Teaching English

Reflections and Looking Forward

I have been back in the US for almost four months now.  I have been re-starting my life here and am reflecting on my time in Colombia as I adjust.

I had an amazing year in Colombia – It was a year of freedom in that I lived alone for the first time in a long time and that was great, relaxing and refreshing.  I was not responsible for anyone but myself and it has been a long time since that was true and very freeing for me.

It was a year when I was learning and growing both as a person and as an English teacher.  I was doing meaningful work that was challenging and interesting with great students.  By teaching English to soldiers who had been wounded in combat, I was helping them to grow as individuals and engaging their minds to learn a new language.  They were eager to learn and interesting to engage with.

It was a year of meeting new people and making new friends.  I met some amazing people who were fun to hang out with and learn from.  We had great times exploring the country and learning and connecting.

I was in an amazing country that was mine to explore.  I lived in a vibrant and beautiful city that was exciting and inviting and always had something interesting happening.

I was practicing and improving my Spanish speaking and that was fun and challenging.

It was a great year all in all and I am so glad that I had this experience.

I came back to the US for many reasons, many of those were family. Though I was able to bring the kids to Colombia, it was costly, and they really wanted to spend the next year in Denver again.  Colombia was a great experience for them but asking them to continue to go there every summer is not really doable or realistic.  I have made a commitment to them – they have been with us since they were 2 years old and will continue to be as long as they choose to be.

My daughter is still living with us and finishing up grad school – she is   figuring out what the future holds for her.  It is helpful for her to have me around to talk to and bounce ideas off.


I found a job teaching refugees English and love working with them.  It is a great job and is a good way for me to oppose the Trump administration! It is nice to be back at work and engaged again.  I am getting my garden prepped for the Spring.  I got  a dog and am getting chickens and am settling into life here with both feet forward – I’m jumping into life here and will commit – which is hard for me to do – I’m nervous about it and think about how I am getting older and this opportunity to up and move to an amazing place like Colombia may not continue to be available to me for many more years.  Am I willing to give up on living there?  I think about that as I make this decision.

Me and dog

Airline Screening · Bogota · Colombia · Delta · South America · Teaching English · Travel · US travel

My problems with US travel and screening of passengers

My time in Colombia is now up, at least for now. I realize that I am upset as I navigate my return travel to the US and I am sure that that is clouding my judgement as I face and deal with the ridiculousness that has become the US travel policy.  But…..

I don’t understand how and why we have collectively given up our rights for the ease of travel.  I am a traveler and I know a lot of travelers and there has to be an easier way to do this.

So my question is, Are we any safer because of random checks?

How do other countries get by without having their passengers remove their shoes and  allowing their passengers to take liquids aboard?  I realize that these are small concessions I am willing to make but I don’t believe they make us safer.  I only realize how ridiculous our policies are when I have travelled in other countries for a while and return to our police state.

However, what is this random passenger bullshit?  How does that make us safer?

How is calling every 15th passenger aside and searching them and their belongings going to in any way make the flight safer for anyone aboard?  I don’t believe that for one minute. So there is nothing found on us – the random passenger, but what if the one of the 15 people they didn’t call aside had something?  It is way too conceivable that that would be the case. Also – I have been the random person way too often to assume there is anything random about it.  Why am I constantly called aside?

Do we just give up our rights and follow the person behind the screen without asking why?  Then allow them to wipe a cloth over us and go through our items and remove our shoes for them without complaint?  Who do we complain to?  (They are a just poor person who has to make people uncomfortable for minimum wage.) When did this become acceptable?  Is this the price of air travel – a few people up in the higher echelons telling us what to do and blindly following?  Does this make us safer or is it a blatant abuse of power that we are merely accepting because it is easier than fighting the system.

Waiting in line for 15 minutes to be searched and have my stuff gone through.


Person who is going to go through my things, my shoes, and wipe my pants, hands and items to check them for…?  She wouldn’t say.


