October 27, 2009

Colombia is on the map!

I love seeing positive articles about Colombia in the news, so of course I was loving this one on Villa de Leyva from the NY Times. How cool that I was just there and now it is in the Times! LOVE it :)

The Curious Case of 8A

Where to begin???

At my school the 100 or so 8th graders are divided up into five separate sections (8A thru 8E) of 20 students each. Students stay in these sections all day long and all year long, so they really become comfortable with the students in their section. The only time they deviate from these groups is during electives like dance, art, physical education, and music.

While this type of system has positives and negatives, overall I am adjusting to it fine. The problem is that as teachers we have come to compare these 5 sections amongst ourselves. So naturally, there is one at the bottom.

On the very first day of school the 8th grade teachers flagged 8A as a chatty and difficult group of students. Things have not really improved much since then and we are three months into the year. I mean all Colombian kids love to talk, but these ones just DO. NOT. SHUT. UP. Nothing works. They are more interested in what their classmates have to say than they ever will be about algebra. To top it off, they are protecive of each other. They value their relationships so highly that they don't regard it as rude when they ignore or interrupt teachers in class. Basically they think highly of themselves and not so much of me...yet.

Last week I decided I absolutely could not deal with them for a second longer, so in the middle of discussing proportional reasoning I stopped my lesson and asked each of them to take out a piece of paper. I asked them to write their name and one thing they can do to improve in class and one thing they think I can do to help the class.

Reading the responses was beyond interesting...of the 21 students in that class, 16, yes SIXTEEN, told me the thing they can do to improve is be more respectful and attentive during class. Awesome. That means they know exactly what they should be doing, they just are choosing not to do it. Perfect. Their suggestions for me included rearranging the seating chart, doing more fun activities and being more strict in my discipline of those who do talk a lot.

The next day in class we discussed their responses. As a result, we have switched the seating chart, and we are going to do one fun activity or community circle discussion time at least once a week. Also, I have changed my discipline for that class so that now if I need to discipline a student during class, I write his or her name on the board. The second time I need to address the student, he or she is sent right to the dean of student's office, no exceptions. I hope that by doing this my students will understand that I am serious about behavior. I also hopes this avoid dedicating precious class time to behavioral issues. Other students should not suffer a lack of learning time because their classmates cannot shut up.

So, that is where I am at with 8A right now. I sincerely hope things improve in that class. The class by far has the widest range of high schieving to low level students and I am wondering if this plays into their issues as a class. I need to find a way to teach to the middle of the class, help the low level students raise their level of achievement and also challenge the high students. All in 70 minutes, 3 times a week.

Sounds like a breeze. :/

Anyone have ideas?!?!?

Parent Teacher Conferences

New method to ensure my blog is updated: request a laptop during parent teacher conferences. :)

Today and tomorrow all day we have parent teacher conferences at my school. Conferences here are held during the day, so students get some time off and teachers have a break from teaching. Each student comes at a specific time and goes around to visit all the classes. I love having the students here during conferences because it truly makes them accountable for their behavior and their grades.

Thus far this morning I have seen some of my more challenging students and I have experienced great success with their conferences. For the most part any student that is difficult for me is also difficult at home and with other teachers, so any bad news I may have for the parents is not much of a shock. This is nice because I am somewhat terrified of having a parent yell at me and tell me it's all my fault. :)

Also, I am ROCKING the español (Spanish) today! HOORAY! I love opportunities to practice my Spanish! At the beginning of the day I had a translator assigned to me, but so many of my students have parents who speak English, that I pretty much told the guy to get lost. So now when I have parents who don't speak English I am left to my Spanish skills. I have had to do about 6 or 7 conferences so far totally in Spanish and it's going so well! Most of the students haven't heard me speak a lot of Spanish yet, since I teach in English, so they are just as surprised when I bust out the Spanish as my students are. :)

Conferences are scheduled until 3:3o so I still have quite a long day in front of me...and tomorrow too, but I am glad it's going well so far!

