR answers to the questions (and related topics, like favorite animals, favorite colors, hobbies, etc.). I considered this a wild success!

Second story!

3 days ago, we’re doing a class assignment over the conditional and specifically words and phrases that are often used in conditional speech, like “I would like, I want, I think that, I believe that,” etc. The book had some activities for future jobs, and since English’s use of conditional is mostly “would”, there are lots of opportunities to practice this tense with future job thoughts. This one kid, who’s always sitting in the back but is pretty smart and diligent (at least as long as I’ve been there) and he asks me what we’re doing next since he did the first activity. I tell him the 2nd and 3rd ones too, and so I look down at his book to make sure that’s correct, and I see that the second activity is just writing “is this job dangerous?” “Is this job hard? Is this job with a good salary?” for the 6 photos of places to work (factory, farm, mine, lab, etc.) and I think this is a great activity for wasting your time but a terrible activity for being productive on using the conditional form of verbs. So I tell him to just go ahead and skip it, that the third activity (which makes them come up with sentences for I would like, I think, etc. Realizing I can’t tell him to skip it but then have Luz-Elena tell the kids to do the second activity, I go to her and tell her that I think the second activity is a waste of time and they should go straight to the 3rd activity. She listens and says “yeah, sounds great, do whatever you think is best.”

Needless to say, I felt really supported and affirmed, and I also felt good for conveying the message to the students that I will not waste your time. If I make you do an activity, it’s because I truly believe it will help you. I truly believe this is the best use of time that I can come up with and that this work will make you better and more proficient at English.

Third story!

There’s an accident and a kid had banged her chin up real bad and had blood all over the concrete play area. Luz-Elena, my coteacher, leaves to go check it out, and she tells me she’s going to be outside waiting for the ambulance to come. She leaves me in charge of the class. I’m trying to move on with the class and continue our talk on the conditional tense (and also past tense because … grammar) and the kids just get louder. It’s kind of exciting, there’s drama about what’s happening, and with her gone, it’s easy for the kids to start talking over me. One kid comes up to me and says “hey, take control of the class” and I realize he’s right. I need to get it back under control. I say thank you and become the “bad teacher”. I move two kids, I tell everyone to sit down (all in Spanish, of course), and I get the class back on track. Afterwards, he told me thank you for doing that, and that it was the right thing to do.

I thought this must be what it’s like to be a parent and be corrected by your child. It feels a bit weird, but it’s also true, and there’s a value in that. It turns out that both me and Luz-Elena are similar in too many ways: we both are very open to the other’s ideas and thoughts, we both are very flexible with our plans and ideas, and welcoming to the other person, and we’re just generally like really good co-parents. But it also turns out that we’re too similar, that we have all the same strengths and weaknesses. We want the kids to talk and explain things to each other, but this managed chaos easily becomes unmanaged chaos. We both are bad at punishing kids and imposing order. She maybe is more critical than I am when grading, and I am able to take control of the class faster and better than she is, but generally speaking, we have the same strengths and the same weaknesses lol.

Yay! I get to practice being the “bad guy” and keeping order in the class! I need the practice anyway.

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The famous Cathedral here

Now let’s talk about my life in Manizales. I have essentially 4 activities that I want to incorporate in my life here, besides the teaching commitment. And I’m super busy with these activities!! (And napping.)

  1. I want to be proficient in linear algebra and matrices specifically,
  2. I want to be in the top 5% of people for salsa dancing (near competitive level),
  3. I want to work on taking away my awful gringo accent for Spanish, which is going to be 4 hours a week of classes/tutoring in Spanish
  4. I want to learn Muay Thai or a comparative martial art. I am only occupied with school work about 30 hours a week, at least right now, so I have time.

So far, I have basically nailed down a schedule . My teaching schedule doesn’t change and since I do all my lesson planning in the school, it’s fairly easy. It’s 610-1220 Mon-Fri, with about 5-6 hours free during the week for lesson planning. This also includes 1 hr of English Club for the students and 1 hr of helping the teachers with their English.

