January 29, 2012

Bye Misis

"Misis, are you staying next year?"

When a class of 13-year-olds asks you a point blank question like that, you better answer them straight on. They dish out enough B.S. in their daily lives that they are pretty accustomed to detecting it in others, so I decided to tell them how it is. 

I guess the same is now true for my blog.

The truth is, and has been since I decided in November, that I am officially leaving my job in Colombia at the end of this school year. For the purpose of being much closer to family and friends, come June 2012, I am Minnesota bound! 

There will be plenty of blog posts to write about final to-dos, goodbyes, things I learned, things I will miss, things I won't miss, and somehow trying to capture the last three years, for now...here is what you need to know. 

Shortly after telling some of my current 8th grade students that I am leaving in June, I knew I needed to tell some of the students in 9th grade who I am still close to after last year. I didn't want them to hear from the rumor mill, and I have always asked them to be straight with me, so I owe them that in return. Last week I told some of the girls and boys I still talk to on a regular basis about my decision. I will forever love them for their gracious response and exclamations of "You can't leave!" when in all reality, it's not like I am their teacher anymore anyway.

One student in particular, who I taught for two years in a row on account of his not passing 8th grade the first time around, came to my room later, just to chat as he often does. While there, we talked about 9th grade math, new student gossip (duh!) and his Christmas vacation. This student loves music, and while we chatted, he sat at my desk and played music on my speakers while I was helping a few other students who came for after school help. When he left, I found the following notes, in order, posted to my computer screen...

 {yes, they all call me misis...they call all their female teachers that}

 {he only knows this because another 8th grade teacher is from Wisconsin}

 {yes, I also talk to them about Gossip Girl...I think this is a threat for what happens if I leave...}

While to just anyone, this isn't too much, but from a now 15-year-old boy, and this one in particular, this is A TON. He is someone who jokes around about 99% of the time in an effort to never show actual feelings, and these few post-its are a testament to the working relationship we spent two school years building. Yeah, I can't wait to be closer to family and friends in Minnesota, but Colombia and its people and my students will always have a very special place in my heart.


January 28, 2012

Life List: Get an Imagine Tattoo

While getting a tattoo wasn't number one on my Life List, it very well could have been based on how long I have thought about it. Since about sophomore year of college I have thought about getting this word tattooed on my foot. I talked to some friends about it when it came up over time, but I really didn't mention it to too many people. In fact, I just recently informed my mother about it sometime in the past two months. Despite my desire to get the tattoo, I just never felt the urge to go out and get it done all by myself. The feeling of wanting it never really went away though, and actually increased over time, which everyone says is the true test of if you should actually get a tattoo or not. 

So when Stetson wanted to get a tattoo around the time of his 30th birthday, and Kelsi wanted one too, we decided to get together for moral support and make it happen. After some (failed) attempts to set the date, we finally did it today!!! Designs in hand (AKA my inspiration about font and location from Pinterest), Advil digested, and $60,000 pesos ($30 USD) ready to go, we met up with a colleague who showed us a lovely little tattoo place that appeared minimally sketchy as far as tattoo places go. The owner and our tattoo artists were all super friendly, helpful, and were great at answering our questions without making us feel any more nervous than we already were.

Kelsi went first, then me, and then Stetson. Kelsi and I held hands during each other's tattoos, naturally. Hers didn't seem to hurt so bad, but I will be the first to admit I felt ever curve of those letters on my foot. Specifically the curve at the bottom of my g.  Here is what happened:
  1. Owner, Julian, welcomed us and chatted with us about life in Cali.
  2. Tattoo artist guy traced our designs onto vellum paper and made sure we liked them.
  3. He then cleaned the tattoo location and applied both vaseline and men's deodorant to the spot. Yes, I thought this was super weird.
  4. Then, he pressed the design from the paper onto the spot. Something about the vaseline plus deodorant combination made the ink from the paper show up on your skin. This was obviously not permanent, but enough for the tattoo artist to trace over with the real ink stuff and real enough that if you didn't like it, now was your last chance to back out.
  5. Next, for 10-15 distinctly painful minutes I squeezed Kelsi's hand while chatting with her in an effort to distract myself. 
  6. DONE! Well, then tattoo guy made a few final touch-ups, but then he was actually done. He cleaned it up a bit, put on a bit more vaseline, gave us care instructions, wrapped it in saran wrap and sent us on our way!

Nervous + excited = that face. 

 No turning back now...

What are best friends for?

I bet when John Lennon wrote "Imagine all the people living life in peace", he didn't envision this word  getting tattooed on my foot at a tattoo place with confederate flags outside. Weird.

Imagine {all the people living for today}
Imagine {all the people living life in peace}
Imagine {all the people sharing all the world}

I LOVE IT!!! Hope you do as well :)
Happy weekend-ing my loves! 

January 23, 2012

Argentina Round-Up

After 21 days in Argentina, one sleepover in the Santiago, Chile airport and one last Starbuck's coffee at my gate, we all felt ready to get back to the real world, despite sadness at leaving the land of delicious vino and cheap steaks. On our last night there we went to dinner together and shared a variety of best and worst moments of the trip, as well as a word that we though described each one of our fellow travelers. It was fun to hear what everyone had to say and it felt like good closure to an unforgettable trip.

