August 27, 2010

A Little of This & A Little of That

Again, haven't had a lot to update on this week in terms of big ideas, but here are the recent happenings in Cali.
  • Kelsi is officially addicted to Gossip Girl, thanks to me. I would imagine this obsession will take up a large part of our weekends as we have an entire season to watch before season 4 starts at the end of September. (I have seen it but plan to re-watch with her)
  • Best thing I read this week >>> this article about people's comments on a life of travel vs. not a life of travel. Basically it finishes with this quote: My happiness is different from your happiness. More importantly: it’s not a threat to your happiness. LOVE.
  • After Direct TV chose not to play the Twins vs. Angels game on Sunday Night Baseball when it was the only game at that time and I pay for three MLB channels, I was somewhat irritated. However, this week they showed THREE of the Twins vs. Rangers games. LOVE even if we did go 1-3 in the series.
  • I have taken to listening to the Baseball Today podcast with Seth Everett and Eric Karabell from ESPN every morning on my way to work. My baseball knowledge is at an all time high and I usually arrive to work in a pleasantly amused mood because of how much the two hosts banter back and forth about ridiculous things like umpire acountability and would Manny Ramirez fit in with the Chicago White Sox.
  • BLOG UPDATE!!! 80 minutes of non-school-related use of my prep time later and I think my blog has a cleaner, fresher look so come check it out if you are reading this in email version or in a reader. :)
  • Happy Birthday to Jennifer Ann - I hope your 22nd year is just as fabulous as your 21st!
  • I have TWO little brothers in college now! Weird! My parents dropped Michael off in Lincoln, Nebraska last week and he is officially a college boy. This leaves in his senior year at University of Wisconsin - LaCrosse and Danny the lone ranger holding down the fort at home. Living at home with only your parents at age 16ish after a life with three older siblings has got to be weird. Props to him for handling it. :)
That's all for now - this weekend I will work on being more coherent and formative in my blog postings. Until then...happy Friday!

August 23, 2010

When Blogs & Real Life Collide

My blog has been getting a lot of press lately...(and by press I mean people beyond my parents, five diligent friends and roommate who lives all of this in person with me anyway are commenting). At first I didn't really know how I felt about it. I mean, first the new teachers hired at my school showed up at the beginning of August and the majority of my introductions to them went something like this:

"Hi, I'm Kristin."
"Oh yes, I know, I read your blog. It's ______ (insert some sort of positive adjective)"

Followed by more comments on how my blog really paints a picture of Cali, Colombia, my school, etc.

This wasn't bad by any means, but since my blog is still relatively new (since April 2009), the incoming teachers were really the first group of people I met who first knew me through my blog. I get the feeling from family and friends that my blog portrays pretty much how I am in real life, so that's good, but it is always a bit different relating to someone in person versus online. In summary, I like having my blog out there, it was just a unique first experience.

Then, second, this week I received a great comment on my blog about kayaking on the Pacific Coast so I went to check out her blog and discovered this post about my blog just a few weeks ago! My first thought: cool! My second thought: People are talking about me (in a good way!) on the internet and I didn't even know about it! How do I find out about these things in the future??

Third. Well that starts with Saturday night, wherein I convinced my oh-so-lovely and willing to deal with my ridiculousness friends to come with me to a party held by some new teachers at a fellow international school in Cali. How did I get the invite? He found me through my blog. Random but cool, so we went and met some new friends. Turns out they are great people and more fellow Americans out looking for an adventure in this big old, not-so-disconnected world we live in.

This brings me to today aka Monday of the second week of school where I love teaching, I love students and I love math, but remain unconvinced about the necessity of all this bureaucracy business involved in schools. So I am sitting at my desk listening to Keith Urban and thinking about how awesome it would be to be a travel blogger or travel photographer or both. Because then I wouldn't have to take time off from my job to buy the JetBlue AYCJ pass and fly everywhere I want in a month's time span. Flying everywhere I want would be the job. Or at least it would be the job I envision in my head...the grass is always greener on the other side, right?!?!

Author's Note: I am 100% happy here and I know living in a foreign country is already pretty awesome. I'm just thinking aloud via my blog :)

August 22, 2010

A Saturday Morning in San Fernando

While I was home this summer my friend Anna made the comment to me that while she loves reading about the places I travel to, she really loves when I go into detail about my day-to-day life here in Cali. For me, the day-to-day things became routine last year, so much so that I forgot how different things are in the United States until I went home this summer.

