August 28, 2011

Settling Into Year Three

Tomorrow begins the third week of school and things are starting to settle into a pattern once again here in Cali, Colombia. While there are still a few "beginning of the year" things left to happen, like Open House for parents this Tuesday, for the most part the teachers and students are settling into a routine.

At school, I am getting to know my students by name instead of "hey, you in the blue shirt". They are starting to get to know me, my classroom and my expectations (don't be mean, love Joe Mauer, use pencil, etc.). I am starting to get the hang of the teaching three different class levels with one support class, one advanced class and three middle-of-the-road classes of Algebra I. Our 8th grade teaching team is coming together and I am starting to see who I can rely on to help me out as the team leader in different places. I find it comforting to be able to settle into this school year a bit. Really get down to business professionally.

On the personal side of things here in Cali, I already feel like I have been back for months...or maybe that I never left. With the exception of the newly revamped stadium and the fact that you can now exit the MIO (public transportation system) from both sides of the station as originally intended, not much has changed here in Cali. We went out to our same favorite bar last night. Saw our same favorite band. Went to our same favorite restaurant beforehand. Had the same pitcher (and an extra media jarra!) of sangria that we always get. I ate the same green curry dish that I am in love with. Today we went on our typical Sunday movie date with various friends at the same theater we like going to due to proximity to our apartment and the Juan Valdez inside. the. movie. theater. On Saturday morning we went to the same 9 AM spin class we go to every Saturday morning.

Is this sounding boring?

I don't mean it to, really. My point is just this: while living abroad is exciting and new and challenging and awesomely fun, it isn't always new, crazy things every minute of every day. Much of the time it's just like living in the US, only with a different culture and different people. But no matter where you are in the world, it's nice to have a routine, to have a purpose to each day, and to live happily knowing that you are probably exactly where you need to be right now at this moment.

I am comforted in remembering this because next weekend I am headed back to the United States for another wedding. When I leave Minnesota at 6 AM on Labor Day it will be the last time I plan to be there until June 2012. To say I haven't really "detached" myself from Minnesota and my summer there is an understatement. I knew I was going home last weekend for Maria's wedding and this upcoming weekend for Alex's I haven't really said goodbye yet. Now I have to, like it or not. Thankfully, it will be comforting to know that I can come back to Cali to find a routine that I know and love with friends who are more than just co-workers now.

August 25, 2011

Wedding Season: Weekend One

Remember when I flew home to Minnesota for a total of just under 56 hours after only twelve days in Colombia? I do.

And as insane as it sounds, I think it was one of my best ideas to date.

My friend Maria married her high school sweetheart, Johnny, last weekend and despite the plane rides, customs, fights with airline agents, terrible plane food and serious hours logged in Miami International, I am SO GLAD I went to the wedding. I can honestly say I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

My whole life, especially in college and since moving to Colombia, I have been a friend who makes time for my friends. It is one of the most important things for me. At the end of the day, no matter where we live I am going to make the effort to know about you, your life, and be there for you no matter what. For those true once-in-a-lifetime friends who have been so much a part of who I am today, there really isn't much that I wouldn't do. Therefore, there is no way I could imagine NOT being at Maria's wedding.

So fly home I did. The weekend included the wedding, a follow up morning-after brunch at Maria's parents' gorgeous home, dinner with my parents and catching up with friends. Anna, Andy, Michael and I had a great time at the wedding eating delicious food/cake, looking at the Minneapolis skyline from the Nicollet Island pavilion and dancing the night away. Maria is completely music centered and had spent months picking out music for happy hour and the reception and her hard work definitely paid off! I kind of want her to DJ my wedding some day.

My absolute favorite part of the night was watching her dance with Johnny to "Black and Yellow" while singing along to literally every word. There is just something fantastic about watching your childhood Midwestern girlfriend get down to "Black and Yellow" in a wedding dress. Another great part of the evening was the nice things that both Maria and her parents said to me about coming to the wedding - they were so grateful for my presence and it made me feel so special the entire night.

At the end of the weekend I left for the Minneapolis airport exhausted and blissfully happy for the new life Maria & Johnny have in front of them! I love them both so much and I am so glad for the chance to watch them celebrate their love for each other. May we all be just so lucky in love....

Ceremony at St. Patrick's Church in Edina, Minnesota

Anna and I at the reception at Nicollet Island in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Friends from 13 years old until forever... love these girls!

Maria & Johnny's First Dance

What would the end of the night be without stealing ties from boys? :)

At brunch the next morning with Catherine (left) and Maria (right).