My travel buddies at a tango show in Buenos Aires! Rob, Narissa, Kelsi, me & Stetson

To summarize, here are the posts from our three weeks in Argentina:
Enjoy and thanks for reading! :)

Exploring Buenos Aires: Central Downtown (Microcentro)

I decided to save the best for last in describing the unique and profound history of Buenos Aires. This town has seen a lot of change over the years, and no part of town has been more a witness to those changes than the neighborhood of Microcentro, or downtown. Home to the famous Plaza de Mayo, where mothers of those who "disappeared" during Argentina's Dirty War still march every Thursday, and the adjoining Casa Rosada AKA the White House of Argentina, this is the starting and ending point for much of the historical action in Buenos Aires.

Plaza de Mayo

The expansive Plaza de Mayo spreads out from the Casa Rosada to the town council and Metropolitan Cathedral on the other end. From there the tree-lined Avenida de Mayo runs north until the busy Avenida de Julio and Congreso.

 Casa Rosada 

 Statue of the guy who invented the Argentina flag.

We actually explored this neighborhood on a few different days because it was next to our home base in San Telmo and there was so much to see there. On one occasion we stopped for an afternoon snack at Cafe Tortoni, one of the most famous tango bars in the city and a delicious spot for afternoon coffee. Well worth the 30 minutes we waited in line to be seated!

Warm apple pie with ice cream & planning out the next adventure at Cafe Tortoni!

 The inside of the Cafe Tortoni.

On a different day we stopped in at a museum that I had seen below the Casa Rosada. I had no idea what it was all about when I dragged Stetson and Rob there, but it just looked cool from the outside. After some initial confusion and realization that this building used to be a fort at the edge of the city, we were not disappointed in the many lessons on Argentina's history.

Perfecting the art of "blind museuming" - when you show up the museum because you read about it in the guide book, but don't actually know why you are there. Turns out, there is a lot to learn at the Casa Rosada museum! May 1810 - Buenos Aires declares their independence from Spain.

Juan & Eva Person - Juan is sort of the FDR of Argentina as he is their only president ever elected to three terms and he was known for fighting for the rights of workers.

Bet you didn't know that Argentina not only has a female president in Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, but that she was just sworn in for a second term in December 2011. Who did she succeed to become president? Her husband, Nestor Kircher, who held office for one term, and has since passed away due to a heart attack. Thanks Casa de Rosada museum for the history lesson :)

January 21, 2012

Exploring Buenos Aires: Evita's Recoleta & Upscale Palermo

While I have been trying to go one by one through each of Buenos Aires' unique neighborhoods, this post in about both Recoleta and Palermo. For a few reasons actually, but mostly because they are geographically next to each other, very similar, and feature lots of museums. Which are awesome to see in person, but not via the internet. So less people pictures means less to blog about.

Anyway - to the north of downtown Buenos Aires are the fancy, high class neighborhoods of Recoleta and Palermo. We took the bus from San Telmo and spent an afternoon in each of them! They are both pretty accessible, although Palermo slightly more so since the Subte (metro) also goes there.

Our adventures in Recoleta took us to the Floralis Generalis, which is this cool sculpture with metal petals that open and close each day. The statue itself has become a well known icon of Buenos Aires, however we joked that they created it with all the coins in Argentina's currency because for some reasons we could never gather enough coins together to get on the bus...

The area between Palermo and Recoleta is filled with some of the cities most beautiful and spacious parks, including the Jardin Botanico, Jardin Zoologico and the Jardin Japones. We didn't spend a lot of time in them, but I liked the idea of having this very green part of the city to contrast with the area around downtown.

A pedestrian bridge over one of BA's many busy avenues.

 The underside of the bridge - cool, huh?

Floralis Generalis - where all of Argentina's monedas (coins) have gone.

 A Gossip Girl-esque shot on the steps on the Museo Nacional de Artes Latinoamericas.

The real star of the show in Recoleta is the cemetery - and not just the cemetery, but it's very well-known occupants. This cemetery is the resting place of some of Argentina's most famous people - including Evita. During our time in Argentina I learned a lot about Evita (Eva Peron). She is most famous for uniting the working classes of Argentina, together with her husband and president, Juan Peron. From what I gathered they must have been quite the power couple back in the day, and rightly so.

 Wandering through Recoleta cemetery with Stetson.

The entrance to Recoleta cemetery.

One of many inscriptions covering Evita's gravesite. 

Our last stop in Recoleta - the main store for Ateneo Bookstore. This giant bookstore is built in an old theater and features a coffee shop in the back on the old stage. So cool!!!

After enjoying all Recoleta had to offer us, we were off to Palermo the next day! This neighborhood further subdivides into area's named Palermo Soho, Palermo Chico and Palermo Hollywood...but I didn't really ever learn the difference. Basically if you are looking to go out to a place with lots of restaurants, bars and discos in the same place, then Palermo is the spot. It is also the spot for upscale shopping, and while all the transport in Argentina left me without the desire to spend many pesos, I did find a cute brown purse and just enjoyed wandering all the shops in general.