Normally I come home, cook food, and do some linear algebra videos or NAP! (I wake up at 430 Mon-Fri, so napping is basically necessary.) The linear algebra is going well, as I’m on video 5 of the MIT lectures and having a great time talking every Tuesday with the math group we have (one in America and one in Italy, both that I know from college.) I do salsa lessons 5 hours a week, have Spanish 4 hours a week, and my Muay Thai gym is about 4 hours a week too. Adding friends, weekend travel trips to the mix, and transportation time, and I’m super busy!!

I feel pretty grounded so far, and it’s interesting to feel like I’m progressing and going DEEP as compared to the opposite experience traveling (which I did for 10 months). Instead of going from place to place, and having very horizontal (special but honestly not deep) relationships, with others, I feel now that I’m going deep in terms of skills (for myself) and am at least open to going deep with people (since I’m here until November and maybe beyond).

Also, I get to be crazy with the students.  🙂  Who wouldn’t like that???

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Los Llanos touring and Manizales teaching

I arrived in Colombia 2.5 weeks before I needed to be in Bogota for teacher-training.  They gave us 9 days of training for how to teach English in Colombia in a public school, so I know that I’ll be fully prepared for my Manizales teaching LOL!

There were two routes I considered for my two-week time, since I didn’t want to waste all the time in Bogota.  Both of them were going South and both of them were to places I hadn’t visited before… either west to Cali and cities nearby or going east to the Los Llanos region.  Because I had friends in the eastern direction (in Raquira), I decided to go east this time, first staying with my friend Linda in Bogota a couple days and then going to visit my friend and his family in Raquira where they do a lot of clay artisanal goods.  After partying ‘til way too late (5am!!!) in Raquira, I got sick LOL and stayed a couple days in Villa de Leyva, which is one of my favorite cities in all of Colombia because it’s quaint and with really great restaurants.  I then went to Playa Blanca, a nice beach/lake near Sogamoso, and enjoyed loud music and talking through the whole night for two nights (partying Bogotoans) and finally entered the “actual” Los Llanos region through their capital, Yopal.  Apparently there’s not a lot to do in Yopal – they don’t even have a tourism information office!  LOL.

The landscape here, especially in Sogamoso and in the Los Llanos region, is quite different from what I’ve experienced so far, both in Colombia and in South America generally.  Its a mix of savannah (grasslands) and rainforest-like plants.  I dont think Ive seen grasslands intersparsed with such lush plants and trees, only one or the other but not both together.  Beautiful!

 

Friends and Acquaintances -> Connections

I’ll be honest.  The best part of this 2.5 weeks is making friends!!  And it’s easy for me to make friends, yay!  Remember Linda who I stayed with while in Bogota a couple days?  I met her at a practice-English-event that my friend’s language school put on, and afterwards we just stayed in touch for 8 months!!  Turns out she’s amazing at dancing, though not the only one who was good!

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Then I stayed with my friend Andres and his family in Raquira, again meeting when I went there 8 months ago and then just stayed in touch throughout the months!  He was busy, unfortunately, but when you’re friends with someone in Colombia, you are also good friends with their family – and he and his 2 brothers went on a hike with me to a sacred lake in Villa de Leyva!  Beautiful!

I arrived in Monterrey, one of my new favorite cities in Colombia (which is a tiny village in the Los Llanos region I just talked about) and after talking with a girl in a papeleria (where they sell paper and crafts supplies), I got to know her, her fiancée and his family, then her sister and her sister’s family, and then numerous friends of theirs!  I now have around 10 friends in that city, which is crazy for arriving without knowing anyone at all when I arrived!   They even took me to waterfalls and rivers and gave me a free hip hop dance class!!

