Friday, October 30, 2009

Dancing Sharks, Angelitos y Millennium Goals

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Working in a school is never boring. And things don’t normally go as planned. All that is to be expected. In this school I often feel like I have no idea what will happen any given day. This is not so much because of a language barrier, but because many times no one really knows what’s going on. The unexpected things are not always bad- often they are unscheduled assemblies or mimes at recess.
Today we had an Autumn Festival. It was a whole-school event planned by the Junior class. We knew about the event, but never really received any details so I had no idea what to expect. (I don’t think this is something that happens every year either.) Yesterday the kids got a note saying that they needed to bring $10.000 pesos to get into the Festival. When I asked about collecting the money and what would happen to students who didn’t bring money, the response was, “That’s a good question!” I asked again this morning and was told that I don’t collect the money- the students would just pay to get in.

I was still unclear about this whole thing….

Me: “And the kids who don’t have money?”
Secretary: “Well, they just don’t get in.”
Me: “Yeah, but do they go somewhere?”
Secretary: “No, they don’t go into the rooms.”
Me: “So, they just wander around?”
Secretary: “Yes” (laughs a little)

Okay… At this point I’m imagining students just wandering around the school doing whatever for 3 hours. An hour later I was told that I did need to collect the money and that someone would be around to collect the money and distribute bracelets. Ah-ha! They use bracelets to get into the haunted house and stuff. Some pieces of the puzzle are beginning to fall into place! Miraculously, every student in my class brought the money. Then I was told that I had supervision duty during the second shift from 12:30-2:00 by the food carts. So, when it was time for the students to go to the Autumn Festival, I stayed in my room while they all went…. somewhere…. it was a good thing they apparently knew, because I wouldn’t have known what to tell them.
Once I went to the Festival, I saw the central location was in the coliseum. There was food, booths and a stage. Turns out if you didn’t have a bracelet you could still be a part of the festival- you just wouldn’t be able to do the activities. It was surprisingly relaxed! I sat back and watched some students dance to Michael Jackson songs and then listened as students and teachers got out their guitars and sang. One of the extra-curricular activities is Rock Band. So they rocked some Oasis, G&R and Metallica. All in all it was not a bad way to spend the afternoon!

Here are some of the other strange and wonderful things from school this month....


One Friday we had an afternoon of intramural futbol. I was under the impression that some of my students would be playing, but it turns out it was a game of teachers vs. high school students. The big draw of the afternoon was visitors from Barranquilla’s futbol team Junior. The first visitor was their mascot- a shark. Because no Colombian gathering is complete without dancing- you guessed it, the shark danced! There was also a surprise visit from one of Junior’s best players Teofilo Gutierrez. It was like a movie star came to the school.

Dia de los Angelitos

A few days ago the Pre-schoolers came “trick-or-treating” at our school. I guess this is a Colombian tradition. Kids get dressed up as angels and ask for candy saying:

Quiero paz, quiero amor, quiero dulces por favor!
Or another variation is:
Angeles somos, del cielo venimos, pidiendo limosnas para nosotros mismos.

Millennium Development Goals

The school has a club called AISMUN, and it is a model United Nations. One of the things they have been learning about are the Millennium Development Goals written by the United Nations. We had an assembly where the club shared information about the goals and also lead the school to STAND UP and TAKE ACTION! Events like this are organized around the world to Stand Up against poverty and tell governments that they should be working towards achieving the Millennium Goals.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

To San Lorenzo in the back of a pickup

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I am just now getting around to posting some more pics from my trip to Minca. Better late than never, right?
Anyways. Dave and I were told that we should try to head up a little higher to the town of San Lorenzo.From there, we were told, we could actually see the snow-capped peaks of the Sierras and it would be even colder than Minca. (It's like Canada! Well, maybe not quite Canada...) There is a public transportation option that leaves in the morning and takes you part way there and you walk the rest. So, in the morning we went to get some coffee and figure out the plan for the day. While at the cafe, we met a family who was headed up to visit their aunt and uncle close to San Lorenzo. And that's how we ended up in the back of a pickup headed to San Lorenzo.
After a very bumpy ride (public transportation? really? on this road?), we arrived at the aunt and uncle's house. They were all really nice. We talked with them for a little while, then walked and explored further up the road. We never actually made it to San Lorenzo, but we did see very beautiful scenary. We went as far as the El Dorado bird reserve, and then turned around to catch our ride back to Minca.

I think if I lived on this road, I'd travel by horse too!

We crossed lots of little streams and waterfalls like this one.