Happy Tuesday!

October 25, 2009

Kayaking Pictures

Remember that post about the kayaking day trip I went on last weekend? Well we got the CD of photos from our guide, so here are a few pictures to share! Enjoy & happy Sunday!

October 24, 2009

Sports Day

Well here we are on Saturday morning & I already graded a class of quizzes and made those chocolate chip pancakes. :) The day is off to a wonderful start. I also googled Halloween costumes this morning...anyone have thoughts on me being a bag of jelly beans?? Like use saran wrap around me and fill it with tiny balloons and label myself jelly bellies? I think it has some promise but we will see...
Anyway, so Friday at school was Middle School Sports Day. All the students grade 6-8 are divided into "houses". They basically only use their houses for spirit themed stuff and sports day, not for being organized into classes. The houses are Barracudas, Dolphins, Squid Squad and Sting Rays. I am a Sting Ray!
During Sports Day the students participate in lots of field activities to build teamwork and such. In the morning they competed against each other in games like running with two people in an intertube, walking with a ping-pong ball on a spoon, sack races, tug of war, and more. Then each house broke up into smaller teams for a scavenger hunt. I was stationed at the pool with the 7th grade math teacher, Rob. At our station the students each had to submerge their head completely in the pool before we signed their sheet to move onto the next station.
I was so impressed with how into the scavenger hunt the kids were, especially because I feel like if you tried to do that in the US all the girls would be worried about their hair. Here the students are so used to being outside and the heat, that they were more than happy to cool off in the pool!
After lunch we finished the day with water activities so students had a chance to swim in the pool or play on a giant slip and slide set up at school. Teachers wet the slip and slide with a hose and soapy water! While most of my 8th graders didn't go down the slip and slide, I joined the 6th and 7th graders for the fun.
Overall I really enjoyed sports day at school. I love activities like this because they provide me a forum for building relationships with my students outside the classroom. I am able to hang out with them in a context outside of math problems. :) I was somewhat disappointed with my team...I guess the Sting Rays have long been the team that comes in last place every year. Yesterday was no different. We came in last place and for the majority of the day my students didn't really give a ton of effort because they assumed they were going to lose. I think for the sports day second semester I want to brainstorm some ways to give us a fighting chance in the competition. Everyone deserves a chance to win and I basically got sick of listening to my students complain about being losers...

October 23, 2009

Book Club

Last night was our first night of ladies only book club here in Cali. My friend Catie had the idea to start the book club based on a similar one she was part of when she worked in Guatemala for the past two years. Since English literature is rare in a Spanish speaking country, the book club does not operate like your typical book group. Instead of all reading the same book each month, we read books or magazines or whatever, then each month we bring those things to share with others.
I was so excited for book club all week and last night definitely lived up to my expectations! Since arriving here and doing the get-to-know-you dance with everyone in first initial weeks I have found it difficult to continue developing meaningful relationships outside of "Hi, how are you, how's your day going, etc." As teachers, we are all busy and we all like to discuss and think about our students...so a lot of the time we end up talking about our jobs. In most places you don't attempt to form strong friendships at work, and only at work, because that's basically a recipe for social disaster. However, here in Colombia I am friends with my colleagues and I want to be...but I want to build on those relationships.
In the context of a discussion about books a million different topics and emotions are discussed. You pose questions that you wouldn't normally ask in daily conversation. You discuss, debate and strive to understand others' opinions. In my past experience with a mother-daughter book club from home in Minnesota, book clubs provide a wonderful facet for deep relationship development.
So....back to the book club! I headed over to Catie's last night around 6 to help her finish getting ready and set up. She created a feast of delicious food including hummus, spinach dip, empanadas, chicken finger bites, veggies, taco dip, salsa.....mmmmmm it was SO SO SO GOOD!! We spent the first half hour just loving the spread she created for us! While discussing books I brought two books to share: Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri and The Last Summer of You & Me by Ann Brashares.

