November 29, 2011

Gobble Gobble

Thanksgiving is easily one of the best holidays. Centered around delicious good, good company and giving thanks, there is no better way to kick off the holiday season!!! When you live abroad, or just anywhere that isn't near the people you grew up spending Thanksgiving with, you have to make your own traditions. One of my very favorite, which I hope to continue wherever I am in the world, is Friendsgiving. 

Hosted by Mike & Mandi last year and this year, they cook the turkeys and everyone else brings a special dish to share. Traditional or non-traditional Thanksgiving food is welcome and this year's spread included mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, mixed vegetables, turkey, stuffing, rice, pies and more!  Celebrating this holiday with friends is something I had never done before Colombia, but makes so much sense. Whether it's the family you were born into or the family you make for yourself, giving thanks together is a wonderful idea. 

 Beautiful ladies at Thanksgiving dinner!

Mike & Mandi with a giant bowl of potatoes. Yum yum yum! 

Get in line :) 

The best of friends.

Obvio Thanksgiving is just too delicious to only be celebrated once, and Thursday was a travel day for our Thanksgiving vacation, so naturally we found time to celebrate on Tuesday night with the entire staff at school. My mom (!!!) arrived for a week long visit the night before, so she came along as we hopped on a bright orange school bus and headed back to school for the annual event. In this case the school provides the drinks and turkey, while side dishes are assigned based on what section you teach in. Middle school was assigned desserts, so naturally I arrived to school with pumpkin muffins in hand :) The director of my school made a nice, short speech about Thanksgiving and the rest of the night was spent introducing my mom to friends at school, catching up with colleagues (at a K-12 school you can go weeks without chatting with someone who works in a different part of the school!), and enjoying another delicious meal.

 Wheels on the bus go round and round...back to school for Thanksgiving dinner!

Colleagues. Friends!  

TT and me. 

Festive decorations. 

Round two of two. And only one of those is my wine glass for the record.

Two turkey dinners down, with two days left until the actual holiday, and I felt like Thanksgiving 2011 was already a success!! Cheers :)

November 28, 2011

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

When we first discovered that Kelsi's 29th birthday fell on a Friday we were pretty excited for some weekend festivities..... AND THEN we discovered it was also November 11, 2011 AKA 11-11-11. Whaaaaaaaat? Hello fantastic reason to have a ridiculous party in our apartment.  Lucky for us we were able to convince our friends that creating entirely new costumes just two weeks after Halloween was a completely necessary life-task AND I even got this guy to come down to visit and celebrate with us for the weekend. Lucky me ;)

Our friend Cassie also had a birthday on the lucky date, so we planned a joint party and asked everyone to come celebrate with their "favorite ladies from the 80s". Catchy, I know. I made it up, obvio. A weekend trip to centro for beverages and decorations, several shopping trips to various stores for miscellaneous costume pieces, and a condensed version of VH1's "Best of the 80s" later and we were ready to party! 

Kelsi and I made snacks beforehand - including salsa, guacamole, apple-berry fruit salsa, empanadas, and more. Cassie contributed with quite possibly the coolest cake that anyone I personally know has ever made - appropriately crafted in the shape of a Rubik's cube a la 80s fun. About 30 friends ended up attending our party filled with lots of ridiculous dance moves, hammocking on the patio, movies like Goonies playing in the background, and of course a celebration of the birthday girls at 11:11 PM on 11-11-11. Yes, it was fabulous. 

Here's how it looked...

 Michael & me! Didn't he do an amazing job pulling this outfit together??? And yes, he does own those sneakers for real. So there's that ;)

Birthday girl & me!

Ladies of the 80s in a range of workout gear, Madonna rock style and just general fabulousness that was the 80s. 

Rubik's Cube cake!!! So cool looking and tasted amazing! 

To say they got along is an understatement...I believe the phrase we they are using these days is "besties".  

Gentlemen of the 80s. 

Happy birthday Cassie and Kelsi!!!

Don't stop believin'....

The Wolf Talking Scene Was Weird...but I still loved it!

After a long day at school filled with chasing students around playing sports during our bi-annual Sports Day, I felt more than ready for a relaxing weekend. What better way to kick off that weekend than seeing Amanecer AKA Breaking Dawn: Part One??? 