Our day in Palermo first began at MALBA, one of the cities most famous museums. Lucky for us, Stetson/Kelsi did their research and we went on a Wednesday and only paid half price for our otherwise $24 peso tickets. Win. We spent about an hour wandering the museum before making it to Mark's Cafe for one of our best lunches of the entire trip. A delicious deli/cafe/heaven in Palermo, Mark's cafe was a much welcome break from all the typical food of Argentina. My blue cheese salad with fresh fruit and toasted nuts was fantastic - you must go there if you ever find yourself in Buenos Aires. Sadly, there are no pictures of Mark's as we were all too busy enjoying the food and atmosphere!

MALBA - Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires

 Inside the three level museum.

A snapshot at some of the art to see in MALBA!

Taking a break from shopping in Palermo.

 ...only one more Argentina post to go! Downtown BA, here we come...

January 15, 2012

Exploring Buenos Aires: Historic Congreso

Monday was our first day in Buenos Aires that was not dedicated to celebrating New Years, so we headed for one of the main tourist things we wanted to do in the city - explore the historic Teatro El Colon (El Colon Theater) in the Congreso neighborhood. Located just across the 14 (FOURTEEN!) lane Avenida de Julio from downtown, this neighborhood is home to some of Buenos Aires' most famous architecture. 

On the map you can see the busy Avenida de Julio with the obelisk in the center of it. Congreso is the neighborhood located above it on the map.

Starting things off with a coffee! 

After our first metro experience in Buenos Aires (which was randomly free since no one was there to take our pesos), we arrived at the obelisk in the middle of Avendia de Julio. Built to commemorate the foundation of the city, this iconic BA statue and the surrounding Plaza de la Republica give this area a very "Times Square" feel. There are even giant billboards and a very large McDonald's for the full effect. The obelisk stands at 67.5 m and was completed in only 31 days time! The obelisk also stands in the exact location of the demolished Church of St. Nicolas, where the Argentina flag was first hoisted in Buenos Aires in 1812. Pretty cool history, huh?

 My friends admiring the obelisk of BA.

From the obelisk, we headed over to the Teatro Colon, just two blocks away. This newly restored theater turned 100 years old in 2008 and is well known for excellent acoustics and 20th century architecture. We paid for the expensive, but well worth the pesos, $110 ARS ($25 USD) tour in English and learned lots of other details about this fine place.

 Teatro Colon

Inside the theater. Red velvet chairs on the main floor are spread out in the shape of a horseshoe in front of the stage.

Finishing our walk around Congreso we saw other notable buildings, like the Palacio Baralo, which was created to illustrate Dante's Inferno, the Palacio de Aguas Corrientes, and the Congress building in the Plaza Congreso (pictured below).

 From Congreso, we were headed north to see the ritzy neighborhoods of Recoleta and Palermo! Stay tuned...

January 14, 2012

Exploring Buenos Aires: Up & Coming Puerto Madero

During the day in between Iguazu and Mendoza, we had some time in kill in Buenos Aires as a result of flying to Mendoza, not driving as originally planned. So, naturally Stetson led us on a little walking tour around Buenos Aires' newest neighborhood, Puerto Madero. 

Set on the Rio de La Plata riverbank, this neighborhood spans the length of the San Telmo, Microcentro and Retiro neighborhoods. Home to lots of beautiful hotels, restaurants with an international flavor, and buildings by several well-known architects, this is one of the trendiest places in Buenos Aires. Also - fun fact - all the streets in the neighborhood are named for women, and the pedestrian bridge that connects Puerto Madero to the main city center is literally named Puente de la Mujer, or Bridge of the Woman.

Crossing over from the Microcentro neighborhood into Puerto Madero 

Puente de la Mujer - Bridge of the Woman

Women, overlooking the bridge in the background - obvio.

Walking on the bridge. 

Stetson captured this statue in Puerto Madero.

For me, Puerto Madero didn't exactly wow me as it seemed sort of a going out/touristy neighborhood lacking history and that authentic feel of downtown/San Telmo. However, my second experience in Puerto Madero was much different and I LOVED it. Thanks to some last minute blog reading on New Years Eve, I figured out that Puerto Madero is the location for all the fireworks on NYE in Buenos Aires. Setting off fireworks at midnight on NYE is not as you might imagine in the United States. Here every man, woman or child is setting off random fireworks along the street, on bridges, next to crowds, etc in celebration of the new year. Not exactly safe, but definitely exciting to witness as 2011 became 2012! As we ran the last few blocks to the riverfront from our place in San Telmo, we made it just in time to witness the epic fireworks show and feel a little bit of that festive air that comes from being with a big crowd of people on the brink of something as magical as a new year of possibilities.

 Kelsi, Narissa, Rob and Stetson watch the fireworks!

Hooray 2012! 

Crowds of people on the Bridge of the Woman.

A little dark... but all smiles as we head for 2012!

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