To here's my to my fabulous friends, international travel and....doing the same thing in one week for another wedding! Hooray airline miles.

p.s. A million thank yous to my mom for picking me up from the airport, dropping me off, and playing DD the night of the wedding. You're the best :)

August 21, 2011

FUTBOL! Attending the FIFA U-20 World Cup

When Kelsi and I heard that the FIFA under-20 World Cup was to be played this summer in Colombia we couldn't wait to attend! Hosting an event like this was a huge honor for Colombia and an awesome way for the country to show off their national pride. Additionally, I always appreciate good press associated with Colombia.

After months of reconstruction, the newly revamped stadium looked absolutely stunning - truly a world class place to watch a soccer game, so off we went last Sunday. For just about $23 each we attended the quarterfinal game between France and Nigeria. Unfortunately, the Colombian team lost the night before in their quarterfinal game against Mexico, however, spirits at the game were still high.

Walking in, I felt astonished at the organization, security and general aesthetics of the new stadium. We found our seats in the second row on the southeast (in the shade!) side of the stadium and enjoyed the game. We quickly figured out that we needed to be Nigeria fans based on our surroundings, and concluded this must be because Colombians sympathize more with a nation like Nigeria as opposed to France. Also, the Spanish and French have long been historical enemies and in talking with friends in Colombia I learned that French-Colombian relations have actually been tense for quite some time, including but not only related to the Ingrid Betancourt kidnapping.

So we cheered for Nigeria for the duration of the game, despite the fact that they always trailed by a goal or two. In the end they did not have enough to beat out the French, and lost with a final score of 3-2.

New stadium is just a ten minute walk from our front door!

France (blue) vs. Nigeria (white)

Loving it!

Gorgeous new stadium with the classic Cali symbol of the three crosses on the hill in the background.

Final score.

I love cultural things like this in Colombia, and while I am still not the world's biggest soccer fan, there is something so incredibly cool about the way soccer penetrates every aspect of Colombian daily life. Colombians are passionately involved in soccer and they love cheering on all their favorite teams. And as an outsider looking in, this is so awesome to watch. If only everyone in the US felt this way about baseball...then life would be complete. :)

August 20, 2011

Year Three Begins...

Currently writing to you from somewhere over Tennessee-ish area at about 30,000 feet, with obligatory screaming baby in the background. Obvio. Because that’s just how travel is. Despite only having been back in Colombia for 12 days I am headed to Minnesota for my friend Maria’s wedding this Friday! YAY!

Two weeks ago I left Minnesota at 6 AM, after 75 minutes of sleep since I am terrible at both goodbyes and packing in time. I spent six hours with my co-worker, Stetson, in the lacking-free-WIFI Miami airport before a joyful reunion with Kelsi when she landed from LAX. One last stop at Starbucks later and we were seated in 11D, 11E and 11F for the three and a half hour flight back to Cali.

Year three of teaching in Cali, Colombia had begun.

When I accepted the job to teach 8th grade math in Colombia I thought two year would feel like eternity. Turns out that it felt like about two months, and so when the time came to decide whether to renew my contract or not, I decided to stay for a third year.

I am excited about this school year for many reasons both personally and professionally, but here is a little preview:

  • I am the 8th grade team leader again this year, which means responsibility and work, but also a very active role in the direction of the school year.
  • For the first time ever, my school decided to offer both an advanced Algebra class in addition to a support Algebra class. For lack of better explanation at this point, this means that instead of teaching the exact same thing five times in a row, I will teach the same thing to three of my five sections, but the other two will be somewhat different both in teaching methods and pace. I am excited for this opportunity as an educator. Also, happily, my students will not be with their math class group all day long, which means just because you are in advanced math does not mean you only have classes with those students all day long. After all the research I have read about the benefits of heterogeneous as opposed to homogeneous grouping, this is incredibly important to me because it means my students still have variety in who their peers are.
  • Math journals. Before you get that terrified look on your face that my 8th graders got when I said these words on the first day of school, just hear me out. Since my days of student teaching in college I have realized the importance of writing (and reading) in all content areas, not just in language arts class. Math is probably the class where this is most frequently ignored because there is not an obvious and easy way to incorporate literacy in mathematics. However, I am making it happen this year. In addition to a regular notebook for class, my students will have small math journals to be kept in the classroom for use on an (at minimum) weekly basis. I am not 100% sure of all the specifics yet, but I know I want my journal prompts to be things like “Write a paragraph explaining how to do the following problem to a friend” or “Explain the difference between linear equations and linear inequalities in complete sentences” or “There are many different strategies a person might use to solve this problem. Think of at least two and explain both of them. Then, choose the strategy you would use and explain why you chose it.” Etc. Suggestions welcome! :)
  • Say it with me: A-R-G-E-N-T-I-N-A. Winter break 2011-2012. It’s happening. Buy your plane tickets now if you would like to meet Kelsi and I anywhere in the country. Some of our priorities include a biking tour on Mendoza wineries, exploring the cultural and foodie offerings of Buenos Aires, roaming the streets of Bariloche, checking out the falls of Iguazu, traveling by train and toasting the new year together!
  • New colleagues/friends. As always happens with the start of a new school year, there are new people to work with and get to know. I didn’t write very much about this at the end of the school year, but the people who left to pursue other interests/jobs were important to me. Very important to me. They had all been in Colombia as long or longer than me. Many of my best memories and experiences in Colombia involved people like Tara, Angie, Caleb, Steph, Scott and Catie. However, in just two weeks, the new people seem like they are going to fit right in at school and in Cali. Goodbyes are and always will be hard, but hellos are just so much fun!
  • Kelsi and I stayed in our same apartment, while we are still completely in love with for so many reasons including but not limited to our awesome patio. I am excited for the consistency this brings to our lives (getting your internet service moved to a new address in Colombia takes about three weeks minimum) as well as the time to spend living with Kelsi. In just two years of knowing each other and one year of living together she has become one of the most important people in my life. When the day comes that she no longer sleeps in the room right next door to mine I know I will go through serious withdrawal (reference this summer when we didn’t speak for days at a time and I felt like I had so much to tell her all the time!), so I want to make all our roommate time together as fabulous as possible!
  • Living in Cali, a city I now feel like I know enough about to really own it. To feel like it is really and truly a place I call home happily. A place where I have a favorite restaurant, a favorite bar, a favorite movie theater, a favorite coffee shop, (a few) favorite happy hour spots, and fabulous friends, both Colombian and ex-pats.
  • Speaking Spanish. While my Spanish skills are far from perfect, I am now at a point where I feel comfortable calling myself proficient. I am able to translate most everything from school meetings to non-Spanish-speaking colleagues. I can write emails to parents in Spanish. I just wrote two days worth of sub plans with limited help from I talked my way onto a direct Cali-Miami flight and got bumped to first class just this morning. This year I want to get better at speaking grammatically correct Spanish, so as not to sound like a 4-year-old during moments like Open House for parents, Parent-Teacher conferences, and just life in general.

…so there you have it. A preview of all the fabulous-ness year three has in store for me to experience and for YOU to read about here. It's going to be great!

August 18, 2011

Scenes from a Midwestern Summer {part two}

Well the first day of school is a week behind me and I have been been back in Colombia for two weeks now (minus a weekend side trip - details to come!), so here is the end-of-the-summer post. After part one of the summer and weekend trip to San Antonio, the rest of my time in the states flew by. Basically, it went something like this:

  • Anna came home for the weekend and we attended Maria's bachelorette party together. This turned into a great night and a fun way to get to know other girls we would see at the wedding.
  • After the weekend, I hitched a ride with Anna & Andy back to Wyoming for a chance to check out their home from the last year, in Thermopolis, Wyoming. Beyond seeing the sites Thermop had to offer, we stopped off at the Corn Palace on the way there, saw the world's largest rodeo in Cody, Wyoming, saw Zac Brown Band at Frontier Days in Cheyenne, Wyoming and finished with some brewery tours in Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • A quick visit to Duluth, Minnesota - a place I have grown to love over the years, but haven't had many opportunities to really appreciate as an adult. Even just 24 hours in the city made me understand why so many people love to call it home...maybe I will one day too?
  • ONE MORE Twins game with the family. We took a potential 2011 Christmas card photo, took in the game, they lost (shocking...), and went out drinking with my mother afterwards. It was an excellent last Friday night in Minnesota.
  • Watched my 16-year-old baby brother run his first triathlon! He looked awesome the whole time and we had a blast cheering for him along the race!
  • Attended Caleb & Angie's wedding (they used to teach with me in Colombia, but have since moved home back to Minnesota - so we will still get to see each other!!). They had a gorgeous ceremony overlooking the Chippewea River in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and a fun reception to follow!
  • One last night with assorted friends and family in downtown Minneapolis that led to me getting exactly 75 minutes of sleep before my 16 hour travel day back to Colombia. Story of my life.
Anna and I with Maria the bachelorette!

