2/22/16

A Week in Bogota

As many are considering applying to our WorldTeach Colombia semester program, read this blog post to get a glimpse of what WorldTeach volunteer, Martina Boyter, experienced preparing for her first week of teaching. It's hard not to fall in love with Cartagena after 48 hours. If you are interested in more information about our WorldTeach teaching opportunities, head over to our website
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So much to share! To be honest, I’ve been thinking about everything I want to write in this post for a few days, but there’s an overwhelming amount I want to tell you, so I’ve been putting it off. But no longer! Right now, I’ll catch you up on the second week of orientation. And within the next few days, I’ll write about the last week of orientation and finally share what’s most exciting: life in Cartagena! I’ve been here for merely 48 hours and already in love with this city.
Here goes: We left off just before TEFL training in Bogotá. The 23 of us stayed at a beautiful hotel called Estelar la Fontana in a nice area in Bogotá, and the training took place at Fontana, too. Because this training was part of the Ministry of Education’s larger program, there were around 250 other volunteers from around the world that were there for training, too. Our WorldTeach group, however, had a private TEFL training, so we only interacted with the others at meals and after training each day. I was placed in a penthouse room with 3 other girls from outside of my program, but all from the States. It was fun getting to know them and two of them are in Cali for the year, so maybe I’ll visit them!
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The center of the hotel: a nice place to spend those 30 minute breaks throughout the day.
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View from the balcony.
The 5 days of training were L O N G, but definitely left me feeling prepared for the classroom. (We’ll put that to the test this week when school starts!) In addition to lesson planning, role playing, and mock classroom instruction, we learned about the education system in Colombia, new curriculum standards for English instruction, and our role with co-teachers and in our schools. Colombia is aiming to be a bilingual country by 2020, and the Ministry is bringing in hundreds of native English speakers into the public schools, focusing on grades 9 and 10, to try to realize this goal.
I learned that for the first time in more than 50 years, the government here is putting more money into education than the military. It’s an amazing time to be in Colombia. During a conversation over Viber last night, I told my mom how happy the people are here. She asked me why I think that is. My immediate answer was “The Caribbean Sea and fresh tropical juices… obviously!” Sure, that’s part of it. But there’s something deeper, too. Something tied to the close-knit families, the values/priorities, and an incredible resilience. I don’t know how long it’ll take, but I’ll explore this.
I digress. So after the hours of training, we had two chunks of free time in Bogota. An evening in the middle of the week and then a full day before we returned to Chia. Two of my good friends, Katie and Ana, and I took the Transmilenio (Bogotá’s public transit bus system) to Candelaria, a fun, historic part of town that basically works its way up a mountain. It’s a mystery how the tiny, manual cars can make it up those hills.
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Like me, Katie and Ana like to wander and people watch and soak up everything around us. So we walked a lot, got beers at a small, local bar, and then caught the last Transmilenio of the night back to the hotel.
On the free day, a group of us went to Monserrate, which is a mountain that overlooks the whole city. The summit has a beautiful church, as well as a few restaurants and shops. It’s also a pilgrim destination, but the hiking path was closed. We took a funicular on the way up and a gondola down. In the morning, there was a lot of smog which made the view unclear, but it cleared up by mid-day, and the view was breathtaking. To one side you see green, lush mountains, and the other way you see Bogotá – and the city stretches as far as you can see. Someone said that what you can see is just 1/8 of the city, which blew my mind. I guess that’s what 8 million people looks like.
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Sarah and me.
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The 17th century church on Monserrate, with a shrine dedicated to “El Senor Caido,” the fallen lord.
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We did a lot more walking that day, too. And went to the Botero Museum in Bogotá. I hadn’t known of a Botero museum other than everything in Medellin, but the museum was incredible! Half of the artwork there was Fernando Botero’s and the rest was from Picasso, Miro, Dali, Renoir, and other face-melting names. It was free to enter, so I wasn’t expecting a lot, but it blew me away.
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So that was week two. Did I mention that 80% of our group got sick in Bogotá? Oh yes. Our collective guess is that it was the food. But for about three days, it was not pretty. I’ll spare the details. From what I’ve heard from past volunteers and my program coordinators, getting sick is inevitable. At least when first acclimating to the food, water, climate, etc. So I’m embracing it and planning on getting sick a few more times!!
Now I’m off to a meeting at the Secretary of Education’s office in El Centro. And my first day of school is tomorrow! I’ll keep writing this week. Hold me to it! Besos-

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