 

davdavdavI even made friends when looking for apartments here!  I find it very easy, just be open to people and take the time for small talk.  I know it’s kind of weird, because in America, there’s a lot of resistance to wasting your time and small-talk and going through the motions for “politeness”, but in Colombia, that’s super important.  You have to greet everyone when you enter a room, you have to ask them how they’re doing (and you have to say “todo bien” or “bien bien” or something like that lol), and then greet everyone when you leave.  Rules of politeness seem a bit more … time-consuming, but relationships are super important here in Colombia, and if you have to be late to your next thing, then you’re late and don’t worry about it.  I know that I’ve gotten much better at being chill and relaxed, asking how are you, what’s going on, taking time and patience to listen and enjoy listening to them talk.  🙂

 

Routine:

You know what I most look forward to in Manizales?  A routine!  Every decision you make takes some amount of mental energy – and for me, because I like to entertain as many possibilities as possible, this is especially draining.  I need to find some way to outsource some of my decisions (either letting someone else make decisions for me…but I’m too self-determinative for this to be really feasible) or outsourcing it to a routine that I develop (like when to wake up, what to eat, what to wear for clothes, what transportation to take, etc.)

When I’m traveling and have to make every decision for my entire day, all the time, I find that I don’t have much energy for doing the things that are more important to me, like stretching, meditation, and reviewing Spanish.  Which is too bad because those are more important to me, but they get shafted by “necessary but not important” decisions.

“Good is the enemy of great”, as they say!!  Anyway, I look forward to Manizales where I can outsource much of that energy into a singular routine or routines (such as a daily or weekly routine), then I believe I’ll be able to free up so much mental energy and when I’m making a routine, I can organize my day to accomplish the things that I consider to be important.  It’s going to feel so great when that happens!!  LOL.

 

Teaching and Life-Creation!

I mean, yeah, I’m obviously also really excited about teaching!  Teaching the kiddos, grades 9-11, at a public school.  It’s going to be a blast.

4 things I like in particular about this program:

  1. I get teaching English experience!
  2. I get teaching high school experience!
  3. I don’t take anyone’s job away (I’m “added” to the already-existing teachers)
  4. I earn money. I’m ready to receive money and be able to decide MYSELF how to spend it!  Instead of “working” for room and board which takes away the freedom to decide what I’m going to eat, where I’m going to sleep, etc.
  5. The teachers seem to like me. My mentor, the head teacher who helps me with problems, finds my sarcasm very funny.

But while I’m on the topic of good things, let’s go over the bad things.

  1. My schedule is Mon-Fri from 6:10am to 12:20pm.
  2. I have to ride a bus in to work, meaning I have to leave at 5:30 to get there at 5:50 and have time to kind of prepare for the classes, get the room ready, etc.
  3. If I want to eat breakfast, meditate, do a quick work-out, and stretch in the mornings, I will need to wake up at 4:45 at the latest. That is going to be insane.

I think that I’m going to do really great at teaching, but I’m committing to myself to learn all of their names, to play games with them, and to get along really well with the principle, the vice-principle (they call it the administrative coordinator) and my co-teachers.  Thankfully, the teachers will already have experience with other gringos (foreigners), so they should be used to being open-minded (trying new things, new games, etc.), and incorporating the native speaker into their teaching, etc. But I suppose one never knows.  I’m just excited to get there, get started, and get a life started!

It’s been a while since I’ve been so excited about starting a new life!

BTW, we went through and talked about both personal and professional goals.  I decided that my professional goal would be to see 10 students (out of … 350?) see marked improvement in English and also…for me to have much greater comfortability in making fun of myself.  As for my personal goals, I want to work on my accent and become a C1 speaker (almost fluent…as I understand it, A1 is absolute nothing, A2 is barely anything, B1 is sentences, B2 is conversational, C1 is pretty close to mimicking the accent, and C2 is native-sounding, full-fluency).  I think I’m B2 now, so I need to work on it a bit more to really push me over the edge.  I’ll be taking classes or tutoring or whatever I need to do to get this done.  Then, I also want to be learning a skill, ideally a martial art in a gym and an intellectual art like mathematics or computer programming (Javascript).  I’m thinking Jiu-Jitsu, Tai Chi Push hands, or Muay Thai but obviously it depends on what options are available here!  Oh, and I want to get pretty good at Latin dancing (salsa obviously comes to mind but they have others here).  Not to be like top 1%, but I would like to consider myself in the top 5% of the population at salsa dancing.

