Teaching English

Immersion Camp Part 2

When all the students had arrived and checked in, they took the Pearson Level 2 English exam to establish their level of English. The ministry was expecting the majority to be at a level A2 or B1.

The teachers were very nervous and it was hard to see.  They were worried about doing their best – they had been chosen over others and wanted to prove themselves.

Everyone was then divided into houses based on literary genres and/ or authors.  We had a Mystery house (Japanese Ghost stories), Sherlock Holmes house, Shakespeare house, Canterbury house, and Wilde house.  Each house had their own book to read and put on a presentation for, their house colors and were encouraged to work together and bond.  There was 1 English Language Teacher, 4 fellows and 22 teachers in each house. I was in Mystery House.

Mystery House selfie

I loved my group – they were amazing and we interacted so well together.  We had a WhatsApp chat group that we were in contact with each other on.  We read the stories and discussed them – obviously there was a lot of new vocabulary!  We told ghost stories from our own countries.  We had a fellow from Ghana on our team and he told us a ghost story from his country.  We heard La Llorona from Colombia, and a story from a fellow from New Orleans.

La Llorona

The camp lasted three weeks with the teachers having one or two English classes daily where they learned new strategies for teaching the English language to elementary students. They had a reading class daily where we read from the book and talked about what we were reading and prepared two presentations from one of the stories in the book and a teaching strategy. They had one or two conferences most days as well.

We were all very busy with the basics plus the extra activities.  We went to bed tired every night and unwilling to rise each morning, but each of the teachers really gave their all and there was very little complaining!  They were so grateful and attentive to us and to each other.  I love Colombia and Colombians even more after this experience!

It rained so much during the time we were there.  We were all getting really sick of it. It rained and stormed so much that we were without electricity for two days and without water for one day!  Still the teachers carried on – most of us foreigners were convinced that we would be able to sleep in on the morning with no electricity – but… by the time we got to breakfast, the teachers were finishing theirs, and were all made up and ready for the day!

Raining camp


Colombia · Hotel Campestre Portal del Sol · Immersion Camp · La Tebaida · Ministerio Educacion · Quindio · South America · Teaching English · Travel

La Tebaida – Teacher Immersion Training

The ministry of education here in Colombia is working hard to achieve a bilingual Colombia.  They have many initiatives to accomplish this goal and my job here is one of them.  I continue to be very impressed with their efforts and the programs that they use to achieve their goal.  Colombia Bilingue has more information on their initiatives.

Part of their program is an immersion camp for teachers of English throughout Colombia.  This year, they have elementary English teachers attending the camp and I get to help out as a fellow.  I was so excited.  The camp was three weeks long and took place a a hotel Campestre in La Tebaida, Quindio, Colombia.  The ministry took care of our transportation to and from Armenia and our host cities.

The hotel was gorgeous and was in the middle of coffee country.  There were 20 fellows and 109 Elementary teachers.  There was a group of 5 English language teachers there from Pearson Colombia – That is the group that was doing the testing and educating the teachers in methodologies.

The hotel was called Portal del Sol and was gorgeous!! There were swimming pools and trees, flowers and birds everywhere.

We fellows arrived two days before the teachers to prepare warm-up exercises, activities and the testing for the teachers.  They were to take a test upon arrival and just before leaving to gauge the efficacy of our camp.  This was an English immersion, so only English was to be spoken the entire time at camp.  The ministry was expecting all the teachers to be at an A2- B1 level.

The teachers arrived ready to go!  They were eager to learn English and were thrilled to be chosen from over 350 applicants.  These were the lucky 109 Elementary English Teachers!  I was so excited to meet them and begin our camp together.

Bogota · Botero · Candelaria · Colombia · South America · Teaching English · Travel

Botero Museum

The kids and I had the day free as it was yet another ‘Puente’.  There are three in a row in August, which is great for me!

We decided to go to the Botero museum as it is always open.  Rosevelt was thrilled that it was connected to the Money museum which was also free and has money!  The museums are just up from Plaza Bolivar and are not really noticeable as it is just another white building on the street.