The family told me that these are a type of sunflower, but they're like shrubs!

We saw sooo many butterflies.

The family told me that this flower is called siete cueros.

I think this is crocosmia.

Can you see the purple siete cueros up in the tree?

Cute little birds enjoying a snack.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Flora de la Finca (en Minca)

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Here are some of the plant pictures that I took while staying at Sans Souci. Minca's elevation is 600 meters with temperatures in the 70's. Definately very different from Barranquilla!

These bamboo-looking trees were really tall!

This flower is called Brugmansia. It is a shrub native to the mountains of Colombia. The flowers hang down and can be pink, white or orange.

I think this flower may have been native as well. I saw it along the road a lot.

There are many species of Orchids in Colombia- most of them found in higher elevations.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

La Finca en Minca

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This weekend was a 4-day weekend! It was actually the first time we’ve had a day off since we started school on August 18th. Needless to say-I was ready for a break! Originally we had thought about going to la Guajira peninsula to see flamingos. However, apparently, they are being eaten by sharks! Anyways, Elizabeth decided to go on a surf holiday and Dave and I went to Minca. Minca is a tiny little town up in the Sierra Nevadas de Santa Marta. Costeños go there for the cooler temperatures. The nearby town of Santa Marta is at least as hot as Barranquilla, and it is amazing to go from temperatures in the 90’s down to the 70’s in just a half hour. The road itself is pretty bad and busses don’t make the run up to Minca so Dave and I arrived in moto-taxi. I actually hadn’t been on a motorcycle before, so I was a little weary of the idea at first. But I have to admit that it was pretty cool to be on a motorcycle heading up into the mountains of Colombia. Every minute the air was cooler, and there were more and more trees!
We stayed at a finca, or farm, called Sans Souci. The German owner offers a discount if you do some work. We agreed to do some work and were offered the job of grinding coffee! The dried coffee beans needed to be put through the grinder to remove the light-weight outer shell.

After going through the grinder, there was a bowl of the coffee beans and bits of the outer shell. In order to separate the two, you had to swirl the bowl around and blow. And I thought I’d be weeding or something!

It was very relaxing to be there. Where I live in Barranquilla there are a lot of new high-rise apartment buildings and construction. Sometimes I feel like there is just too much concrete in my life. It was nice to be surrounded by lots of trees and beautiful flowers. With lots of flora around, there was also lots of fauna…. I think I got more bug bites this weekend then I ever have before! The room we stayed in came equipped with mosquito bed nets, but no window screens, so by the end of the night we had visits from lots of moths, a couple geckos, 2 GIANT flying cockroaches and a bat!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Juan Valdez- my new favorite place

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This weekend I had the very noble goal of getting lots of school work done. And I really did accomplish quite a bit… not as much as I wanted to… but sometimes that’s the way it goes. Anyways, there is nothing that motivates me to do school work more, than the idea of doing school work in a coffee shop somewhere. So, Elizabeth and I packed up our school stuff and walked 50 minutes to the nearest Juan Valdez Cafe. (We didn’t think it was quite that long of a walk- good thing it was a nice, cool, overcast 84 degree day.)
Let me just say- I love coffee shops. I can spend hours at a time in them. Literally. Although I had been to Juan Valdez a couple times before, this was the first time I went with the intention of staying for an extended amount of time. One of the best things about Juan Valdez is the sense of familiarity. When you walk in, you feel like you’re walking into, well, Starbucks. Juan Valdez has the same basic set up as Starbucks and they even have their own line of merchandise. One thing I noticed is that they have these mugs and shirts with different locations of Juan Valdez Cafes, and they include Seattle! The funny thing is, when I looked at their website, they don’t show a café in Seattle! I don’t know, maybe they just wish they were in Seattle.

Today I enjoyed a cup of tinto cardamomo. Tinto is black coffee (with lots of sugar!) and cardamomo is cardamom! Mmm… it’s like Christmas in a glass! At least for me it is, since my family makes a Finnish coffee/cardamom bread every December. The other drink I really like at Juan Valdez is an arequipe latte. Arequipe is the Colombian version of carmel, it’s really similar to cajeta in Mexico. So far that’s all I’ve tried, but they are so good I may just keep ordering them. However, there is also a whole section on the menu called cafes extremos that are coffee drinks with brandy and whiskey!
All in all I give Juan Valdez two thumbs up. It is really good coffee and a great place to hang out. Not only that, but it is not so much a business, as it is a non-profit organization that supports independent coffee growers. Check out their commitment to social responsibility.