I just finished Unaccustomed Earth and LOVED IT. Such an amazing book! This book is a collection of short stories (about 40-50 pages each) about Indian immigrants to the United States. I found so many amazing insights in this book about the challenges and joys of moving to a new place, with new customs, new food and a new language. Also, the author does a fantastic job of defining and building the relationships between characters so you really get to know them quickly. While at times the stories were hard to read because of the connections I could make to relationships in my own life and people I am missing from back home, overall the book was an excellent read.

The Last Summer of You & Me is the book I read while traveling to Colombia, sitting in airports thinking about what in the world I was about to do with my life. I got this book from my friend Liz right before I left and I'm so glad she gave it to me! This is the same author who wrote the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a book (and movie) I adore. In the mother-daughter book club I mentioned earlier we read those books and saw the movie together. Since there were four of us girls in the book club at the time we always felt a sort of identity with the four girls who are best friends in the movie. Anyway, in this book the author uses new characters and tells the story of two sisters who go to this island every summer with their family. This is the story of their last summer together on the island. I definitely recommend this book as the perfect beach read. :)
After everyone went around and shared their reading material from the past month we chose books from others that we wanted to read. I came home with a new travel book for Bogota, which is perfect because I'm addicted to maps and guide books in general. Also, we just booked another trip there for a long weekend in November! I also brought home the book Julie & Julia from Kelsi, and I can't wait to start reading it!!
After cleaning up from book club, Catie and I opened another bottle of wine and proceeded to talk until way too lat for a school night...so needless to say it's a pretty tame Friday night here in my apartment. I think I'm about 5 minutes from curling up with my new book. And probably ten from falling asleep! I have a lot to do tomorrow so I better get some sleep...
Goals for tomorrow:
  1. Locate awesome Halloween costume for costume party tomorrow night. (I NEED IDEAS!!)
  2. Yoga
  3. Grade quizzes.......gross.
  4. Make delicious chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast...it's been an embarrassingly long time since I last ate them.
  5. Book plane tickets for traveling during December & January
Happy Friday friends!

October 19, 2009

Happy Birthday to my (older) younger brother

Over the years growing up I always wanted a cool older brother...to hang out with, to teach me things, to watch out for me... Instead I ended up with 3 little guys who I found no use for until after age 13. Turns out they're growing on me. Weird, I know.

At midnight tonight my younger brother Joe turns 21 :). We are only 15 months apart in age, and for the last few years he has felt more like an older brother to me, so it's weird to think about him celebrating this milestone birthday without me. Since the fact of the matter is that I am on a different continent, here are my birthday thoughts from afar. :)

After going to college with you for the past two years, you cannot imagine how weird it is not to be around you on a daily basis. I miss making dinner together and watching shows together. I miss running into you around campus and at the REC. Having you to lean on and hang around with for those two years helped me understand what an amazing person you are. You don't sweat the small stuff in life, and I look up to you for that tremendously. I treasure all the memories I have of us growing up together...whether they are fun moments or moments when we wanted to kill each other. I look up to you in ways you couldn't imagine and you only improve with each passing day. Thank you for everything and have an amazing birthday. Be safe and NO FISHBOWLS! Love you!!

October 18, 2009

Living Situation

As I wrote a few weeks ago, Maggie's boyfriend game here for a visit in the middle of September. During that time they decided that Mark is going to move to Colombia so that they can be together sooner rather than later. Mark is planning to move here sometime around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so as a result my living situation will be changing.

Maggie and Mark have decided to get their own place, and although they generously offered for me to live with them, I decided that living with a couple just isn't something I wanted to do right now. I had a few options, and thought about staying in my apartment by myself...but now I don't have to!! :) My friends Hana and Steph have asked me to live with them! I am so excited to have found new roommates to live with, and that I won't have to live by myself. Steph and Hana are amazing girls, and I already spend a lot of time with them as is, so I know we will have fun living together.

