Friday, March 26, 2010

Watch out for falling Iguanas!

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While in Mompox we ran into my vecina, a German girl who teaches in Barranquilla as well and lives in my building. She was with a couple teachers from the German school, and we decided to join them on an ecological tour along the river. Unfortunately, I was in the back and couldn't hear a lot of what was being said. We saw lots of birds along the river- garzas are still the only ones that I actually know the the name of though. Since Dave and I joined the tour last minute, we really didn't know what to expect.

Our boat- complete with plastic chairs.

View of Mompox from the boat.

After going up the river a ways we all got out to see monkeys! I'd seen monkeys here at the zoo or as pets, but never just hanging out.

Un burro y su dueño.

There were also a bunch of huge iguanas up in the trees. Our guide would call us over to a tree, "mira, un iguana enorme!", then shake the tree until it would come running down the branches, jump to the ground and into the river. I thought I was going to get run over by an iguana!

One of the smaller iguanas.

Fellow river travelers.

Then we went up to a pueblito where we were greeted with cries of "plata! turistas, la plata!" Apparently they were used to getting the occasional boatload of tourists. The town was centered around a church and a plaza/futbol area. We stopped at a tienda for something to drink. One of the locals had a lively conversation with a Venezuelan who was in our group. They both seemed to be having a great time, but seeing how the local had socialist views I didn't really want to broadcast being American. That's probably one of the only times I've felt uncomfortable about being an American in Colombia.

A traditional-style house.

We headed back up the river towards Mompox at sunset.

Just as we were approaching the sound of vallenato music, the motor died. They added more gas, but still couldn't get it to start. One guy rowed us to shore with a shovel so that we wouldn't float further down the river. At this point the sun was down and it was definately getting dark. I wasn't worried before, but then I realized, what if they can't get it started? We'll be stuck here in the middle of the Rio Magdelena, in the dark!! Luckily, they got it to start and we returned to Mompox safe and sound. Que bueno!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


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Last weekend was a 3-day weekend, and a great time to get out of Barranquilla for the weekend. What I read in my guidebook about Mompox sounded so interesting that I figured it would be well worth the travel to get there. Mompox is an old colonial town on the Rio Magdelena. But in the 1800's the shipping route was changed, and it has been pretty isolated ever since. Dave and I took a long bus ride from Barranquilla to Magangue, then a taxi, aboat and another taxi (colectivo) to get there. The boat ride definately made it seem more adventurous! You could imagine being back in the day, boating to Mompox to escape from Pirate attacks in Cartagena. I was also pretty entertained by the guy collecting money. On buses there's always a guy who collects money, often waiting until the bus is on the highway before walking up and down the aisle to get money. The guy on the boat waited until we were about halfway there (we stopped to pick up some people on the way) then he popped down from the roof of the boat and walked along the side of the boat collecting money from each row. He seemed totally at ease!

Mompox definately moves at a much slower pace than Barranquilla. It's very relaxing. After eating dinner along the river the waiter pointed out a lizard and told me it could walk across water. A Jesus lizard! Didn't get to see it in action though. Just as the sun was setting we walked by a church with lot of people and a quartet singing inside. The reason for the 3-day weekend in the first place was some sort of saint day... I'm still not really sure. Regardless, it was nice to be a part of the experience. It was definately a moment of, wow, I'm in Colombia! Here I am in a 400 year-old church filled with people, doors opened invitingly, birds flying in and out, fans blowing hot air- it was an authentic experience, part of a living tradition.

The next day we wandered around. Because it was a Sunday, most of the stores were closed. There were still plenty of people out and about on bicycles, motorcycles and moto-taxis.

View of one of the plazas.

Exploring an old building.

Local Sunday morning mass.

We had heard that the cemetary was interesting, so we went to check it out.

And we met a new friend.

The poor kitty was sooo over-heated! She followed our shadows around for awhile.

A Momposino-style chair.

Typical street sign with an interesting way of writing de.

A door within a door.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

busy, busy

So, it has been awhile since I’ve written anything. I will try to post some carnival pictures soon. I didn’t right away because my camera was stolen at carnivals. That’s another story. Basically since carnival I’ve been busy with lots of school stuff. This is probably really boring to read about, but I’m going to write it anyways. Consider it my extended excuse for not writing on my blog.

Students took their trimester exams, and then grades and report cards were due. Luckily, my exams were scheduled early in the week. I felt bad for the teachers whose exams were on Friday, and whose grades were still due on Monday. I actually finished my grades on Friday and then spent the entire weekend sitting at my desk planning the entire next trimester of Language Arts. And didn’t even finish. Why would I do that? Well, because my Understanding By Design unit plans for both subjects were due in a week. As well as curriculum maps for both subjects. (It kinda feels like I have assignments due for a class. Regardless of the fact that they will actually be useful to me, it is still stressful to have big assignments due.)

The next week we had parent teacher conferences. After conferences, I didn’t have a whole lot of motivation to plan although all the planning was actually due MONDAY!!! However, I did some work on Sunday including writing daily lesson plans for the next two weeks in Social Studies.

By Tuesday morning I’d had to revise my plans twice because the schedule had changed twice since I planned Sunday night. After meeting with my department head to change my benchmarks so that they were more like his, and adding some weekly planning, it was finally done. Except that it was then time for formal teacher observations. Thursday I was told that my observation was on Monday, and my pre-observation meeting was the next morning. After a long school day and tutoring, I checked my e-mail only to discover that my observation was not for Language Arts like I requested, but for Social Studies. And I couldn’t find the new lesson plan form that we were supposed to use. Although the meeting was fine, it was not a good feeling to have the night before an important meeting.

I really did have a fantastic weekend. Saturday some coworkers and I went to the beach. There were no waves, but we swam and practiced floating on Elizabeth’s new surfboard. Some of our coworkers and the KC peeps came to a fiesta de vino y queso to celebrate Elizabeth’s birthday. Lots of dancing and lots of fun. By Sunday night I knew I needed to finish up my observation lesson plan. Even though it didn’t actually take that long to do, I was so stressed out just thinking about going back to school. Such a contrast from the relaxing, fun weekend I’d just had.

Luckily, I didn’t plan for the week Sunday night because when I took my students to the library this morning, the music teacher asked to use my classroom for a rehearsal. The rehearsal ended up lasting the entire morning, and four of my class periods were held in the library. At lunch time I found out that my observation had been rescheduled for the next day- during Language Arts. Of the 5 people (myself included) who carpool together, 4 of us have not only had very short notice of when our observations are, but we have all had our observations rescheduled. The fifth person still doesn’t know when her observation is.

I’m reasonably certain I will actually be observed tomorrow. I will still be teaching the lesson I planned originally. Maybe afterwards, school won’t be so stressful, but for some reason I can’t quite believe that.