OK well I’ll have a lot more to talk about soon, but for now, I’m off to the races.  Gotta buy some dress clothes because I have 2 dress shirts and only jeans.  I’ll be wearing tennis shoes during the day, so I want to at least have khakis to make it look like I take myself A LITTLE serious.  🙂  Not too serious though.  🙂  My speaker for the class (dances, songs, etc.) is in the shape and appearance of a mini-soccer ball.  Hahahaha.

Some experiences to remember

As you may remember from my previous post, I had a really amazing time at the brewery.  The people I was with, as often is the case with me, made it memorable and special.  But not just the people!

One of my favorite experiences of being in Cerro Castillo was being accompanied by a beautiful black dog named Jimmie, whose owner I met while staying at the hostel.  Jimmie is a big dog, and dogs in Patagonia are very aggressive, or at least recognize the importance of appearing aggressive.  I remember during many of my walks with Jimmie that he and one of his favorite dog companions, who was safely locked away behind a fence, would run to face each other, growl and bark and bare their fangs and run from one side to the other.  They barked and were being aggressive the whole time, even running their teeth and body into the fence separating them trying to “get” at the other.  And then after they do this 3-4 times, running back and forth along the fence, Jimmie would come back to me as if nothing happened.  Actually, he’d come back with his tail high in the air, and I interpreted that as him feeling proud.  Over time, I realized this was his way of saying hello to his good friend behind the fence – in a no-risk-but-watch-out-for-me kind of way.

One time, I laughed because the fence wasn’t closed all the way and the car gate section was open.  Jimmie, not realizing the end was open, ran to the end where he normally does, realized that the fence was open and that they were both on the inside part of the fence, and they both stood there not knowing what to do.  After a brief second, Jimmie ran back to the other side where there was a fence barring them from each other and they started barking aggressively again and trying to bite each other through the fence.  See!  I knew they were good friends!  They didn’t want to actually hurt each other.

Isn’t this illustration so much of how dogs interact?  They need to appear brave and aggressive, even if they’re not, and this happens all the time for dogs in the Patagonia region.  One sees this in smaller dogs especially, but if/when a dog actually calls them out on their aggression, they run away to hide and, then when they feel safe, start barking aggressively again!

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My town!  Cerro Castillo!

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Gotta love hikes while it’s snowing outside

At the brewery, we had two dogs that we cared for.  One was named Bordo because he came with tourists who left him behind, and the tea package that nobody likes is named Bordo, so he got the name.  (Sad, right???  Well, it wasn’t my call.)  Bordo is a completely lovable, non-aggressive dog.  He almost never barks, despite every other dog barking like mad all the time, and just wants loving touches.  He’s a complete sweetheart, and a bigger dog, so maybe his size gives him some level of confidence.  The second dog we have is named Woofie (LOL, right?) and he was much more aggressive.  He would bark and bark and bare his teeth and this turned out to be a bad idea one day.

I had come from a hike in the mountains and my favorite dog, Jimmie, had accompanied me.  He came with me to the house, and I told him to go home, but he wouldn’t listen.  Probably the language barrier.  😉  Anyway, at the house, Bordo is cool and Woofie is like “who’s the new guy?” and just barks at the poor fellow.  All night, Jimmie handles it in stride since he’s bigger and not afraid.  The next day in the morning, I go out to see how they’re doing and they’re still being aggressive.  Whatever, I think, and I head back inside.  Well that afternoon, I decide to go on a hike and Jimmie is still in the yard waiting on me.  We all go out together, but this time, Woofie has been barking and baring his teeth all night, all morning, and all afternoon, and I’m a little sick of it – I’m sure Jimmie is too.  I barely walk out of the yard when Jimmie decides he’s had enough of this aggression.  He barks back at Woofie and they start fighting OMG WHAT DO I DO?  I tried kicking but they just move out of the way.  They’re biting each other, attacking, and Woofie starts yelping because he is getting manhandled by Jimmie LOL.  I mean, I felt bad, but it was kind of his fault anyway.  Jimmie pins him down, and Woofie stops barking.  I assume at this point that Woofie got the message: he’s going to lose this battle.  I’m relieved, but then as I walk past, Woofie barks and here we go again, he starts attacking Jimmie and Jimmie responds by attacking him back.  Finally, Mario at the house comes out with a big stick and tries to bring it down on them.  They all scatter and Jimmie runs away, back to his own home.