I am having a hard time thinking about moving so soon...mainly because I despise packing and moving my stuff around. Also, I am not really excited about leaving the neighborhood I have gotten to know here. I really enjoy living so close to Catie & Scott and Kelsi, so it will be weird to move to a neighborhood about 15 minutes away.

That being said, there are some things I am very excited about for my new place! Steph and Hana live much closer to the Mio than I currently do (right now it's about a ten minute walk just to get to it), so my public transportation options will increase. Also, they live in a neighborhood named San Fernando that is definitely more cultural than my neighborhood. There are many good dining options that I am excited to try! :)

As things develop and I move and such I will keep you all informed, but I just wanted to provide an update for now.

I hope you all had an amazing weekend!
Lots and lots of love from Colombia,

Weekend Recap

LOVED this weekend!! :) I don't have many pictures to document it, so you will just have to see it through my words... (MORE pictures to follow when I get them from others!)

Friday I spent some time relaxing around the apartment, watched the newest Grey's Anatomy with Maggie, and went to bed early in preparation for kayaking on Saturday! Saturday morning I went with 6 other teachers from school on a kayaking day trip down the Rio Cauca. The river starts about 2 hours from Cali, from large lake that is even bigger than Lago Calima. After waking up at 5:30, we started our trip at 6. The guide on our trip does kayaking and biking trips around Cali in order to promote ecotourism. Ecotourism is a fairly new idea for Colombia, because travelers are just beginning to feel safe coming here, but it is a great way for people to see this gorgeous country!

So we start our day with Julian and breakfast of fruit kabobs and french toast (included in our $60 a person fee for the day). He drives us in the van to the lake where the river starts, where we are able to see the lake, the dam, and the waterfall at the beginning. I loved seeing the freshwater source and I thought it was really interesting to see the source of the river we were going to be on. We got out at the top to check out the waterfull and some people swam in the pools of water under the bridge.

Then Julian took us to our launch point, where he gave us a 20 minute lesson or so on kayaking. He showed us how to paddle and how to get back in the kayak if we tipped it over. The whole time I was thinking to myself, "I'm not going to tip over, this is silly." After the lesson we geared up with helmets and life vests (with handy pouches in the front for storing snacks!) and I made a last minute decision to leave my camera in the van. Julian offered us dry bags that were 100% impenetrable to water but I didn't want to risk it. Also, part of our fees include a CD with all the pictures that Julian took with his camera along the way.

Waterfall at the start of the river.
Lake where the river starts.
The van! And kayaks!
Dam at the lake...notive that the water isn't even close to getting up to the dam because Cali has had approximately NO RAIN for months and months.
Back of the t-shirt we got after the trip...shows all the outdoor, adventure type things in Colombia!

Kelsi and I decided to kayak together because then we would have someone to talk to the whole time. We get into the kayak and head down the river. Overall the river was fairly tame with only some minor rapids along the way. We navigated through the first two sets of small rapids when we found ourselves too close to the right bank of the river. A tree was sticking out from the side....and of course we hit it....and of course we flipped over. Ten minutes into a 3 and half hour trip and we're in the water. :) Good thing I spent the money on those waterproof Keens this summer. :) We did get right back in our kayak and continued on our way. We were quite proud of ourselves for being able to get in again. The last threes hour were fairly uneventful...even if we did beach ourselves in the middle of the river once. Whoops! Overall it was a great way to get out of the city for the day! I loved kayaking through the foothills and seeing all the plants and animals (lots of cows!) along the way. It totally reminded me of a family trip to Colorado when we went rafting down a river.

After a very lengthly afternoon power nap, I headed up to my friend Surella's house for a party. She is the 8th grade french teacher, and she lives in Cali with her husband and daughter. By about 11 pm (that's how it goes in Colombia) the party was totally full of people-some neighbors, some teachers from school, and a lot of her husband's rugby team. :) Main conclusions from the party:
  1. Kelsi & I need to learn to salsa. Immediately.
  2. I could not have a bigger crush on the guy in charge of transportation at school. He is adorable and hilarious. (And newly married. It's a harsh world out there.)
  3. Colombians dancing to YMCA = hilarious.
After dragging myself home at 4:30 am today has been slightly less than absolutely productive. Probably because I woke up at 11:30 am. However, I am done with this week's lesson plans! :) Hooray!

