Bogota · Colombia · CRI · Paralympics · South America · Teaching English · Travel

The Paralympics CRI style!

This year they started the 1st annual CRI Paralympics.  It was an amazing experience that I am so lucky and honored to be a part of!

juegos logo

There was a big opening of the games with the lighting of the torch and speeches.  The participating soldiers came out and lined up in front of the stage.  The rest of us sat in our areas and then stood for the national anthem.  Then there was the speech, and then the whole games were begun by the lighting of the torch.  It was very moving.

The next four days were full of events such as Futsal, Sitting Volleyball, Weight-lifting, Brain Games and Fencing.  There were the customary playoffs with one team or person winning each category.  It was amazing to watch the soldiers participate with their whole heart in the games.  Many times I see them have way more courage to participate in life than I do and am awed.

At the end of the events were the presentation of medals and closing ceremonies where a former soldier who re-habilitated at the CRI and is currently in training for the Paralympic games in Seoul presented his jersey to the center!  The event was very moving.

The Paralympics ended with bands playing and dancing and merriment true to Colombian custom!  The celebration was now complete and I am blessed to have been a part of it.

closing band


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!

Bogota · Chiguiro · Colombia · Salt Cathedral · South America · Teaching English · Travel · Zipaquira


Today we got up slowly. We went the Transmilineo to Portal Norte to get the bus to Zipaquira. There is a Salt Cathedral there that is said to be amazing.

The bus ride was shorter than the one to Tobia yesterday which was nice. We got off the bus and had a coffee and a pastry and then walked around the square. It was a beautiful town. The square was amazing and quaint. There were people milling around and the church on the square was beautiful in itself. We wandered around the square for a bit before we headed off toward the Salt Cathedral.

Zipaquira sqare


The walk to the Cathedral was beautiful. We wandered up some steps surrounded by eucalyptus trees. It was so relaxing.

Camino de la sal

When we got to the cathedral, we went to get in line, where we were told we were to have gone to another area to purchase tickets for the tour. We bought the tickets and then got back in line for the tour.

The air was immediately cooler and cleaner in the salt mine than it was outside. They had set up the 12 stations of the cross throughout the mine. They were very nicely presented and lighted so that one could almost feel a sense of awe as one walked through. There were three large naves that were set up in the mine. One of them is still worshipped in today. They were so pretty and impressive. I can see why this is such an important touristic site.

Salt Cathedral 1

At the bottom there was a large gift stall area set up so that people could buy things! Of course!!

When we left the salt mine it was raining as it had been threatening to do all day. We were hungry too! We had been looking on Google maps for somewhere good to eat that wasn’t too expensive. We were hungry and wanting to get out of the rain and ended up in a rather expensive restaurant called Brasas del Llano.  It was worth every penny (peso) though.  The service was great, the food was amazing and the restaurant was interestingly decorated with old American antiques!

I had the chiguiro – which is the capybara! It was delicious. It is funny because I ate it a lot when I was a child growing up in the Amazon in Venezuela, but it had been a long, long time. I had forgotten what it tasted like, but knew that I had enjoyed it. And guess what?  I still thoroughly enjoyed it!  Every bite!!


Bogota · Colombia · Rio Negro Rafting · South America · Teaching English · Tobia · Travel


So we have been wanting to go to San Gil in Santander near Bucaramanga. I read about it before coming to the country.  It is supposed to be the adventure capital of Colombia.  It is 6 hours by bus though and so harder to get to. We looked and looked for white water rafting closer to Bogota and found this little city called Tobia that is only 1½ hours away. The Rio Negro runs through there. It is a very small town to the northwest of Bogota and built around a square.

To get there, we took the Transmilineo to Portal 80 and then caught a bus from outside the station going to Villavicencio. We got off the bus by a side road and hitched a ride down a dirt road to the town of Tobia and then a little out of town to a center called Rio Negro Rafting. There are multiple centers for activities on the side roads out of Tobia and they are all similar with places to camp, rooms to rent, restaurants and lots of activities.

bus tobia

The Rio Negro Rafting center was built into the middle of the forest. We heard and saw birds in the trees, there were Cacao trees with pods growing on them and fruit trees all around the area. There were large bathrooms and changing rooms all open aired. The restaurant was open air as well and there was a breeze blowing through. It was so calm and peaceful. We had booked a rafting trip, a horse-riding outing and lunch. We were going back to Bogota that evening.


We were so close to Bogota and it was hot! It is amazing that the weather changes so quickly so close to the city.  It felt so very good to be hot!! There was a swimming pool there as well, and we thought about hanging out by the pool. There was a large covered patio with hammocks too. There were way too many things to do! I felt so peaceful and excited to come back!!

We went rafting which was fun, there were some level 3s, but parts were a little tranquil. It wasn’t boring at all, but definitely what we had been expecting.  We talked to the guide and he said that we were here during a more peaceful time. He said in about a month it gets more exciting, that means I’ll be back!

We then had lunch in the restaurant which was very relaxing and surprisingly delicious. We had a couple of beers in the hammocks and then went horse-riding. The horse ride was beautiful. We went up the mountain behind the town and valley. The view was so worth it, he let us stay by the side of the road looking out at the valley and take pictures. The horses were well treated and beautiful. The owner/guide was the uncle of a girl who worked at Rio Negro Rafting and he was informative and funny. He loved his city and country-side and his information about the area increased my desire to return.


We got back and had a beer and waited for the ride out to the highway to catch the bus back to Bogota – it was a perfect day!