I’m not going to lie, from this point onward, I didn’t really connect with Woofie.  I would affectionately stroke his head and he would accompany me on walks, like he always does, but I just never felt like we would be good friends.  I analyzed this thought and realized that I view Woofy as a coward and I don’t like cowards.  What do I mean?  I mean, if you can’t back up your words with actions (or in Woofy’s case, your barks with willingness to fight), then I view you as a coward.  It’s a matter of honor, maybe even integrity – at least for me, and maybe I should say for human persons.  It’s like when I got mugged in Colombia.  Two guys, both much larger and bigger than me surrounded me and ripped my shorts off to grab my stuff.  They didn’t want to fight; they just got my stuff (well, one pocket’s worth of stuff and my sunglasses that were hanging from my shirt) and were quickly walking to leave, but I wouldn’t let it go.  I pursued them, got thrown to the ground, got up again, and then one of them threw a big rock at my face, which I dodged but did slipped and fell again to the ground.  The point is, I felt my honor was at stake, and that was worth defending even though it was hopeless (I’m not trained in fighting or combat or anything, and they outmatched me in size, experience, and … numbers.  (Thinking about this, it might be different with a knife or a gun, just because of the danger level.)

So anyway, Woofie got on my nerves, which really is just another way of saying it’s all about me and not about him, and I wondered why I was feeling this way.  Is it because I feel like Im a coward?   Is that why I was upset?  Even now, I’m not sure how I feel about myself, whether I feel like I’m a coward or not, but I do recall that I felt like a coward in my jr high and high school years, and I am disappointed, frustrated, and kind of ashamed at who I was back then.  I just had no confidence in who I was at that time, and I think Woofy just represented, to me, my past self.  I probably need to relate better to this past self, or past interpretation of myself.

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Just another beautiful day in the neighborhood

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A nice sunset hike

While working at the brewery in Cerro Castillo, I was sitting on my bed, thinking about changing out of my clothes but not feeling sure what to do next.  I had so many options!  I could go outside, and either be productive by drilling Spanish vocab or just relax and listen to music or a nice podcast.  Conversely, I could stay inside and relax with Netflix or my kindle.  There were so many options to choose from, and I had no sense of what I actually wanted to do.  Sure, I had the sense of what I was “supposed” to do (i.e. review Spanish), the senses of what I had done in the past, a kind of compelling by habit (walk/hike while practicing Spanish vocab), and the sense that I had experienced joy in the past and would likely experience joy with them in the future (listen to music and do a hike).  But I had no sense of what I wanted to do at that moment!

It was then that I took a moment to assess how I felt, and how I felt was an abiding sense of happiness.  But this sensation had two distinct-yet-unified components.  (The image that comes to mind is an H2O particle, where the two distinct-yet-unified Hydrogen particles are united to the Oxygen particle.)  The first being that I love being here, and the second, that I’m so grateful to be here – and I was thoroughly inhabited by this thought.  I was happy for the great food that I’d had, for the fresh bread and butter, for the opportunity to speak English and be understood when I wanted to, for the very friendly and generous couple that had invited me in and made me part of their home.

Work on the brewery was so different from many previous experiences.  I was instructed on what to do for my task and then left alone.  They trusted me to do what was necessary, according to their instructions, in as quickly a manner as possible – and with a few post-cleaning hiccups, I’d like to think that I rose to the occasion.