However, they are quite different, so my goal for this year, in addition to travel blogging, is to attempt to provide an adequate picture of the little things that compose my daily life.
Starting with...a typical Saturday morning in our neighborhood, San Fernando.

I have lived in San Fernando since last December, when I moved in with Steph and Hana, and I absolutely love it! Despite our 30-45 minute commute one way to work each day, I think it is 100% worth it because of how much I love where we live. San Fernando is closer to the city center, so there is more going on around us, and the 4:30 breeze that rolls off the mountains every day without fail is the best part of my day!

This Saturday Kelsi and I started our day with tea and oatmeal, followed by a walk to our neighborhood gym, and then a walk to the grocery store. (Hmm...maybe this is why I don't write about my daily life - it sounds terribly boring!) Here are some photos I took along the way so you can get an idea for yourself!
Starting out on our street which faces a large hill that goes up to the next neighborhood. Please note our neighborhood avocado lady pushing her cart off of which she sells ripe avocados. Her advertising methods? Yelling aguacate (Spanish for avocado) in a shrill voice that sounds something like this: "Aguuuuaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaacaaaaaate"
Heading downhill to the Parque del Perro (large park in the middle of a round point) and our friend Tara's house.
Parque del Perro - quiet on a Saturday morning but quite the rocking place around 11 pm on weekend nights.
Kelsi along the road next to the Parque del Perro.
Next to Primos, a cute outdoor cafe with free wi-fi :)
Walking down the main road into San Fernando, Carrera 34, near Mister Wings, a frequented happy hour establishment with reasonable chicken wings.
The outside our small but adequate gym.
Walking down the Quinta (5th Street), the main drag that runs from the North to South of Cali with the two separate lanes in the middle for the public transportation system, the Mio. Our morning finished at Exito, a large grocery store chain here in Cali - note the big yellow building and sign in the background. This particular Exito is one Mio stop away from our place, or about a 20 minute walk.

One post about daily life - check!

Anyone have ideas for future posts?!?

August 21, 2010

Taking It To the Next Level: Kayaking on the Pacific Coast

Last weekend Kelsi and I embarked on another kayaking trip with Julio Perez and his company Bicivan. We have previously traveled with Julio on a day trip down the Rio Cauca as well as a spring trip to Bahia Malaga on the Pacific Coast of Colombia. However, this trip to Bahia Malaga was going to be different because we were set on seeing WHALES!
According to Lonely Planet,
"The Pacific is famous for its whale-watching. Between July and October whales come from as far away as Antarctica to calve and nurse their young. You can see them all along this coast."
Also, according to Colombia Travel,
"Around 10-15% of whale births in the southeastern Pacific Ocean take place in Bahia Malaga" How cool is that?!?
For more about the whale migration to Colombia, read here.
Following a similar schedule as our last trip we started out early from Cali at 5 am on Saturday, and after a three hour van ride and an hour boat trip, we arrived in our base for the weekend, the small town of Juanchaco. Over the three days in Juanchaco and the surrounding area we went out kayaking twice, hiked along the coast between Juanchaco and neighboring Ladrilleros, and took a three hour canoe ride in native canoes during which it rained the entire time. Also, we were in a canoe with a man who really struggled to maintain his center of balance so basically this affirmed our love of kayaks and hatred of canoes.
This trip 100% confirmed for me my love of the ocean in general, specifically on the Pacific Coast of Colombia, and also kayaking. When Kelsi and I first went on a kayaking trip with Julio we capsized ten minutes into it because we hit the shore of the river unintentionally. Needless to say, we have come a long way since then because this trip we got called "Olympian Kayakers". Probably because we were on a trip with a bunch of people who had not kayaked before in an ocean. We definitely aren't that good, but we have gotten a lot better. We didn't unintentionally fall out of our kayak once the whole weekend! Pretty awesome considering that entering and exiting the water in crashing waves isn't exactly a piece of cake. However, the situation was pretty funny because on our last trip we totally made fun of this couple who came with wetsuits and gloves and just looked like intense kayakers the whole time, and as Kelsi pointed out, on this trip...we were the intense kayakers.
Some of my favorite photos from the weekend:

August 17, 2010

Back to School

The pencils are sharpened, my syllabus is printed, my new Algebra books are here, and the Twins memorabilia is on my walls! Today was my second First Day of School as a teacher and it went even better than last year. Probably because I was not as nervous!