Botero museo

Fernando Botero is the most recognized Colombian artist.  He is from Medellin and is still alive.  He donated the works that one sees in the museum, so that is why the museum is free.  His style is large people and landscapes and can be critical of politics at times. His is a painter and a sculptor.  I LOVE his sculptures.

Inside the museum there is a beautiful patio.  There is an upstairs and a downstairs in the museum.

Botero Patio

The kids and I had a great time – they loved the art and it is great to intorduce them to as they will always recognize a botero! This one is Rosevelt’s favorite!


The museum also houses works by Picasso, Cezanne and Moore.  It a sculpture by Dali, my favorite artist!  I was excited.


The museum is not large and is in the middle of Candelaria where there is tons to do – so…. make sure you go!  The whole family will love it.

Bogota · Colombia · South America · Teaching English

Culture Shock – (I’m pretty sure that’s what it is)

So, I grew up in South America and Mexico as a child.  I always fit in better in Latin America than I did in the US.  We came back to the US every three or four years for a year and my time in the US was always miserable (in spite of the TV and non-stop electricity, indoor plumbing and hot showers!).

I just assumed that I was made for Latin America and truly I have been very very happy here and have been planning on finding a way to stay here and not return to the US.  I thought that everything was fine.

Well, I have been here in Colombia for 7 months now and I am assuming that what I am now feeling is culture shock – there is really no other way to explain it.  I have been overwhelmed with the slowness of processing things – like buying my new cell phone after mine was stolen.  I have been overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork and bureaucracy in my job – form after form after form.  Visiting the EPS – the national health care office – and the inefficiency and the four forms for a prescription – two of which you can take home with you as a receipt!  All these things are starting to really annoy me, but the one that takes the cake is the people’s rudeness.

Now, before you get upset with me, let me tell you that I am a sociology major – so I understand that what is rude in one culture is the norm in another culture.  There are differences in acceptable behavior and I totally get that.  For instance, I was on a walk with my students the other day and there was a car coming out of a car park and it was blocking the sidewalk while it waited to enter traffic.  I continued walking behind the car and on down the sidewalk.  The students meantime, waited for the car to enter traffic, so I had to wait for them to catch up.  They came up to me and both of them said, ‘How rude!’  I asked ‘Why?’  They replied, ‘Couldn’t you wait for the car to go?’  My immediate thought was to respond, “You call that rude!  What about all the people who bang into me on the street, step on my feet, and push past me without even acknowleding that I exist???  THAT’S rude!!”

That was when I knew that something was amiss, my feelings were entirely too visceral. As I have lived in Latin American countries, and visited may of the countries I haven’t lived in, I felt that I was somewhat of an expert on the culture.  But nothing prepared me for the Colombian culture.  I have alway considered the Latin American people very friendly and polite.  They have always been ready to go out of their way to help me and been very aware of the people around them. Here in Bogota, that is not the case.  I have been shoved aside by old and young alike for a place in line to enter the bus, to enter a building, and just to walk down the sidewalk.

I have worked for the military during my time here and it is the same.  Soldiers who are super polite in the US and very respectful shove past me and bang into me with no acknowledgement or apology.  And that is what really bothers me, even though they hit me, so they obviously feel me, there is no acknowledgement that they have entered into the body area of another human being.  And it is the same with the children.  They step on me and push past me as well.

I do realize that there has to be an explanation for this phenomenon.  I have decided (through my very little research) that this is because of the recent past.  Because of the time of Pablo Escobar (you can tell that my research is mostly watching Narcos!) when the government couldn’t protect them and their families.  During the time of FARC, when so many people had to leave their home for other areas of Colombia in a bid to stay safe, they could have no confidence in their government either.  During the FARC era they could not even trust their friends, and I believe that this carries over to today when they and their family are all they feel that they can take care of and worry about, so they must see that they are ok, that they get where they need to go where they need to go there.

Ok – so that is my synopsis of the situation!  Now to get on with the culture shock plan and move into acceptance and understanding of my new culture!