It made me reflect on my experiences at the Credit Union.  Our world is becoming increasingly quantified, and we see this everywhere!  Whether it be goals to lose weight (measuring calories burned, measuring caloric intake), goals to increase quality of sleep (I use my Jawbone Up3 to measure how many minutes, and times, and total time that I spend in all 3 different stages of sleep), goals to achieve at work (too numerous to count), etc.  Now I’m not a crazy anti-quantify person (I use my Jawbone Up3, for instance, and I see the usefulness of it at times), but I also recognize how precious my brewery experience was for contrasting so sharply with that.  I think the reasoning for quantification of others, though it could also apply to ourselves, is generally as follows: we either don’t trust others to do their best work apart from close supervision, or we believe that we know how much time is optimal and don’t trust others’ judgment in making the best use of their effort/time.

At the brewery, I was instructed in what to do, what the task required, and then was left alone.  They didn’t come in to check on me that I can remember.  If I had questions, they quickly answered the question and then went back to what they were doing, trusting me to do what was necessary for my task.  I will close by saying, though, that Mario and Root were very, very intelligent, and they could keep track of how well I was doing even apart from watching me all the time.

 

I think it was my last day on the ranch when I came down with an infection and was sick.  (I got better after taking antibiotics.)  I knew I was coming down with something, as the fever had sapped my energy completely and my headache was growing stronger over time.  I was completely drained and just wanted to sit down and collapse – but I was receiving room and board based on my work in the ranch, so I couldn’t do it.  I felt like I had to keep working.

We were finally about to leave, and the rain was coming down harder.  We had already cleaned up some trash, wire, and sticks which, in theory, would allow the grass to grow faster for the cows to munch on, and were on the way out when he asked me to open/close the gate so the car could go through.  I got out and went to the gate, untwisting the wire that “sealed” the gate and tried to lift the gate out of the mud to move it.  I failed the first time because it was so dang heavy and because my footing in the mud wasn’t steady.  I tried again and got the gate open, though I was a bit embarrassed at my inability to get it the first time, especially with him just watching me.  After he was through, I went to lift the gate and move it closed, but this time, I couldn’t quite wrap the wire around the post – I needed the gate closer to the post to get the amount of wire I needed.  My friend got out of the car to help and said, “Joshua, you’re so weak!  Why can’t you get the gate closed?”  I responded that I’m tired and sick and I was sorry I couldn’t get it closed.

We hop back in the car and I reflect on this experience.  He didn’t mean it in a mean way, it was a half-kidding-half-serious kind of comment.  But I still got a little upset because he claimed I was weak!  And yet he was right, I couldn’t close the gate.  So I thought more about it.  Did I pull with all my strength?  No, I didn’t think so.  I think I could have closed the gate, but if I could have, why didn’t I?  I decided I had been trying to save my energy for a future task, even though there IS no future task.  (That was the last gate.)  But why did I do that?  That doesn’t seem like a good habit to have!  Try everything with 70% effort?  Where did I get that idea from?  I remembered also having this idea during Jr High basketball practices, where we would run and I’d be so tired, but I wouldn’t run my best because I was expecting to have more sprints and needed to save my energy for those.  Looking back, that was a dumb idea.  I should try my hardest always and then, when I can’t run anymore, I can say “well I gave it my all and didn’t hold anything back.”  I think I need to work on this.

 

Another time I was walking with Jimmie through the neighborhood, and we see a group of 4 dogs walking with each other.  Jimmie watches them pass us, but no one barks or attacks the other – it’s just a group of them encountering us (Jimmie and I).  Jimmie watches them for a bit, then looks up at me wistfully, and I scratch his head.  Jimmie seems sad to me.  I consider the feeling.  First, I believe he’s happy to be with me.  Also, I’m not the only one he has.  He has people to scratch him and give him love, provide him regular food and water, provide him company and distractions (like when we go hiking or working in the ranch).  But I think there is something that we don’t give him, and that is companionship with his own kind.  Dogs, for millions of years, have been pack animals.  They would be born together, hunt together, live together, care for each other, and die together.  Their lives were done together in packs, in close-knit communities, which helped the ancestors of today’s dogs survive enemies and harsh climates and resource-scarcity – maybe even to be happy!  But now, for the majority of dogs, they are trained to be with their family and away from other dogs.  Most dogs of today, excepting packs of coyotes and wolves that we humans hunted to near extinction, don’t live in packs.  I wondered if Jimmie, even though he couldn’t express this thought to me or even to himself, could feel this lack of community, this lack of a tribe, deep in his bones (I mean, his genetics) and feel something missing.  I then wondered if people of today can feel this lack of a tribe, like how all groups of human ancestors used to live.  Do we also feel this self-estrangement, a sense of loneliness and absence and “something’s missing” when we live in isolation from our neighbors, our extended family members, when an average family sees friends for meals once every two weeks?  I believe we do, that one can’t just erase millions of years of human experience by being born with a blank slate.  I believe we feel this lack, this missing cultural tie, this communal bond – just as I believe dogs miss it too.