After a week of teacher preparation that included tons of meetings, I felt ready for the students to arrive this morning. Also, since this is my second year at my school I do not have as many questions about procedural things. For the most part, I understand how things work at my school. As a result of this new confidence in my surroundings I have taken on some extra responsibility this year by being the 8th grade team leader. Basically this just means meeting with the 6th and 7th grade leaders and the principal, as well as running meetings and sort of being "in charge" with regards to the 8th grade happenings.

Today at school I saw a lot of my old students from last year. They were hanging around the middle school building this morning, because even though they are in high school now they don't really know where to go. So there they all were sitting along the middle school wall. Haha. I am sure they will figure it out soon and not want to be seen in middle school territory! The new 8th graders seem nice so far, but every kid is trying to keep it together on the first day of school, so I guess time will tell! My goal for the week is to learn all of their names :)

August 9, 2010


In the mood to blog but I cannot quite decide what I have to say...entonces here are some things currently in my head. :)
  1. Started back to school today (teachers only) - it felt like I had just been there yesterday. Needless to say this was somewhat unsettling, but Kelsi made a good point in saying that it must mean we had awesome summers if we are so sad to see them end. I definitely did!
  2. On the upside of going back to school I saw all my coworkers again and it reminded me of how much I love working with a bunch of other people who love learning and traveling and just experiencing new things.
  3. Speaking of new...there are six new teachers this year and I am psyched to get to know all of them better! They are definitely in the same place I was in the beginning, sort of wide-eyed and taking it all in moment by moment, but I think over time we will get to know them more and I can't wait!
  4. My classroom is even more Minnesota Twins themed than last year - and Kelsi stole me some red butcher paper from the primary section today so I can compliment my blue bulletin board and stick with the Twins theme. She is such a good roommate.
  5. On our living situation - we don't have a working oven. The stove works, but the oven needs to be gas operated and we don't have a gas hookup so we would need a propane tank and well...that just seems complicated to figure out in Colombia. But we made these amazing baked oatmeal bars at the end of last year and I am totally craving them so I think its a problem that must be solved.
  6. Have you read this yet? SO SO SO good. I love John Mayer.
  7. This season of Entourage is blowing my mind. Seriously. It started out totally shaky and I got anxious about maybe it wasn't going to be as good, but oh no, it's fabulous.
  8. I am nervous about starting another year of school, and when I am nervous I don't sleep and have weird dreams and procrastinate going to bed and and and make things on :)
Photo of the mother and brother on our family vacation to Cuchara, Colorado this summer.
More constructive comments coming soon, I hope!