October 16, 2009


Over the past several weeks, the Thursday night dinner has become increasingly more common. I mean honestly, by the time Thursday night rolls around I already have my plans for the next day of school and I cannot possibly force myself to think about Monday...so I might as well celebrate the weekend! :) Therefore, on any given Thursday night, Maggie and I are most typically found dining out or at least making a good dinner...and our friends Scott & Catie are usually involved as well.

Last night we tried Case del Sol in Palmas Mall, about ten minutes from where we live. They all wanted sushi...and I went along even though I have never had sushi. I ordered this chicken and rice stir fry thing and split some sushi with Catie so I would be able to try it. We got one with lobster and crab meat in it...I think. I also tried some of the others at the table, so it's hard to remember.

In summary of my first sushi experience it's not nearly as weird of a food as I thought. The flavors mixed together are delicious and I really like that they are many different kinds of sushi to order. However, the only part I cannot get past is the fact that you have to put the whole piece in your mouth at the same time. I mean, I know it has to be like that so it doesn't fall apart and you get all the flavors together at once...but I'm not accustomed to taking such big bites! It's difficult!! :) Overall though, a wonderful first experience.

Today has been a fun day with my students so far. There is a soccer tournament that is played during lunch at school, each day a different set of two teams play each other...and I think there are about 8 teams overall. Anyway, today the two teacher teams played each other and tied. I love watching soccer with my students, they get so into it! Hilarious!! Also, when they are on the field they call each other their nicknames, which they call each in class too, and I never know who they are talking about. So listening to the them on the soccer field helps me learn. :)

Tomorrow I am meeting up with Kelsi by 6:20 am (On a Saturday!!) for a kayaking adventure on the Rio Cauca. We are going with a few other teachers from school on this 3.5 hour adventure down river...pictures to follow!

Happy Friday friends!!

p.s. Are you watching the new season of How I Met Your Mother? You should be! I am loving this season so far, even if I do have to wait 20 minutes for each episode to load!! :)

October 13, 2009

Semana Receso: Bogota & Villa de Leyva

I'm back!! Thanks to those of you who made comments on missing me while I was gone...even if it was just missing my blogs updates. After not checking email, Facebook, and blogs for five days I feel quite out of touch.

Last week we had a week long break from school, so after 3 curriculum in-service days for teachers (Monday to Wednesday) we took a much needed vacation! I traveled with four friends, Catie, Scott, Kelsi, and Maggie to Bogota, the capital of Colombia, and Villa de Leyva, a small colonial town about 3 hours from Bogota.

According to Lonely Planet Colombia:
Villa de Leyva is where time stands still. Declared a national monument in 1954, the town has been preserved in its entirety and virtually no modern architecture exists. The result is a colonial town par excellence - a place where the streets are still cobbled and the walls still whitewashed. It's easy to see the place in just a day, but many travelers find themselves caught in its magical grasp and hang on for several more.

Ready to go in the Cali airport on Wednesday night!

Here are some highlights from the trip, organized in friendly lists for your reading pleasure. :) Enjoy!