 

 

OK well that’s enough of my rambling thoughts for today.  I leave tomorrow at 7:45am for a flight to Santiago, and then Lima, and finally Bogota where I’ll be killing 2 weeks before my teacher training starting July 2.  Wish me luck!

 

Life on the Ranch and Brewery

Announcement!!!

I will be teaching English from July 2 – Nov 30 in Manizales in Colombia.  It’s halfway between Cali and Medellin, smack dab in the middle of the coffee region.  It has a famous yearly jazz festival and theater festival, I think both in September/October, so I’m very excited to add this to my calendar!  Also, it’s famous for being a university town and has between 6 and 7 universities in the area.  According to Wikipedia, 10% of the population is composed of students!  There are even mountains, rivers, and plenty of parks around the area!

I will get a salary, health insurance (for doctors within Colombia), and a bonus of $80 if I stay to the end of the commitment– which I will.  I will probably be working with a coteacher, but as with many programs in Colombia, you just adapt to whatever happens.  For instance, one person experienced a teacher strike that went on for a month!  Truly, you never know.

Here are three reasons why I’m particularly excited about this program and applied for it.

  1. I’ve been wanting to see if teaching was a good fit for me, specifically for older kids (high school or older). I’ve thought about teaching economics in high schools back in the states, and while I anticipate this to be a good fit for me, I don’t have any actual teaching experience in a classroom.  This would give me that.
  2. I’ve also been wanting to see if teaching English was a good fit, as many people live abroad by teaching English. Getting the TOEFL certification takes about a month and $1000, so I didn’t want to make that investment unless I knew this would be a good fit for me.
  3. I earn a (good) salary! I don’t anticipate I’ll be saving a lot of money, but I think I’ll save some, and it’s nice to earn actual money instead of just trading labor for a bed and food.  I know Walden says that trade poisons everything it touches (his reason for farming his own food and building his own house instead of working for money and using money to pay for those things), but as someone who has done both….salary (back in USA) and work-for-room-and-board (~25 hrs/wk through HelpX and workaway), I can say that it’s nice to earn actual money!

OK so announcement out of the way…

 

Life on the Ranch and Brewery

I learned that I suck at all things ranching.

I’m not super strong, I’m certainly not very experienced with ranch work, and what seemed so obvious and intuitive to them was foreign and unnatural for me.  But I did do a few things right: I tried to talk Spanish with the ranch guys (who had a heavy accent and made communication difficult) and I never complained once.  But it was definitely a more trying time for me psychically because I couldn’t express myself well (their English was at “hello”) and that’s important to me.

But I have a new best friend, Jimmie, the dog at the hostel!bty

My brewery experience, by contrast, is pretty much the opposite.  Well, I don’t know anything about beer, so it’s not exactly an opposite.  But the couple (Mario and Root) speak English, at least a little bit, and Root is fluent in English!  Also, the food here isn’t just meat-and-potatoes or meat-and-lentils or meat-and-soup or….you get it.  In fact, here at the brewery, there’s normally only meat for lunch or dinner, but not both – which is super nice for me because I got sick of meat and it’s also a lot healthier!  Also, she bakes fresh bread every two days!  Mmm bread and butter!

