June 11, 2010

Looking Back

On July 27, 2009 I made this list of things I would miss about Minnesota, but also things I could not wait to experience in Colombia. The school year is quickly coming to a close and the date of my return to Minnesota will be here in just 12 days. (Commence happy dance)

When I think back on all the things I have done this year, it seems like I have been here forever. I have seen amazing places, traveled to parts of Colombia that I didn't even know existed, and learned a ton about myself along the way.  However, overall, this year has flown by me. Being a first year teacher in a new place certainly makes the days speed up.

As things wrap up, I reflected back on this list of things I was excited for when I moved to Cali. Not so surprisingly, given my goal-driven, to-do list filled lifestyle, I managed to tackle everything on this list at some point over the last year - check it out:

Things I Can't Wait to Experience
Meeting my students because as cheesy as it sounds, I became a teacher because I love helping kids learn.  Helping students learn is literally what motivates me to get up before the hour of 9 am on most days :)

A year into this crazy career of teaching and education, and this statement is just as true as the day I wrote it. There are difficult days with students, parents, coworkers, and just work in general, but I still love helping kids learn math. They motivate me to be a better teacher and a better person. They are the very best reward I could ask for.

Meeting all the other new teachers!

Last July I was sitting on a plane from Minneapolis to Miami thinking about the other 12 new teachers who were hired at my school. I was so excited to learn their names, their histories, their likes, their dislikes, etc. Thankfully, we do not still travel around in a giant group of 13 as we did those first days in Miami and Colombia, but each of them have made this experience unique and fulfilling. Martha, Lori, Amy, Emily, Catie, JoAnne, Kelsi, Amanda, Aaron, Hana, Maggie, and Stephanie are wonderful educators and I have been so blessed to have them all as coworkers, friends, and even roommates.  They have become the people I turn to, the people I depend on, the people I travel with, and I will forever remember their impact on my first year here.

Finding my way around my my new neighborhood when I locate an apartment.  I really want to become a solid regular at a good coffee cafe, I sincerely hope this works out.

While my living situation has actually changed a few times since I arrived in Colombia, I feel really blessed for the way it worked out.  By the end of the school year I will have lived with Maggie, Steph, Hana, and Kelsi at some point, all in different apartments in two very different areas of the city. I had the unique experience to be able to live in both locations during the year, and it totally helped me broaden my horizons, understand the city better, and experience a lot of Cali. While there isn't exactly a delicious Juan Valdez in our neighborhood, Kelsi and I have become regulars at the Juan Valdez located between our house and school, so that seems good enough for now. Also, in the absence of reliable internet at our new apartment for the time being, we have quickly become those girls who sit with their Mac books in cafes and restaurants for hours on end using free internet. :)

Hearing Spanish spoken all around me!

I still have lots to improve on next year, but my Spanish has gotten so much better while I have been here! I understand what people are saying to me now, I know the typical Cali expressions and slang, and I feel 1000 times more comfortable speaking to people in Spanish. I definitely still sound like a gringa just trying to speak the language, but at least I feel understood. 

Cafe con leche

I cannot even begin to list the places in Cali and in Colombia where I have enjoyed cafe con leche. Despite the fact that Colombia actually is the land of terrible coffee, there have been some delicious cups of caffeine in my days here.

Traveling around the country of Colombia

I'm sorry - have you read my blog??? I think some people think I ONLY travel here, and just casually show up to work when I am in town. ;) The past year has taken me to Bogota, Villa de LeyvaLago Calima, San Andres, Pasto, Santa Marta, Ciudad Perdida, Medellin, San Vicente, the Amazons, the Pacific coast....and and and don't worry there is still lots to see next year :)

Having my very own classroom for the first time ever...where I don't have to move around between class periods and I know where everything is!

My classroom at school is totally me - with math posters and Minnesota Twins posters and cheesy things my students draw me hung up next to the family Christmas card that my students love to reference (if only to remind me how much older my brothers look than me!). I love having a place of my own in the school, where my students feel safe and welcome to come learn or talk to me.

According to my guidebook...somewhere in the Amazons there are pink dolphins. I plan to find them and take pictures. I really hope this isn't some myth crafted by the writers @ Lonely Planet.

Okay, so there are indeed pink colored dolphins that do exist in the Amazon. We didn't have much luck seeing them in person (once in the whole week we were there) and definitely not on camera (although I tried like hell to photograph them), but overall - mission accomplished.

That feeling I will get about a month in when I feel like I really belong in Cali and all my old nervousness will seem silly.
Haha! I won't say all my nervousness was unwarranted, but I really do believe that so many things in life led me to this place, with these people, at this time, and just that gut feeling makes me want to sing and dance and jump up and down and just...yay :)

Salsa dancing. Perhaps in two years in Colombia I will learn to dance, or at least enough rhythm to fake it? We shall see, but either way I'm going to give it my very best shot!
Well, I am not good, but now I know the steps and I can at least follow someone on the dance floor without stepping on anyone :) Thanks to a few dedicated weeks with Steph and Kelsi, I definitely feel like I have a good understanding of the whole salsa dancing culture in Colombia and especially Cali.
So, I guess this means I should start thinking of the things I am excited for about next year, right??? Look forward to that post by the end of the summer. :)

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