Top 5 Fabulous Touristy Things Visited
  • Santuario de Iguaque. Located in a Colombian national park just outside Villa de Leyva, this lake is sort of like the Garden of Eden for the Muisca people. According to the legend, the goddess Bachue emerged from the lake with a baby boy in her arms. When he grew up they got married and populated the earth. In old age, they transformed into serpents and dove back into the sacred lake. We started this day at 6 am, leaving our hotel to catch a bus to the national park. The bus dropped us off and we walked about a mile and a half uphill to the entrance of the park. From there we hiked about 3 hours to the top of the mountain. While it was definitely a challenging experience hiking at a high altitude, I LOVED being able to look out over the valley at all the farms and nature surrounding us. Also, a benefit of doing it early in the day meant we were pretty much on our own for the hike up, which made the nature seem that much better! (Don't worry it was a national park so it was totally safe!)
Sign at the start of the hike!
Hiking up the road to the trail head.
Successfully completing a very steep incline during the last hour of the hike!
Valley below! WOW!!!
At the lake! Finally! :)
  • Cerro de Montserrate or Montserrrate Summit in Bogota. We rode a cable car up to the top (at 10,400 feet!!) for $3.50 one way and enjoyed some amazing views of central Bogota. The day was totally clear and we could see for miles around Bogota. Climbing to the top and watching the views get bigger and bigger reminded me so much of San Sebastian, Spain when a group of us rode the funicular car to the top!
View from the cable car on the way up! A little bit scary...
    Inside the church on the top.
    Kelsi is excited to be in Bogota!
    Bogota and me!
    • Plaza de Bolivar, the main plaza in central Bogota, which is named for Simón Bolívar. In the middle of the square is a bronze statue of Simón Bolívar (cast in 1846), the work of an Italian artist, Pietro Tenerani. This was the first public monument built in the city.

    Maggie, me, Kelsi and Catie in the Plaza! Photo credits to Scott :)
    LOVE THIS! Okay so while walking around in La Candelaria neighborhood there is this unique art project started by Jorge Olave. He uses recycled materials to make these art works of comuneros, common people you find on the street. This particular guy watches over the Plaza Bolivar from the Casa de Comuneros. "Best seat in town!" according to Lonely Planet.
    • Colombian Stonehenge! (formally called Estación Astronómica Muisca or El Infiernito) Used by the Muisca people to determine the seasons; inside the park there are 30-odd cylindrical stone monoliths sunk vertically into the ground about 1m from each other in two parallel lines 9m apart. By measuring the length of shadows cast by the stones, the Muiscas were able to identify the planting seasons. The observatory was also a ritual site, a fact that got in the way of Spanish plans to lure the Indians into church. To prevent the Indians from going to the site, the Spanish renamed it El Infiernito (The Little Hell) and promoted its association with the devil.
    Sign at the front of the park.
    Welcome to Colombian Stonehenge
    At the entrance.
    • Pozos Azules. Big blue pools of water in the middle of the country side in Villa de Leyva. At the end of a bike ride we went to them and after encountering a very intense guard lady and forking over $2000 pesos ($1 USD) we were in! We went swimming/dipped our feet in and cooled off from the bike ride. The surrounding hillside provided a beautiful back drop for an impromptu lunch picnic.
    Maggie next to one of the pools!
    Loving it.
    View from about halfway down the hill to the pools.
    View from about the top of the hill looking down to the pools.