I don’t believe that all this money we are wasting has done anything to keep us safer.  But I think it has caused people to believe we are safer and that is why it continues.  Taking our shoes off has done nothing and those fancy expensive body scanners have done nothing – when we go through those and still need a person to go over us with a wand – you know it doesn’t work – but we bought it literally and figuratively and now we continue the dance of pretending we are safe and people pretending they are making us safe – and not really being any more or less safe than before – I hate the dance, and I hate being the random person and having to suck it up because I want to get to my destination.

I am not happy with the situation – but truthfully, I do what I am told because I’d rather fly than not.

Bogota · CELTA · Colombia · South America · Teaching English · Travel

Celta – or… a month of hell

Coming back to the US for Christmas was easier in that I had a return trip planned and I knew I would soon be back.  I have decided to pursue my career as a English Teacher and so planned to take the CELTA course which should help me wherever I choose (or have) to live. I signed up for the course before I left Bogota and was waiting for a follow-up interview when I went back to the US for Christmas – so hopefully I would return to Bogota by the 6th of January for the month long course – I was excited about the plan.

I found out I was accepted on the CELTA program about a week into my time back and bought my ticket back that day!  I am so excited – I get to go back to Bogota for another month at least.  I have heard that the course is very hard and intense and I am nervous about it. In fact as soon as I got the acceptance letter, they sent me homework and pre-course reading to start on! It is rather daunting, but it opens a lot of doors.

Even with the plane tickets and the Airbnb expense, taking the course in Bogota is cheaper than it would be in the US and the Denver school doesn’t even offer it until Spring.  So… that is how I justified it – plus, the school I’m taking it at in Bogota has openings and if we do move to New York – I can use the certificate to teach English there -London is a possibility as well and the course is offered by Cambridge University – very British.

I got a room in a house off of Airbnb – near the planetarium and the bull ring – it wasn’t great in that I had to live with 5 men – but I like the location and it wasn’t that expensive.  The flat was near a lot of Transmilenio stations, so easy to go back and forth to class.  It was so nice to be back – I walked all over the city after I recovered a bit – I was there only two days before the course and during the course I was so busy I had no time to see anyone – we were writing papers and preparing lessons and studying all the time.  Class was from 10am – 6pm every day.  We taught in the morning, then had two classes, then reviewed our teaching to get feedback on how to improve our lessons and then got our lessons planned and ready for the next day.  It was constant.

I slept about 5 hours a night.  I was so tired and my brain was so full – I wasn’t sure what to do or think and was moving on autopilot.  I had no time to see anyone at all and  it was  so very overwhelming.  There were times when it was only my pride and the money that kept me in the course.  Being older did not help either – It’s been a while since college and grad school!

The others on the course were very helpful though– we all kind of pulled together to try to make it as we were in the same boat.  Three people ended up not finishing the course.  We lost one at the beginning of the second week, one at the beginning of the third week and one in the middle of the fourth week it was sad and a little scary in that we could be next.  I knew though that I had to do it – it is pretty expensive.

It was truly one of the hardest things I’ve done.  I’m really glad I did it and excited to see where it leads me.  Now to start applying for some jobs and a new chapter of my life.


I really hope I get to stay in Bogota, but if not, I’m sure I’ll be back some day.

Bogota · Colombia · South America · Teaching English · Travel

On Returning to the US

I got up – Sasha was super wary and wouldn’t let me get him – he knew something was up!  I finally got him in his kitty carrier and off to the airport we went.


He mewed a bit as we were taking off, but when I got him on my lap and let him see what was happening, he calmed down.

I made it to my first stop in the US, Atlanta.  It was disconcerting to hear English everywhere – it threw me off and I kept looking around feeling weird.  We all disembarked and made it to passport control where I had someone come meet me at to take my passport and walk Sasha and me to the USDA stand downstairs by baggage claim.  They held onto my passport and a customs form for me and asked me to sit and wait my turn.