Life on the brewery is basically exactly as expected.  Roughly 5 hours a day, 5 days a week (sometimes Saturdays).  Actually, it’s a bit better than expected: the food is better than expected, and the people are way better than expected.  Root, a nice Thai woman, is former engineer and a really cool person, and I’m pleased to have gotten along so well with her.  She adds a nice homely touch.  Mario is also very gracious and kind, but he’s also the smartest person I’ve met in Chile.  I love talking politics, culture, economics, and history with him.  Keep in mind that I can only keep a conversation going on these topics because I studied economic development of South America for a course in college, am super interested in economic development (meaning I read and ask people these kinds of questions all over the world, and read books on the subject), and I also happen to be fairly conversant in Marxist and post-colonial theory as well.  He, on the other hand, never went to university and so only knows about this because he wants to be informed and he has such a perceptive and analytical mind.  Damn!

I feel much more settled than I have previously.  I think traveling means you are constantly on the go, and though I’ve taken steps to stay at places for much longer than most (Porvenir for 2 weeks, Ushuaia for 10 days, El Chalten for 11 days – whereas most people stayed at those places for a third of that time.   I haven’t felt very “settled” before on my journey.  This is the first place that I have felt this way, and it’s affected how I live – though I’m also staying here a month, the longest I’ve stayed anywhere, so I’m sure that’s a factor.

 

What is Joshua’s schedule/routine at the brewery?

Most days, I wake up early – my alarm goes off at 6:02am.  I usually watch an epiode of Gotham or Sense8 on Netflix.  Then, I get out of bed and make coffee and usually work on Spanish until we have breakfast from 9-10am.  Then we work from 10-3, have lunch from 3-4, and then have the rest of our day to do whatever we want.  Usually I do hikes in the afternoon.

 

Goals while living here

My big-picture goal, for the past two weeks at least, has been to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it.  This is one skill I’ve gotten better at, mostly because I’ve gotten better at pausing and realizing “why am I doing this?  I don’t want to do this right now!” and then I get up and go do whatever I actually want to do.

Physically, I have 4 daily goals I try to do every day: stretch, meditate, do sprints, and do 75 push-ups.  I can touch my toes when I pull myself toward them, and I can almost touch my toes when I stand up!  In my entire life, I can never recall a time when this was possible, and it’s a major goal of my SA time.  I also do 75 push-ups (not all at one time!) and meditate for 15 minutes almost every day, and lately I’ve been sprinting because I eat so much bread and don’t want to get fat!  😛  I’ve still gained weight though.

I also practice Spanish every day, spending a couple hours every day (2-3 hours?) to either review vocab, learn grammar, review grammar.  Then, I also use Spanish subtitles for any movie, TV show, or comedy video that I watch.  I also have a couple videos that I use for Spanish audio – though I admit that they speak so fast, it’s hard for me to keep up.

Lastly, I’m trying to change my food preferences.  I’m trying to be less picky with food!  I used to NOT like the following food items, but now I like them to such a degree that I will go out of my way to add them to my food.  Craziness!

  1. Chocolate
  2. Sweets – cakes, pies, cookies, etc.
  3. Nuts and seeds of all kinds (almonds, peanuts, chia seeds, everything)
  4. Caramel and Butter toffees
  5. Butter
  6. Bread (well, it’s homemade, and I’ve always liked homemade bread but still…I’m that guy that will buy bread, and I’ve NEVER been that guy!)
  7. Pickles
  8. Parmesan cheese

 

Enjoying Patagonian winter

I’m also really enjoying the winter here in Patagonia.  I’ve liked winter ever since I took note of the symbolisms of winter.  While I don’t like the cold that much, I’m also drawn to popularized themes of winter: renewal, cold, damp, dark, patience, healing, barren.  Very plutonic, if you follow astrology.  So yes, the symbols draw me more than the actual experience of winter, but I’m not going to lie…I’ve also been enjoying the actual experience of winter of Patagonia.  The mountains are gorgeous and covered in snow, and there are outdoor trails to go walking on through the bare and frozen woods.  I do a walk almost every day, though I usually do them to practice Spanish and my bare hands often freeze holding my Spanish notebook lol.  🙂  There’s ice on the roads in the early morning and in the evening (which means I can’t do my sprints at these times), and the gas lines are sometimes frozen when I wake in the morning, but still!  How cool!

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