    Group photo. Awesome that my bandana flew up at that moment.
    Pozos Azules!
    Top 5 Favorite Meals
    • Spaghetti Ricotta with bruschetta, wine from Villa de Leyva, and bread with homemade pesto at a small Italian restaurant in Villa de Leyva, right off the main Plaza. I think it tasted 500 times as good because it was the night after we hiked to the Lake Iguaque.
    Villa de Leyva wine!
    • Dessert at a bakery in Villa de Leyva after the Italian food! Tres leches + chocolate orange + ginger spice + cheesecake = heaven.
      • Pasta (again, weird, I know!) at Savia, a natural organic restaurant in the Plaza Mayor of Villa de Leyva. The restaurant is small and quaint, located with many other shops/little restaurants in Casa Quintero, a restored mansion turned retail space.
      My pasta!
      Maggie's veggies and potatoes
      • Club Sandwich, french fries & honey flavored beer at Bogota Beer Company. This meal provided an amazing end to our trip and a chance to experience some flavor outside of the 3 national Colombian brands that taste slightly like tap water. ADDED BONUS: We watched the final 5 innings of the Twins game; exciting even if they did lose to the Evil Empire of baseball aka NY Yankees.
      We've arrived...
      Can you tell the Twins game was on TV but we hadn't lost yet?? I was loving it :)
      • Breakfast at the French bakery in Villa de Leyva. Delicious tea, cappuccino, fresh baked bread and pan de chocolate (bread with warm chocolate in the middle!)
      Outside the French bakery.
      Top 5 People We Met
      • Alex. He is the dinner chef at the Cranky Croc Hostel in the Candelaria neghborhood of Bogota, where we stayed on the book end days of our trip. He made us dinner the night we got in & did a great job with my instructions of "no sauce anywhere on my plate, thank you."
      • Henry. He owns the bike shop named Bici-Full were we rented bikes to tour around the hillside of Villa de Leyva. He was so great! Very friendly and even biked with us at the beginning to show us the way to go. At the end we took pictures with him in his bike shop. :)
      Henry showing us the Pozos Azules.
      Henry and Maggie getting the bikes set to go.
      Scott & Kelsi ready to ride.
      • Mauricio. He works/is associated with the Cranky Croc in Bogota, but runs his own transportation service. He drove us to Bogota Beer Company and the airport for much less than a taxi. As an added bonus he has a CD of American music that he put in every time we were in the car. It starts with a song that I'm pretty sure came out when I was in middle school. :)
      • Fernando. Owner of La Española Hotel in Villa de Leyva. He was a wonderful doorman and host during our three nights in Villa, and he also helped point us in the right direction for renting bikes and visiting the Lake Iguaque.

      • Braiden aka random Canadian guy we met in our hostel...Kelsi and I hung out with him and some other people from our hostel on the last night in Bogota. He basically spoke no Spanish and was insanely grateful for any tips we had on living in Colombia. He and his friend just graduated university in Canada and they are traveling around South America for four months! (Sweet deal, I know!) Anyway, it was fun to hang out with some English speaking travelers and get their perspectives on Colombia.
      Top 5 Colombian Travel Moments (where to begin???)

      • The discovery that hitch hiking is a way of life in the Colombian bus system. Buses within a city or buses from one city to another will ALWAYS pick up passengers along the way. Basically anyone who jumps on the bus after it leaves the station is more money in the driver's pocket, so I guess I understand why they always stop...but it does make travel take longer! I would say on any given bus trip, at least one third of the passengers pay the driver directly. They usually just stand on major roads and wait for us to drive by...
      • On the bus ride up to Santuario this little kid gets on the bus with his dad. After 5 minutes of him being on the bus I notice him playing with a HUGE BEETLE on his jacket...basically treating the thing like his pet. I felt terrified and Maggie told him I was scared. Then he held up his arm in front of my face so I could get a closer look. :( It was awful, and he found it hilarious. I couldn't wait for him to get off the bus.
      • On the bus ride from Bogota to Villa de Leyva a girl of about 7 years old suffered from some major motion sickness that resulted in some major vomit on her part. Apparently this happens whenever she travels so she held her own hair back & cleaned herself up afterwards while proudly holding her plastic bag of unmentionable grossness as her mother looked on. Hilarious because she totally had the routine down.
      • The plane ride from Cali to Bogota and back actually took like 30 minutes. AMAZING. I have never seen flight attendants move those drink carts down the aisle with such speed and accuracy.
      • Bus ride from Villa de Leyva back to Bogota it was raining the entire time. (Don't worry of course we still stopped to pick up more people and open the door each time despite the rain.) This rain resulted in an hour and a half of sitting in Bogota city traffic while Kelsi and I had an extreme need to use the restroom. The bus itself went through a number of pond sized puddles in the roads of Bogota and I remained pretty confident we were going to hydroplane in every one. Awesome.

      Sorry and I hope to catch up with everyone SOON!! Sorry I have been MIA, but it doesn't mean I'm not thinking of you often!!
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