Bogota · Candelaria · Colombia · Graffiti Tour · Sant Just Gastronomia · South America · Teaching English · Travel

Graffiti Tour

Well, after hearing and reading about how amazing the graffiti tour here in Bogota is, we finally went! A friend had come to town and it was the only time we could meet up, as they only had two days here and the tour was on their list.  My friend who had just left went on the tour and I oohed and aahed over her photos, so I was looking forward to it.  Plus it was something that I could do with the kids that they would enjoy too.

We all enjoyed it a lot. Some of the graffiti here is absolutely amazing and the stories and history that the guard gave were interesting and informative.  The tour starts in Parque de Periodistas (Journalist’s Park) just south of 19th street and winds through Candelaria, going to the heart of where Bogota was formed.  The walk itself is interesting and beautiful and lasts about 2 1/2 hours. The pace is good and the tour is free, accepting donations to continue what they are doing.

Here are some of my favorite artworks:

Political GrafittiTrue LoveWall artWoman - graffitibirds graffiti

After the tour, we went for lunch at this cute little French restaurant that the guide recommended to us. It was included in the tour as the outside had an amazing lion painted next to the door.

Sant Just Gastronomia

The food was delicious, not terribly expensive and the service was excellent.  They speak, French, Spanish and English.  It was called Sant just Gastronomia in Candelaria.  We sat and talked and relaxed for a couple of hours comfortably without being rushed.

I then took the kids home walking to the bus stop along Septima.  It was a good day and the kids had a blast hanging out with our friend and enjoying the company, going around Candelaria on the graffiti and watching the buskers along Septima.

Bogota · Colombia · Parque Metropolitano Simon Bolivar · Pope · Pope Francis · South America · Teaching English · Travel

The Pope comes to Colombia

Today is Pope Francisco day.  This city and country have been going crazy with excitement and anticipation for his arrival.  It is so interesting to watch the people get geared up to see their idol.  His image is almost everywhere you look!

I’m going to see him at Parque Bolivar with another fellow.  The soldiers I work with are given tickets on a lottery basis in the VIP section in the park, but not being enlisted, I don’t get one of these tickets – fair enough.  Although this is a free event, they have a limited space, so one needs a ticket to enter.  Because there are so many people who have come from all over South America to see him, as well as Colombians, there has to be a limit to who can enter and this is one of the most fair ways of doing this.

bogota pope francis

My supervisor has a friend who has some extra tickets that he will give me.  I just have to go up north to get them.  Obviously, not a problem!  I am so excited about this opportunity.  I get there and pick up my tickets and see that my entry time is 5:00 am. The pope doesn’t give mass until 4:30pm!  That’s a long time to wait for him!!  Again, because of the amount of people, there is a staggered entry.


So we get up early.  I take an Uber to the Transmileneo Marly station to meet my friend and we take a taxi to the park – or as near the park as we can get as the roads all around the park are closed off.  So we walk the 20+ minutes to our entrance.  There are people everywhere.  We get in line and are fairly far back.  People try to go to the front and make a new line are yelled at and shamed until they admit defeat and go to the end of the lines.

The gates open and we enter.  We walk about 5 minutes and find more entrances where we are checked again and they take our tickets – we are through and now racing to find the best vantage point.  We find a great place where we can see his platform as well as a large screen showing all that is happening.  I have water, a book and some snacks.  I didn’t bring that much as the last time I came to the park for a show, they took most of my stuff.  Apparently today one could bring much more – people had whole picnics.  This was good for them as there were not hot drinks – no coffee! – and only snacks like chips.

We made friends with people around us and chatted and watched each other’s spots and told people off for trying to shove past us.  Then it began raining – we had to close up our space and stand and cover our things as our space got gradually smaller.  More and more people were pouring into the park and looking for somewhere close to stand so they could see the pope.  We were being pushed and shoved and invaded upon.  It was frustrating and understandable at the same time.  Colombian personal space is very different than that of Americans!

