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. It’s a mix of savannah (grasslands) and rainforest-like plants. I don’t think I’ve 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!
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!!
I 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. 🙂
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:
- I get teaching English experience!
- I get teaching high school experience!
- I don’t take anyone’s job away (I’m “added” to the already-existing teachers)
- 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.
- 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.
- My schedule is Mon-Fri from 6:10am to 12:20pm.
- 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.
- 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!
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.