Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fruit of the Month: Apple Bananas

A mini, sweeter banana that's about half of the length of a regular banana.  These adorable bundles of flavor are perfect for slicing into oatmeal and are so sweet you hardly need to add honey or sugar to your breaky.  DE-LISH.


Pin the tail on the donkey...or something like that

I have been absolutely horrible to my faithful blog readers (read: my parents) and have neglected this poor blog for the better part of the year, despite my new years resolution :( The truth is, while my life has been wonderful as of late in Colombia, there isn't a whole lot I care to share on the WWW. One of my best friends from college, Nicole, came to visit and am now realizing I need to dedicate another entire post to that glorious week. I feel so fortunate to have friends that are willing and able to come all the way to Colombia..ignoring all those silly travel warnings against it.

But this weekend was one of the best times I've had in Colombia since leaving Barranquilla. That's because five wonderful volunteer from Cartagena and Barranquilla came to visit us Santa Marta folk for some Cinco de Mayo fun! Most of us had a meeting in Barranquilla for our Volunteer Advisory Committee (VAC), which helps communicate concerns or suggestions between volunteers and staff. Being in Barranquilla means: hot showers, AC, Zara, Caribe 79, bargaining for taxi prices again, and Arroyos. We dubbed our ride in a bus down an arroyo -- remember those rushing rapids -- Arroyorama! (yeah I know, creativity lacks when you are scared for your life) because we felt like we were on an amusement park ride with all the crazy sites of water rushing at alarming rates down the streets, washing away cars. So after a night in Barranquilla and taking a coveted shower that I actually feel clean after, we all headed to Santa Marta to catch a party at a local hostel to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. I love being back together with the volunteers I became so close to during training.

After a night of Margaritas, Tacos and a few too many Tequilla shots, we got a pretty late start on our day trip to Taganga. As we were hiking from Taganga to Playa Grande I wondered to myself how many times I'll do this hike over the next 2 years. Taganga is just an easy to get to beach that has a pretty scenic hike up and some very typical (and overpriced) fried fish dishes. Perfect for people on short visits. So you get the picture, beach, mexican food and drinks, and good friends. Perfect end to another week in Colombia.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Arroyo Peligroso (continued)

In the midst of the dry season I've found myself really missing the rain. Not as much as I would in Greensboro if it were to go so long without raining since the ocean is right there but still I miss it. I realized I never posted the video of an arroyo in Barranquilla. In Santa Marta when it rains the city floods instead of creating dangerous arroyos. In all honesty, I prefer the arroyos. At least the water goes away, only briefly paralyzing the city. The stagnant water from a big rain storm can leave certain roads in Santa Marta with 6 inches on stagnant water. Gross. Anyway, enjoy the video.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

HELLO, My nah-meh is!!

As goes with all new years resolutions, my only one has started off to a rocky beginning. It's been so long since I've written that it would be impossible to give a complete update in any reasonable amount of words. In short, I love my new home in Santa Marta. I am happy here and I count my lucky stars every day (some days looking out at the sunset over the bay) that I get to live in work in such a beautiful and vibrant city.

Carnaval in Barranquilla, considered to be one of the biggest in the world, has come and gone and I can no longer tell students at my schools that my saturday community English classes will start "despues de Carnaval". I taught my first week of classes this past week and they were carried out with varying levels of success. For now, I'm only teaching 6th grade and it is the first time that they have had English lessons so "novice" would be a generous way to describe their proficiency level. Pair this with a class size of 40+ students with little to no discipline and you get a very nervous and tired Carla with no voice. Things can only go up from here, I suppose.

Carnaval was incredible and I'm sad it's over. Excited, because things will actually start happening at my school instead of everyone putting things off until after the festivities (I too, fell victim to this, it's pointless not to play along). For example, teachers are now required to have a curriculum for their classes! What they were doing in class for the past month is beyond me. I'll have to devote an entire post to the wondrous Colombian public schools when I figure them out. I was really happy to be back in Barranquilla to spend time with my former host family and enjoy the festivities. I miss my big crazy host family in Barranquilla and I think that I'll always consider them my family in Colombia. I, of course, say this after only a month of living with a new family in Santa Marta but still. A definite highlight of Carnaval was that we got free front row tickets to the Marc Anthony concert. In a sheer testament to good karma, 3 other PCVs and I found ourselves in the right place (a grocery store, buying boxed wine and litre bottles of water) at the right time. Definitely a highlight of the weekend. The rest of the weekend was filled with music, street parties, parades, feathers, foam, corn starch, and aguardiente. My goal for next year is to be IN the main parade. I'll keep you posted.