August 8, 2010

La Tierra de Aventura: San Gil, Barichara & Bucaramanga

Nicknamed "La Tierra de Aventura" or The Land of Adventure, the Santander region of Colombia lived up to its name during our week long visit. Located in the middle of the country, about six hours north of Bogota, this part of Colombia is known for its scenery - complete with deep canyons, raging rivers and majestic mountains.
Santander region is in red.
San Gil
Traveling with my roommate Kelsi and her friend Megan, who was visiting from California, we left Cali early on Saturday, July 31st. After a flight to Bogota, a ten hour layover (Thanks Aires Airlines), then a connecting flight to Bucaramanga and a three hour bus ride, our vacation really got started in San Gil. We stayed in a fairly new hostel named Sam's that was located right on the main plaza and loved it! I love finding places like this with free internet, clean rooms, clean bathrooms, kitchens and rooftop patios. Since food in smaller towns of Colombia doesn't tend to be that great we made most of our meals here, which included fruit, cereal, and pasta. We saved some money and met some great new friends from all over the world!
View of Sam's Hostel from the main plaza.
Kelsi and I in the main plaza.
We spent our first day in San Gil exploring the Parque El Gallineral, a small nature reserve near downtown where trees are covered with long silvery moss called barbas de viejo, or old man's beard.
Kelsi and a tourist map of San Gil near the Rio Fonce.
Park entrance.
Trees in the park. So cool!
Pretty flowers along the way.
The second day we tried to go white water rafting, but the river was too high due to rain, so we set out for the Juan Curi waterfalls instead! Following some advice from friends, we rented bikes to head to the waterfalls about ten miles from town. The ride there was long, but scenic, and we arrived at the waterfalls tired yet excited! Crossing the river using a rope and trying desperately not to slip, we explored the falls and the freezing cold water within them! We headed back on our bikes around 1 pm, only to have about 2/3 of our return trip filled with pouring rain. We stopped for awhile to see if it would let up, but it never did, and upon realizing we had no option but to push on, we just biked through the rain. Definitely not one of my favorite trip experiences, especially after a Colombian police van drove full speed through a puddle and doused me in an avalanche of water while Colombian teenage boys looked on laughing, however we felt quite accomplished upon arriving back in San Gil!
Biking from San Gil to Las Cascadas de Juan Curi - 22 km.
Finally arrived at the waterfall - it's 180 meters high!
River crossing with rope.
We spent our last day in San Gil white water rafting on the Rio Fonce, which you can read about here, before heading to the small town of Barichara.
Located just 45 minutes from San Gil is the small Spanish colonial town of Barichara. With super clean cobblestone streets, whitewashed building and red tile roofs the beauty of this mountain town is stunning. The name of the town comes from the Guane word "a good place to rest", and after two days there we couldn't agree more! In Barichara, we stayed in a cute little hotel named La Mansion de Virginia where we were practically the only guests so the woman in charge was super friendly, helpful and made us tea & coffee every morning.
Delicious coffee from a coffee shop on the main plaza.
On the way to Barichara we convinced some of our new friends from San Gil to come check out the town with us, so we brought "The Euros" (as we nicknamed them) along on our bus ride for an evening of good food and delicious wine after which we ended up in the local pool hall.
Out to dinner in Barichara!
The next day we set out for an easy 9km hike to the pueblo of Guane along the historic El Camino Real. The ancient stone-paved road was declared a national monument in 1988 because the indigenous Guane people maintained it continuously over the years.
Leaving Barichara...
Kelsi and I at the start of El Camino Real.
Along the hike which was basically through people's farm land overlooking the canyon below.
The small town of Guane.
After two nights in Barichara, we set out to return to Bucaramanga, by way of San Gil. Fortunately, the weather that day was great so we were able to stopover in San Gil for some paragliding! I wanted to paraglide from the minute we started planning this trip and after some arm-twisting I convinced Kelsi to try it with me. The experience was absolutely breath-taking and its definitely my new favorite way to see Colombia! The 15 minute tandem ride with an instructor only cost us about $30 USD each and brought us high above the town of San Gil to a spot where we could see for miles! Although I felt a little motion sick by the end because of all the wind and flying around and such, I loved the experience!
Strapped in and ready to fly!
View from my seat :)
Kelsi taking off.
After paragliding we were off to Bucaramanga, the capital city of Santander. Overall I was not too impressed by the city of "Buca" (for short)...although we did find some good eating spots in the Parque de Las Palmas and some friendly people. In general, the city is kind of hot, smelly and not really that nice looking. However, it did make an excellent base for travel to the region and a day trip to Colombia's most recent national park (opened in 2006), Parque Nacional de Chicamocha.
Located halfway between San Gil and Bucaramanga, this park is set in the huge canyon of the Chicamocha River and features lots of tourist attractions, as well as a huge cable car that takes you from the rim of one side of the canyon all the way down to the river and then all the way back up the other side!
Cable car overlooking the Chicamocha Canyon.
Parque Nacional de Chicamocha!

August 7, 2010

White Water Rafting Colombian Style!

Before I break into the details about our week long trip to the Department of Santander and the cities of San Gil, Barichara, and Bucaramanga....WHITE WATER RAFTING! One of our goals for our trip to the "Tierra de Aventura" (Land of Adventure) included rafting on one of the three rivers in this region. After (failed) repeated attempts to raft on the Rio Suarez, we ended up rafting on the Rio Fonce instead because the water level was better.
We signed up for a day trip with Colombia Rafting for only $15 USD each and had a great time thanks to fun travel companions and a great guide, Jaime! In the end we were really glad we ended up on this river because it was way higher than we thought it was going to be due to the rain in this region right now. At one point he intentionally flipped our raft and we all went into the freezing cold water for "practice". We sort of thought he was crazy at this time... Then later in the trip he told us all to put our paddles in the middle of the raft and stand up around the outer edges of the raft and hold hands in a circle for support. He called it a balance exercise! It was scary but super fun too! Overall, a fabulous rafting experience.
Kelsi, Megan and I ready to go!
Practicing our "Celebration" cheer for post rapids.
Headed towards some rapids!
The first rafting trip I ever been on where the guide intentionally flipped the boat for "practice".
Lovin' it :)
Rio Fonce 2010 - success!
Check out the video for some action footage of the rapids!
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