I looked around and tried to figure out what was going on – apparently this is what happens when you enter the US with a pet.  Finally after waiting a while, I asked how long it would be – they informed me that they had no idea as the airport had lost power and there was no way for me to collect my bags because they couldn’t get them into the building without power anyway.

me and cat

After waiting about an hour, they ended up deciding to evacuate the area and rushed us through the USDA in section by making sure he had his rabies vaccination.  We left the area and went upstairs where we waited and waited.  I was worried about Sasha even though he seemed to be doing ok.


The power stayed off for the rest of the day – we had been told that our flight was delayed – so we found a place on the floor in the corner and waited.  Then the flight was delayed again and again.  People were getting nervous – there was no news and the power was still off.  Finally – the power came back on – 7 hours later – and they told us our flight was cancelled.

We got a hotel room and found out the flight was rescheduled for two days later.  It turns out I was one of the lucky ones – my husband was on the phone with them from home and he had hotel points that I could use – we had to pay extra for the cat and I got an Uber to Walmart and got a litter box and litter and cat food – and the cat eventually relaxed in the hotel room.  Sasha was not happy – but…. He survived!


Then I got to go home – it was great to see family – but the rush of everything – the overwhelmingness of the Christmas season and capitalism – I felt myself getting sucked into it again.  I hate that feeling – I had to drive to run errands and I hated that – I got so used to walking everywhere and taking public transport and that was much more relaxing.

I was tired and my senses were overwhelmed.

Gradually as the days wore on and I was doing things with friends and family, I adjusted.

We drove back and forth from KC to Denver twice – it was a lot of driving – but we were able to see most of the family – it was a good visit – the kids were happy to see us and the visit with them was great- my mom ended up being in the ER on Christmas Eve and I was glad that I got to be there for that – my daughter has been having a hard time lately and I was able to be there for her – it was good that I went home – I was left with positive feelings – it was a really good trip – I got back into the swing of things – I could see moving back to the US – the kids are really keen on me living in Denver again for another year – they really want to have one more summer in Denver – bringing them out to the house really brought out their memories.

I then heard from the International House about the CELTA course and I was accepted!  I had to find tickets, a place to live and pay the fee – It didn’t give me much time to prepare – I was excited to get into the course and have another month in Bogota – but, I’m not desperate to go like I thought I’d be.

Norbert and I are still not sure where we’ll end up – I’m getting used to the idea of moving to New York – I’m ok with Denver (providing it freezes soon), Norbert is looking into other places, but Bogota is not easy for him to find work in – until he learns Spanish.

Can I learn to be tranquila and relax and let the future happen as it will?  I don’t know why this is so hard for me to do.  I am thankful that I get to go back to Bogota – hopefully being there again will answer a lot of questions for me.


Bogota · Candelaria · Chapinero · Colombia · La Arepera · Plaza Bolivar · South America · Teaching English · Travel

On Leaving Colombia

So the time came when I had to leave my new country.  This was very hard for me as I had had one of the best years of my life.

I came back from the rain forest, then went to Nicaragua for a few days to celebrate my big birthday with friends and family and came back to Bogota to spend a week sorting things out and preparing to leave for perhaps good.

My friend was waiting for me in my flat with my cat.  It was so nice of her to spend my last week with me.

I was tired after my recent travel and just wanted to stay in bed.  Plus, I was trying to subconsciously delay the inevitable leaving of the city and country I had adopted for the last year.  If I stayed in bed, it wouldn’t happen!  I dragged myself out of bed to start packing and see what I could fit in my suitcases to go back to the US, and figure out what I was leaving behind.

It was hard in that I didn’t know if I would be able to return again.  I hoped to return, but was waiting to hear on the course I had applied for and to see what was happening with Heart for Change, the organization I had come to Colombia with.  They were unsure of their future within Colombia.  I knew some people who had signed up for another year with them, but they had told us that they didn’t know what 2018 would hold for them, so I didn’t pursue that route.