Marc Anthony concert

Dressed up for Carnaval

Taganga, a fishing village about 15 minutes away

Cabo Beach in Tayrona National Park

I'll sum up the rest of the past few months in a list of random observations and opinions about Colombia and Santa Marta thus far.

1. I discover a new fruit almost every week. It promptly becomes my new food obsession until I either get sick from eating 5 fruits in one sitting or I find another one. My current fix: Zapote (a.k.a. mamey)

2. Showers are cold here and I love them. Nothing beats hopping in a cold shower after sweating profusely all day.

3. It's hard to make Colombian friends. Everything revolves around family so people don't seem to have many "friends" outside of siblings and cousins. I have, however, met a few gringo friends who also live in Santa Marta.

4. I am going to become very patient here. I guess this is a good thing. It's been a painful process though. I'm yet to go to the grocery store and get through the line (be it 8 people long, or 1) in less than half and hour. No one here is ever in a rush or on time, which I'm sure isn't news if you've ever visited a developing country.

5. It hasn't rained once since I've been in Santa Marta…WHHAATT?!

6. I have A LOT of free time. I hope that in the future this free time will fill up with various secondary projects that I develop for my community...

7. In the meantime, I go to the BEACH. There are lots of beaches to choose from in the area and I've tried to take advantage of their proximity by taking dips in the cold water at least once a week.

8. While very unique and creative (as so many phrases and vocabulary in Spanish are), I do not like CosteƱo Spanish. The Spanish on the coast is very fast and hard to understand and littered with jargon that makes people sound uneducated. It's good to know what the words mean but I have no interest in using them myself.

9. I love looking Colombian. I never get a second glance on the street and people generally don't try to mess with me in terms of prices for cabs or fruit on the street. WIN.

10. I was never huge peanut butter fan before but there's nothing like being away from America to spark and full blown obsession. It's expensive here and definitely one of my biggest splurges. But so worth it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cheese, Please!

Update coming soon but I wanted to post a few quotes (cheesy, I know, but I love cheese) that have inspired me throughout my life and have become especially poignant during my time here in Colombia.

"Learn from every being, experience and moment. What joy it is to search for lessons of goodness and enthusiasm in others."
-Eve Carson

"This day and this moment, this is the best day of our lives right now."
-Eve Carson

"When you were young it was easy. You were not afraid to dare, you do it just because you like it. So my advice to you is, never grow up my friend."

Words like these help me keep a sense of adventure and energy in my life. I constantly find myself asking, what am I doing here?! or getting impatient with cultural differences or setbacks in my work but reminding myself of my purpose in Colombia, the grand opportunity I've been given and these words always steer me back on track. I have been blessed with so many wonderful experiences and I hope for so many more. "LG, BABY!" (Life's good.)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Last Post of the Year!!

Oh man I'm so bad at keeping this up! Since last time I wrote I have officially sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer!! It doesn't feel a whole lot different but the ceremony was beautiful and we got to eat some delicious cake. The ceremony was pretty long and consisted of various speeches from the governor of the department of Atlantico, the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, Michael McKinley; the Peace Corps chief of staff, Stacey Rhodes; and a few volunteers from the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers back in 1961. It was great to see all the support for our work here. The staff did a great job of making it a special event for us. The ceremony was also a celebration of the 50 years of Peace Corps service worldwide. To commemorate it, the Peace Corps produced a short film for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival called "Hijos de Kennedy" that takes a look back of how the Peace Corps was started in Colombia -- one of the first countries to receive volunteers. It was a beautifully made documentary that almost brought me to tears. I loved being able to see the history involved in the Peace Corps; it feels great to be a part of something with such historic significance and that I am so passionate about.