Cassie scored us advanced tickets during break time, so after some post-school snacks at Crepes & Waffles we showed up to the theater ready to immerse ourselves in the world of vampires, werewolves, and the woman they love. Hooray! From themed popcorn containers to a post-movie photo shoot with the cardboard advertisements the whole afternoon was fabulous. I did encounter an entire row of about 20 former students upon entering the theater, but such is life here in the big-city with a small-town feel city of Cali.

Overall, I still love the movie and the series (haters - don't judge), and I think they did some things super well in the movie, while others not so much. The honeymoon scenes were well done, as tasteful as could be for a PG-13 movie about teenagers having sex. The wedding scene (and Bella's dress) felt perfect, just as I imagined it, complete with her and Edward awkwardly rendezvousing with Jacob in the woods nearby. When the wolves are in wolf form and need to communicate the voiceovers are a bit much and at times I felt like I was watching a low-budget children's movie...but in summary - I am still going to see Breaking Dawn: Part Dos when it comes out a year from now. 

The best part of seeing the movie in Colombia was easily the over-the-top reactions of everyone else in the theater. This included cheering during the wedding, gag noises during that (so awkward) birth scene, outbursts at the sight of Bella drinking blood, yelps when Jacob appeared on screen....I think there was even clapping when he imprinted on the baby??? Not sure. I was trying to take it all in...

 Happy opening day!!

 Bella schmella.

Movie goers and the characters we talk about like we know them in real life. Naturally.

Happy watching fellow Twilight fans! 

November 18, 2011

Never Again - A Field Trip to San Vicente Hot Springs

After a highly eventful 8th grade trip during my first year in Colombia, followed by a calm, enjoyable trip the second year, I wasn't really sure where this year's field trip would fall in the spectrum.   This 8th grade class is full of pretty good students with some fun personalities, but also a lot of immaturity from both males and females.  The weeks leading up to the trip were busy and rainy, thus leaving me without much sleep and our team without much confidence in the road conditions for the five hour bus ride from Cali to San Vicente.

However, arrive we did and the students jumped right into their activity groups for a variety of things including canopy (zip line), rappel, hikes, an activity with the counselor, hot springs time and spa activities like sand peeling, mud facials and massages. Not a bad way to spend three days outside of school! 

My favorite activity, the longer (45 minutes one way) hike to a waterfall, started great as our students enjoyed the usual fun of hiking around in the mud, getting stuck every now and then, and in general just enjoying the outdoors. However, after making it to the waterfall and spending some time in the water, our return hike was quickly spoiled by rain, hail, and students getting themselves way too stuck in the mud. At some points along the trail we could barely go 2-3 minutes without having to stop to help someone get his or her boot unstuck from the mud.  And then a girl lost her entire shoe in the mud and so another chaperone, Rob, had to carry her piggy back for the rest of the hike. With rain beating down from above, we arrived back to San Vicente soaked, chilled and hungry for a late lunch. After emerging from the trail head I walked down to my cabin and paused to turn to Rob and say, "Never again."

I will not be found on any long hikes with 20 students in boots during the rainy season of Colombia at any point in the near or distant future. Thankyouverymuch.

That night each group performed a student-created dance to the song "Party Rock", which the students really got into and did a great job with. Watching awkward teenagers dance is basically one of my favorite parts of being a teacher. :) The night finished with a bonfire where we taught our students how to make delicious smores. Yum! 

On the way back to Cali I reflected a bit on the trip and all the rain, and how some of the activities my students wanted to do were rained out, etc. I also thought about how the trip made me feel un-organized and un-prepared for all the rain, despite planning for weeks. I realized that in the end, the trip probably needs to happen during Colombia's dry season, and it probably needs to happen with more chaperones who have been to the location before. As one of just four (out of eleven) adults on the trip who had been to San Vicente before, I found it challenging to always be the person that students and other chaperones alike were always coming up to in order to ask questions or clarify what's happening next. At times I didn't get two bites into a meal that I usually sat down to after everyone else before being interrupted by a question.  Hopefully both of these things get better next year :)

As for me, I got a ride home from our drop-off point with a student and his mom. On the way to my apartment my student took the time to tell me how much fun he had on the trip, say thank you for making time for him and some others to do the rappel activity that morning (since it was previously cancelled due to rain), and to tell me how much fun he had on the trip talking to new people in his group and breaking out of his comfort zone during the dancing the night before. Hearing him say these things, completely un-prompted, made me so happy. I realized then that while the rain and general craziness of the field trip might have been frustrating, my students are adaptable to change and at the end of day, they just enjoyed spending time together outside of school.

And really...isn't that the point to begin with??

