Sunday, August 30, 2009

Snow White, The Scarlet Letter and la Papelería

Previously, on Adventures in Colombia, I had written about the general lack of supplies available. I am now happy to inform you that I have many more resources to use! This is thanks to the large amount of supplies that students brought in during the first week. (for more info on this see my co-worker E’s blog)
One of the things on the supply list is a book in English for the classroom library. What a fabulous idea! Only a handful of kids actually brought in a book but I was grateful for those books. Mostly they are fairy tales, and not really at 5th grade level, but no complaints here. Wait a minute- what is this? The Scarlet Letter??!! How did that get in my room? In case you forgot, The Scarlet Letter is actually an A for Adulteress, and asks questions such as who is the father of Hester’s baby? So, really, why is it in my room? Well, it is re-written as an ESL book for adults. On the back of the book there is a chart that tells you what reading level the book is, and the reading level of this particular book is elementary. Not to worry- I don’t actually have the book on the shelf! :)
I have high hopes that my boxes will arrive this week. I sent myself lots of books, some house ware things and office supplies. In the meantime, the other new teachers and I finally made it to a papelería. I have never been so excited to be in an office supply store! We got carts from outside the store and I seriously felt like a kid on a shopping spree at Toys R’ Us.

File folders! Sharpies! Maps! Sticky Notes!!! (which are expensive, by the way!) Hooray!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


One thing I’ve discovered is that everyone here in Colombia is genuinely friendly. The very first weekend after meeting everyone at Altamira, the other North American teachers and I had lots of invitations. We were able to spend time with our new co-workers as well as check out the music scene in Barranquilla. We went to a Battle of the Bands and also to a Jazz club. This weekend I went to the BarranquiJazz Festival.
The festival was made up of local and regional bands. One band was all 12-15 year-olds and the keyboardist had 3 plastic lawn chairs stacked together to sit on! I also really enjoyed all the different flutes being played. There were several different wooden flutes including one called a gaita. The gaita is a long wooden flute that is held like a recorder. It looks like it would be fun to play….
Supposedly, there is a bigger jazz festival in September. I was not expecting to find jazz in Colombia, but I’m glad I did! Actually, it is not just jazz, but also cumbia. Although I don't particularly know much about jazz, I did learn a little about cumbia:
· It is from the Caribbean coast of Colombia
· It originated from African slaves in Cartagena
· It includes European instruments as well as:
a tambora- similar to a marching bass drum
an alegre- similar to a djembe (jem-bay)
a llamador- smaller than the alegre
a gaita or flauta de millo

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What? No butcher paper? And other frustrations

Initially, I was going to write about getting my classroom ready and making bulletin boards without butcher paper. If you are a teacher, you understand that this is a foreign concept. However, now that I have finished 2 days of school; the lack of butcher paper seems, well, cute. I decided to simply make a list of all of the things that I did not have the first 2 days of school.

1. Textbooks
2. Any other book other than a teachers manual
3. Water, as in there is no drinking water at school
4. Food- cafeteria does not serve lunch on half days
5. Pencils
6. Notebook paper
7. Phone
8. Internet
9. Teacher computer
10. Any computer
11. Overhead projecter
12. Document camera
13. Three-hole punch
14. Teacher scissors
15. Student cubbies
(also, the desks are the high school kind with only a wire basket under the chair)
16. Table
17. Carpet
18. Markers
19. Sharpies
20. Crayons
21. Scotch tape
22. Sticky notes
23. Planner
24. Ready access to the copy machine (it’s run like a print shop)
25. The coffee maker in the teacher lounge is broken
26. Laminator
27. Rulers
28. Rubber bands
29. Printer
30. Glue
31. Teacher work room
32. File Cabinet
33. Butcher paper

Let’s just call it Extreme Teaching.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sparsely Furnished- hogar dulce hogar

August 13, 2009
Before arriving in Barranquilla, I really didn’t know what to expect from my new ‘sparsely furnished’ apartment. I was certainly not expecting much… a bed… a refrigerator… a table… maybe a microwave. So, I was very excited to see that my new apartment not only had all of those things, but also a couch and chair, a washing machine, 2 tv’s, 2 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms!
Unfortunately, the people who lived here before did not clean very well and left a whole bunch of stuff. My mom and I bought lots of cleaning supplies on our first trip to the store.

For many days the apartment was in a state of chaos as we cleaned out the closets, the kitchen cabinets, the bathrooms, and washed all of the dishes. After all of the cleaning we were finally able to unpack and rearrange. It is so nice to come home to a clean, functional apartment! Soon I should have both a cell phone and internet, then I won’t be quite so cut off from the rest of the world.

Other interesting things about my apartment:

1. The kitchen sink has a filter that looks like a cow. (still need to have that checked to see if it actually filters)
2. The window by the washing machine has curtains with cows on them. I enjoy them a lot.
3. There is no dryer!!! There is a drying rack. Methinks I will become an expert iron-er.
4. Apparently I have the only set of keys... (see Dave's blog )
5. It’s in South America!!!!

First Week- Acabo de llegar

August 12,2009

I have decided to blog about my adventures here in Barranquilla, Colombia. For the next 2 years, I will be teaching 5th grade Language Arts and Social Studies in a bilingual international school. Should you continue to read my blogs, you will know all about it!

I’ve been here for just over a week, and I am amazed by all of the things that have happened in such a short time! My mom came down with me to check everything out and so far we have cleaned and organized my apartment, met my new coworkers, set foot in the Caribbean, gone traveling to Cartagena, seen my new school and classroom and gone through new teacher orienation. Not to mention bathing in a volcano (see Dave's blog) and witnessing our first arroyo peligroso.

Being in a new country for the first time, there are just so many things to figure out! The best example of this was on the first day. After traveling for over 24 hours (including to and from airports) we went my new apartment. Then my new principal gave me some Colombian money and drove us to the store imediately to buy groceries. My mom and I were left to our own devices, and we thought we could handle it. Never in my life has grocery shopping been so difficult! First of all, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted (sleep!), and second, I couldn’t find what I did want. Things are packaged differently. It took us forever to find the sugar and salt. They both came in clear plastic bags. Where was the sugar sack that stands up with sugar written in large type? Where was the Morton-style container of salt? Not to be found. And milk- also in a bag. Who knew? (my Canadian coworker tells me that they do the same thing in Canada; strange, eh?) Finally, we had to decide which product to buy. When you don’t know any of the brand names and the exchange rate is about 2100 Colombian pesos to 1USD this is much more difficult than it sounds. Basic routines are so much harder to accomplish when you don’t know what you’re doing!

As you can imagine there have been many of those moments in this first week. There’s simply a lot to figure out. We’ve used the phrase acabo de llegar often this week. We just got here, we don’t know anything! Luckily, everyone we’ve encountered has been very nice and very helpful.