I went through some things and had bags to stay with a friend here in Bogota in case I came back – he will watch them for me and if I don’t come back, he will keep them or sell them.  I gave some things to my friend who lives in Cali and she will use them while I am gone and keep or sell them if I don’t come back.  She is hoping to stay in Colombia as well.  There are so many of us in the position of wanting to stay and looking for work in the country.  I have a bag to leave outside for the homeless to pick up if they want to – this is a common way of recycling.  There are so many homeless in my neighborhood and they come by frequently and go through the trash and collect what they can use and recycle.  Nothing is wasted.  I love this aspect of life here as well.

The day was busy sorting through things.  We then went to walk around Carrera Septima and Plaza Bolivar, one of the last times I’ll be able to.  My friend lives in Cali and has only visited me one other time in Bogota, so I was eager to show her my amazing city.  I still love this city and never tire of walking around.  It is gorgeous and interesting and the people change the streets daily.  I had some gifts that I wanted to get for people and some items I wanted to get for myself. 

I had applied to a CELTA course in Bogota starting the 9th of January and I had not heard back from them yet.  I was hoping to get things settled and to stay in the same Airbnb and keep items there with the owner.  But there was no real communication from them.  I am still learning to be ‘tranquila’ about things and realize that what will work out will work out, but it is so so hard!!

I went by the headquarters of International House to see what I could find out face to face, but they had no further information for me.  I sent another email and they asked for my application again – so I sent that – and just had to assume that I wouldn’t get into the program and be okay that what will be will be and I can relax into that.

I continued packing, sorting and last minute shopping.

I was still dreading leaving.

We cleaned up the apartment and got the cat sorted with the vet and the animal control office at the airport and I dragged my feet and pouted.

I wanted to stay in bed and avoid the inevitable.

We forced ourselves to go out for the start of Christmas activities on the 16th of December in the evening, ‘Travesia of Sound and Light’, after walking up to my old neighborhood in Chapinero to get our last Venezuelan arepas for maybe forever.  It was nostalgic.  And delicious!!


The evening celebrations were awesome – but very very different than the celebrations we have in the US.  They had videos of the nature here in Colombia – a celebration of the diversity of flora and fauna that is found nowhere else – it is truly what makes this country so very special.  It reminds me of how lucky I am to have had this opportunity.

I gave a lot of things to my friend and she left on the night train back to Cali.I gave the bags to my friend in Bogota – he left.  I was now ready to leave – ready or not.I was left with two suitcases, a cat carrier, a nervous cat, a backpack and me.

I was surprised that at this point, I started to think of my time with my family and friends and felt a little uplift and even excitement of the time to come.

All was no longer bleak – I would see my kids and family soon and there were a lot of plans that we had – things to do – Christmas in the US – it would work out – I went to sleep with mixed feelings – ready to see what the future held.

Amazonas · Colombia · Gamboa · Leticia · Rain Forest · South America · Teaching English · Travel

The last of the Amazon

We spent the night at the lodge on the Gamboa.  It was so quiet and the stars were so very bright.  It was a beautiful, peaceful place to be.  We hung out in hammocks and then slept under our mosquito nets.

We woke up early to go see the sunrise over the Amazon river.  It was so beautiful.  We saw dolphins playing in the water and heard the birds waking to eat.  Again, the peace overwhelmed me.

sunrise amazon

We then ate breakfast and wandered around the lodge area.  I saw this amazing tree that was full of huge caterpillars and their cocoons.  The tree was amazing!!

catepiller tree

We went swimming in the river down from the lodge.  The water was black!! I was pretty scared and very nervous so stayed close to the banks!  The river bottom was squishy with mud and river grass.  It was a short swim – but I felt that I had to do it!!