Welcome to Wyoming!

My new obsession - Peace Tea. Only 99 cents and delicious as enjoyed throughout all of western South Dakota.

Out for a hike in Gebo, about 20 minutes from Thermopolis.

An eventful evening in Cheyenne finished with the Zac Brown Band concert at Frontier Days! They played all of our favorites including a super fun version of "Knee Deep" and a hauntingly amazing version of "Free".

Colorado for the day to tour breweries and for me to fly out of Denver!

Side trip to Duluth, Minnesota overlooking the Duluth lighthouse.

Family outside Target Field!

Parents cheering on Danny as he finishes the 5K.

Finishing strong!

Out with college friends at the Shouthouse in Minneapolis.

Friends :)

A fun-filled end to another amazing summer that reminds me exactly why I am a Minnesota girl to my core. Thanks to all my friends and family who went out of their way to make time for me to visit, hang out and reunite this summer. Love you!

August 13, 2011

And then I went to Texas.

When I won a trip for two to San Antonio, Texas I thought no way is this for real. This is one of those jokes the internet makes up to keep our lives interesting, right? No one actually wins these things. And then I thought, and b-t-dubbs who wants to go to Texas anyway? Based on people I know from Texas (one of my least favorite presidents of my lifetime) I was seriously questioning things.

Then I heard from Jason from (where I won the contest), decided it was legit, and started planning my pre-birthday weekend trip to San Antonio with my friend Liz. Liz still lives and works in the Twin Cities, so I knew I would see her at home for the summer but with her crazy work schedule of wedding planning and my time trying to see everyone and do everything, I didn't think we would get a lot of one-on-one time together. I was right, so I am SO GLAD we went on this trip together.

After a three hour direct flight from Minneapolis, we made our way to the Emily Morgan Historic Hotel right in downtown San Antonio. A restored hotel, the place was gorgeous, beautifully decorated in brown, creme and gold tones, and right across the street from the Alamo. We found our dinner and drinks that night at Rita's on the River where we had delicious margaritas and shared the chicken fajitas.

San Antonio Riverwalk at night

One of many staircases leading from the Riverwalk up to the street level.
The next morning we decided to fuel up with a delicious breakfast before lots of sightseeing. Included in our trip was a gift certificate to Liberty Bar. They are open all day long but we decided to check out their Sunday brunch specials. With $50 to spend we made our breakfast well worth it with french toast on bread handmade at the restaurant, eggs, coffee, fresh fruit and mimosas! Mmmmmm. After brunch we hopped on one of many streetcars used for public transportation in San Antonio and headed to the Alamo! Liz and I both admitted to really having no idea what the significance of the Alamo was, therefore our tour and subsequent visit to the IMAX presentation on the Alamo were very informative. Turns out the Battle of the Alamo really did have an impact on the course of US history.

Liberty Bar in the King William neighborhood of San Antonio

Mimosas with fresh-squeezed OJ

Remember the Alamo!! (But what for?!?!)

Done with our tour and happy to know exactly what the Alamo is. :)

The next day brought us to Sea World San Antonio after a bit of an adventure on the San Antonio public bus system. Happy to have arrived we actually ended up spending the whole day here and I am so so so glad!! I am not usually an animal person, but the shows and exhibits at Sea World were awesome! I loved being able to see such unique animals up close and personal. Also, the Sea World waterpark was a welcome addition to our afternoon after wandering all around the park in the morning.

Welcome to Sea World!

One World, One Ocean presentation with a little guy named Shamu.

Water Show! Plus San Antonio heat :)

...I might not love animals, but dolphins are AH-DOR-ABLE.

Finishing the day off at El Mercado plaza with lots of Latin themed gifts, food and drinks.

Our last day in San Antonio we took advantage of another gorgeous day of weather and a bike rental certificate from Blue Star Bikes/Brewery. Biking about 4 miles through downtown we arrived at La Gloria restaurant for one last Tex-Mex meal before heading back to Minnesota. We enjoyed peach-strawberry margaritas, fresh salsa and guacamole and lots of water before a sweaty bike ride back!

La Gloria is right on the river north of downtown.

Biking next to the Riverwalk.

Ciao San Antonio, you were (somewhat surprisingly) fabulous!

As our mini-trip came to an end we really did have a great time in San Antonio. Texas isn't looking quite so bad anymore...especially when enjoyed with a friend and for free. :) Thanks Two Backpackers for an awesome trip/contest!
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