Me and my host family at the reception

Yummy cake with some fellow volunteers, Julie and Mike

Aside from that things have been very laid back. We have had a two week "vacation" or as the Peace Corps likes to call it "a split in training" or "community diagnostic"…call it what you want but it's been a vacation and I couldn't appreciate it more. Lots of rest, lots of beach, lots of reading, and a whole lot of NOTHING. Spending the holidays away from my friends and family has been hard but I am so thankful for all the other volunteers who make it a little bit easier. In Colombia they celebrate Christmas on the 24th with a big dinner, loud music, and drinking, as usual, and opening gifts at midnight. We got all dressed up and had a fabulous little celebration and my family gave me a great Colombian bag that I've been talking about, typical from the region of Guajira and a pretty bangle made of palm leaves. B-E-A-UTIFUL. I certainly was not expecting to receive any gifts from them and thought it was so nice of them to include me in their celebration. My mom sent me a package of gifts for my host family and thanks to the enigmatic postal system, it's been trapped in customs for the past 3 weeks. But who doesn't love receiving gifts at all times of the year anyway?! Hope they arrive sometime soon.

On Christmas day my family was kind enough to let me invite all the volunteers to our house for a Christmas potluck dinner. Since the 25th is like any other day here in Colombia it was so nice to have all us gringos together for some good American food and company.

In other news, Junior de Barranquilla, the local soccer team won the national championship. The celebration that followed their win looked more like the celebration of a world cup win or the newly gained independence of a country. It was wild! We had gone to a bar by my house to watch the game and when they won the streets went crazy. Everyone who had a beer began to throw anything that was in the bottle into the air, drenching anyone surrounding them. Also, bags of flour appears out of no where and people started throwing that in the air too. Dancing in the street, jumping on top of buses, climbing street lights, and an endless caravan of honking cars followed. We then went to Calle 84, which is where most of the night life is and watch an even wilder celebration. After running around in the street and jumping for a couple hours, we were tired and ready to go home. I found out the next day that my host siblings stayed out until 4 in the morning. Colombians have boundless energy when it comes to partying, I have found.


I'm off tomorrow to Parque Tayrona, a national park on the coast right outside of Santa Marta, to celebrate New Years Eve. I'm so excited to spend a weekend on the beach with some of the girls in our group. I'm going to go ahead and set a resolution to update my blog more often this coming year. Happy New Year everyone!! I hope that the New Year brings you many blessings, health, and happiness! Until next year!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Santa Marta Rocks

This is delayed but I went to visit my site in Santa Marta last week and absolutely loved it! I was able to visit a few beaches in the area and have already found one that I'm particularly fond of. Taganga is a fishing village outside of Santa Marta that has some wonderful little beaches you can hike to and no shortage of foreigners. Random aside: When I was in Taganga, a local man giving massages on the beach was wearing a Cycles D'Oro (a cycling store in Greensboro) biking jersey -- what a small world! When I asked where he got it, he told me that an English teacher had given it to him. I thought that was so wild. Greensboro reppin' hard in Colombia.

Taganga from the highway

Hike down to the beach

My English teaching counterparts in the library at Liceo Samario

Anyway, my school, Institucion Educativa Distrital Liceo Samario, is in a great location, only about 15 blocks from the water, and seems to be wonderfully ran by an amazing group of teachers and administrators. The school itself it in a fairly nice neighborhood but the students come from surrounding barrios that are not as well off. The director of my school seems to be a great leader who is very organized and motivated. The same goes for my counterpart who is so enthusiastic. I was welcomed to my school with an assembly of all the teachers -- about 100 of them. I did not except such a warm welcome; they presented me with a basket of fruit, had me give a speech on the spot, and then blessed me with a very long prayer. It was great to feel so welcome, especially since a lot of our training is focused on how to get schools on board with what we plan to do in terms of co-teaching. It seems as though I won't have to do much convincing. All the English teachers expressed how excited they were to have my help and the director kept asking me what projects I had in mind to help the school outside of the English department. We're encouraged to spend at least 6 weeks in observation to survey out site's needs so I tried to explain to her that while I had a lot of ideas of projects I would be interested in developing, I would need some time before I could jump in head first. I hope they understand because I think that if it were up to them I'd jump right into work on day one!

Tomorrow we're being sworn in as volunteers! I'm so excited for the ceremony and finally having the liberty to go to the beach without permission. Just kidding, there are so many other aspects of being a volunteer that I look forward to. Mostly, I'm just happy that I'm officially becoming a member of the Peace Corps and am getting closer to starting the work we've been preparing for. I have to wake up early tomorrow to get really for the ceremony so I'm going to cut this post short. I'll certainly post another update by the end of the week detailing our swearing in!