We then got back in the boat to go to a drop off place up river where we were going to hike to an outpost on the native Ticuna lands called Piranha Lake.  This is a reserve on the private lands of the indigenous people and it is the only building for commercial use of it’s kind on this reserve.  We are excited to be staying there.  It is a three hour or so hike from the banks of the Amazon to the ‘lodge’.  It is sooooo hot and there are so many mosquitos on the way.  We have been told to be prepared with lots of bug spray and our long sleeved shirts and long pants.

We got there and we were so very miserable.  I was drenched in sweat and covered with mosquitos.  They kept buzzing in our ears reminding us that they were there waiting to bite us!  I have decided that I NEVER want to be an Amazon explorer – there is another career to mark off my list!

When we arrived at the building it was peaceful looking – It was open air as the Ticuna houses are.  There was a closed sleeping area with hammocks with mosquito nets.  There was a little building apart for using the toilet and a water tank for flushing.  The outside was gorgeous – there was a walkway to the lake.  It was one of the most beautiful places I have been.  We made it!

We spent the night there and went on a night walk where we saw scorpions and tarantulas and some night rodents.  We even got to see a snake!

Then we had the long walk back to the river drop off place and took the boat back to Santa Rosa and Leticia.

I had an amazing time and can’t wait to come back again.  As miserable as I was, I do want to return and see all of this again.  The peacefulness of the Amazon trumps the misery of the mosquitos and the heat!

I love this place!!!

Amazonas · Bogota · Colombia · Gamboa · Leticia · Rain Forest · South America · Teaching English · Travel

The Amazon – Part 4

Our rain forest trip with Gamboa Tours – The fun begins!

We got up early to pack our small backpacks to travel with and leave the rest of our stuff at the hostel.  We needed to make sure we had long pants and long sleeved shirts to trek through the rain forest as the mosquitos were ferocious.  We had all been taking Thiamin for 3 weeks before as we had heard that it discourages mosquitos and we had all had our yellow fever vaccinations 10 days previously.  The company gave us big rubber boots to wear on the trek as there is supposed to be copious amounts of mud on the trails due to it being rainy season now.  We were to leave our hiking boots behind and take only what we could carry on our trek.

We went to the port of Tabatinga and got into our boat with our guide.  There were 8 of un in total.  One guy was with us for the day and a couple for one night.  It was us girls and two tourists from China for the three day tour.

IMG_2827     Inside boat

We took off for about two hours up the Amazon to the port of Benjamin Constant in Brazil.  This is a very important city from the past because of the rubber trade.  It is now in disrepair and possibly more ugly than Leticia.  We had a Brazilian Arepa there made with yuca brava, or Cassava.  It was delicious.


We then went up river about 20 minutes to a city called Islandia.  This is a city in Peru built on stilts because of the rising waters in rainy season.  The government had decided to build raised walkways between the houses so that the children could still attend school when the city was flooded.  It was an interesting city, but the walkway was concrete, so the heat rose from it and there were no trees, so we were hot and sweaty.  It was a sad, ugly city and it struck me as hilarious that they kept comparing it to Venice – it was absolutely nothing like!




We then went to Santa Rosa for lunch before heading up to the Gamboa River off the Amazon another hour or so down the river.  We had lunch at a delicious restaurant there.  It was probably my second favorite meal in the area.  The fish was absolutely amazing and the restaurant had a couple of parrots that hung out there.

We took off after lunch and headed up to our first site.  This is a lodge used by various groups to head further into the rain forest.  It has beds and mosquito nets and simple facilities and showers.  It is off the beaten path though and we passed pink dolphins and gray dolphins on our way as well as some indigenous houses with families out front doing laundry.  It was absolutely beautiful along the shore and so tranquil on the water.  I felt my cares float away the farther along we went.  I felt peace and awe fill me.  I was so happy!

We unpacked and explored the area.  We then went out for a trip in the canoe, had dinner, rested and went for a nighttime canoe ride to spot alligators and hear the nighttime sounds of the river.  It was like a symphony!  I was at peace.