By this time it was 2:30pm and beginning to rain again.  Candis and I are introverts and neither of us Catholics.  We were losing the excitement of the whole, ‘Let’s see the pope, ” experience.  She had been sick and tried sleeping on the ground for a couple of hours but kept being stepped on.  We were also trying to hold our need to use the bathroom at bay. I had used them about 10am and they were bad then, so now, I shudder to think of the state of the porta potties!

We called it a day and decided to start to the edge of the park about 3pm where we could see him drive by and maybe some of the mass depending on the rain.  Well, we made it a little ways and the heavens opened. A deluge started.  We encountered more and more people on the way out of the park as we kept walking.  The whole way we were asking for forgiveness as we walked past and over people and their picnics.  There was no path, just person after person as far as we could see.  I began to despair of ever getting to the edge of the park.

crowd parque bolivar

I had put my phone in my bag as it was crowded and many people have their phones stolen here.  But as the rain continued, my bag began to drip with water as it was thoroughly soaked.  I was afraid to put my phone in my jeans pocket because it could get wet there too, so I put it in my water-proof jacket pocket where I kept my hand over it.

The crowd of people starting to leave began growing.  There was a crush of people and we were carried along with them for a while, then they were pushing and pulling and I began panicking – we were literally unable to move.  A lady starting banging into me and I put out my hand out to hold her back.  I fought being crushed by the crowd and then there was a release and we were able to move out of the crowd.  I felt for my phone again and it was gone.

I was hoping that it fell, but unsure about getting caught up in the throng again – Candis urged me on and took off to look for it on the ground – there was no way to see – we tried and all we saw were feet and puddles.  I am sure that someone in the crowd saw it and grabbed it from my pocket in the crush of people.

I was gutted and panicky – I felt vulnerable and naked and wanted to be home immediately.  But…. we were still trying to exit the park and plus, the streets around the park were closed AND without my phone, I couldn’t use Uber!  We made it to a path that was closed for the pope-mobile.  The Swiss guards were sweeping the path and there was no way through.  The guards and the police were not allowing people out that way.  We were told that the park was closed until after the pope-mobile went by and the pope got up to speak.  Again, the panic rose in my throat.

People began to riot and shake the barrier calling out, ‘derechos’, ‘policia’, ‘dejanos pasar,’ ‘somos gente,’ and other like phrases.  It was getting ugly as people became desperate to leave the park.  They opened up an exit to the park finally and routed us around to that exit – about 20 minutes away from where we were.  With my phone gone, I lost my interest in seeing the pope drive past in his little car.  I was wet, tired, cold and panicky.  We left the park.

I then realized that all my pictures and snaps were gone – the snapchat couldn’t send as I took them because so many people were in the park on the signal.  I had had no reception all day.  I felt upset over that as well – there went my memories.  I realize that I am way too attached to the little hand-held device!

We made it home – I was thankful that I had my computer and could talk on Facebook Messenger – all in all – life was not over, but it sure felt like it.  This day started out so very hopeful and exciting – a chance in a lifetime and ended up quite the opposite. Perspective – that’s what I need – perhaps tomorrow!

Cartagena · Choco Museo · Colombia · South America · Teaching English · Travel · Walled City

Cartagena part 2

We all got up slowly and lazily today.  Eating a relaxed and late breakfast.

We went to the beach for a few hours before coming back to swim in the pool for a while.  It was nice to explore for crabs and other sea creatures.  I found a sand dollar and showed the kids.  They thought it was cool.  By the time we got back to the pool at the hotel it was packed, I think because of the long weekend and it’s Father’s day weekend.

We swam for a couple of hours in the pool before going up to change.  The kids had a class making chocolate at the Choco Museo.  They were so excited that they got to go to a chocolate making class that they had been asking me the time all day to make sure they didn’t miss it!

Shalom and I had an amazing Maya hot chocolate and talked and relaxed while we waited for the kids to finish with their class.

chocolate maya

We went to have dinner and walked around the city center before heading back to the hotel tired and happy.  This was an amazing trip.  If you make it to Colombia, make sure to take a few days to enjoy Cartagena.  You won’t be sorry.