And finish with a few pictures:

Welcome to San Vicente hot springs

Students enjoying some free time (there was a lot of it with the rain!) in the main hot spring pool. 

Getting rid of the chill from the rain with sand peeling (buried in hot sand then having it massaged off of you...cooler than it sounds!). 

Around the hot springs. 

Male chaperones. 

November 9, 2011

"Learn how to say I do not have a scissors in Spanish; I have a feeling that could have helped me out a lot"

International travel is always a bit A LOT of an adventure. More so when you don't exactly speak the language of the country you are going to or coming from. When I sent Katie on her way to the airport with my (very) trusty friend/guy who takes us to the airport, Jose Luis, I knew she was in good hands. We discussed the various craziness of customs leaving Colombia, I prepared her with a hand-drawn map of the Bogota airport, we talked about the possibility of paying an exit tax and I told her where to find free WI-FI if necessary. 

As anyone who has ever traveled knows, things went about 10% according to plan. 

Katie's response to my email inquiring about her experience in Bogota (so I can help prepare my future visitors aka the boy who gets here in LESS THAN 36 HOURS!) had me in tears from laughing so hard, so I just had to share. 

Here is what she responded to my simple: "How was your return trip?" email.

"So at the Cali airport Jose Luis was awesome. He carried by bag and found the desk for my check in. At the desk they looked at my passport and would not give me by boarding passes. Jose Luis then took me over to that little counter where they give you a stamp thingy saying I didn't have to pay that fee [exit tax] you were talking about. We took my stamped passport and that piece of paper back to the check in counter and they gave me the boarding pass for all three of my flights and stapled that stamped thingy to them so I wouldn't not have problems in Bogota. Jose Luis then walked me all the way the security line where he waited with me until it was time to hand me my bag and send me on my way.

Everything was smooth sailing until I got to Bogota. At Bogota you go through a securty check point thingy before entering the terminal for international flights. They stamped my passport again and they put your bag through an x-ray scanner thing. They stopped me and said they were going to search my bag. Remember when my bag was packed so full I could barely zip it? Well on the converyor belt thing they started digging through every pocket taking all my clothes out and looking inside each and everything I bought while I was there. They kept asking if I had scissors and I kept trying to tell them no but apparently they just thought I didn't understand what they were saying.

After the contents of everything I brought was laying on this conveyor belt they realized I had no scissors, I could have told them that, and they started to try and shove everything in my bag fast because the line behind me was insanely backed up at this point. They had three people just shoving things in and trying to zip it. I think the zipper on my bag was 30 seconds away from breaking. I was not about to let the only bag carrying my life be dismantled by these people so I grabbed the bag out of their hands and threw it on the floor. I took the bin full of things they were not even worried about getting back in my bag and threw that on the floor too. (Reference attached picture)  

I then proceeded to ignore everything they were saying while I say on the floor and refolded all of my clothes to get everything to fit in my bag again.

After that I used the rest of my money to buy a cup of coffee and a snack to calm myself down. I went onto the international terminal where they check your passport and boarding pass again. I was able to find my gate very easy. Here they let you sit in the gate area but make you clear out 30 min before boarding to set up another security check point. They had individual people searching bags at this check point you have to go through to get back into the gate area. This time the lady went easy on me and opened one pocket and didn't really even look inside. Then I thought I was scott-free and headed for home.

Well of course I would have a little snag in Houston as well. Remember when I took an apple for a snack? Well at 5 AM when my plane landed in Houston I thought I would munch on this apple while getting my passport checked, ditch it in the baggage claim, and head through customs one last time. Well this was a horrible idea. Apparently in the baggage claim in customs there are no garbages because they think people will ditch things they should not have brought into the states. So I was still eating my apple when I went through the customs line and I got red flagged and taken into the separate room. They did this because I was trying to smuggle in the apple I was eating from Colombia I guess. Apparently you can not bring fruit in. Who would have known? 

So once again four people searched everything I owned for about 30 min but told me I could finish my apple while they did. I left my apple core with them and was finally on my way. I am so glad I had long layovers because if I didn't I could have missed my flights in both Bogota and Houston with how long searching my stuff took.

Advice: Do not pack and buy so much stuff you can barely close your bag; that will cause major issues. Learn how to say I do not have a scissors in Spanish; I have a feeling that could have helped me out a lot, and do not try to eat any sort of fruit when entering the United States again. They really thought I was trying to smuggle something crazy in."

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