Iggy Pop Feels Old and So Do I

In the past two days I’ve had not one, not two, but NINE CLASSES!
Talk about jumpin’ right in!
From 1:30-9 PM are five 80 minute classes back-to-back with ten minute breaks in between. Unfortunately, on the first day I hadn’t quite gotten the breaks down, so I ended up having more like three minute breaks in between. It was exhausting! The classes yesterday went better. You know what else?
I actually think I’m doing a good job! The guy, David, who trained me in told me that he overheard some students from my class talking about how much they enjoyed me as a teacher! ((Heads spins 360 degrees)) Uwhuuuuuut????!!! In the US, I highly doubt I could find a class to teach with no teaching certification. I’m super glad I got the chance, though, ’cause I actually really like it! My students are super respectful, too, calling me “Teacher” and thanking me and the end of class. I just want to go up to them, take their hand and say,
“No! Thank you for not throwing tomatoes and other rotten vegetables at me
whenever I seem like I don’t know what I’m doing!”

Yesterday, I had my first talk with a student about the importance of applying oneself. OH, how the desks have turned! Speaking of, I ended up seriously dating myself when I was trying to use examples.

Silly? Silly is like…. Adam Sandler movies. Or like Dumb and Dumber. You know?”
((Class looks at me, confused.))

Later, while talking about airport terms, the word passenger came up. I said,
“Haven’t you heard that song by Iggy Pop, ‘Passenger?’ ”
Class: “Who’s Iggy Pop?”
Me: OK everyone, you have a homework assignment tonight…


School’s Back In Session


As many of you have heard, as of yesterday I am officially an English teacher at American School Way, a school in the Chapinero neighborhood of Bogotá. Let me run you through how the process took place:

-On Friday, I was introduced to the school by a girl from Canada who I met through our mutual couch surfing host, who has been teaching at the school for about 6 months, now. She vouched for me and I was asked to come to the school again on Monday morning with paperwork (CV, letter of recommendation, college transcript, etc.)

-On Monday, I came back with my paperwork at 10 AM and was asked if I could start training at 1:30. Eager to start, I left and had lunch and came back at that time to start training with another estadounidense from L.A. They were very thorough. To give you an idea, the training lasted until a quarter to 9.

-Each of the classrooms are identified by a different US state, except for the several French classrooms, which are labeled with French words. Our training was, for the majority of the time, in a classroom titled, “Illinois.” Ironic, don’t you think? Our training was done by a friendly man named David; about five feet tall with a long black ponytail that reached down past his belt. I can postulate his height because there is a short hallway from the receptionist area to the classroom with a ceiling that tops out at around five feet. He joked that it was just his size. David explained there are different levels, but within each level (the levels divide the class), your classes will be comprises of up to six students who most likely all be in different places in the book. Each program is made up of around 80 classes, so you may have a student who is having their first class and a student who is having their 80th class. “Es complicado,” I commented to David. He explained that you divide the amount of time you have (80 minutes) by the number of students you have that day. If there are six students, each one will receive 13 minutes dedicated to their section. He showed us how to find the videos and audio on the computer that correspond with the readings in the book. He showed us this super silly sitcom created specifically for teaching English. Here’s how one of the episodes played out:

Two men are sitting on the couch watching a game on TV. A women comes behind them holding new clothes she bought from the store. “Do you like this blouse?” she asks them? One of them turns around for a second while the other stays staring at the TV. “Oh that’s a great blouse,” the first man says. “Yeah, I love that blouse.” Cue the laugh track. She smiles and puts the shirt back into the back. “What about this dress?” she asks. The same situation continues with the men agreeing to like clothing they haven’t looked at.

I couldn’t help but think back to my Spanish classes at Lincoln Hall and Niles West, to La Catrina, the telenovela with bad acting and dramatic zoom ins to reveal a girl with cringing with concern; showing off her clunky braces. I remembered how I was a pain to my teachers in my Spanish classes, how little I wanted to pay attention. Fortunately the students at this school are pretty much University students and older, people who want to be there. Still, I remember why those classes didn’t work. Front and center was always the stress being put on the grades, rather than the importance of communicating. For that reason, it wasn’t until I got to Argentina that my Spanish speaking abilities really accelerated.

The other trainee and I sat in on a few classes, both with excellent teachers. In the first class, the teacher was helping the students with a simulated dining experience. He would come back with the completely wrong order and the students would have to explain that they didn’t order those dishes. Later, the other student and I had to go through a class, making sure we could perform all of the logistical duties: making sure all the books were checked in where they should be, crossing the Ts and dotting the Is on the students’ paperwork, etc.

For the month of October, I’m going to be doing private classes, taking the classes and apartment of this girl I met from Canada while she travels for the next month. (I move in there in less than a week.) Starting Wednesday, they’re throwing me in with the lions. Wednesday through Friday my schedule will be 1:30-9pm: five back to back classes. This is the normal schedule. Then Saturday there will be more classes from 8 AM to, I think, about 1:30. After October, my classes at the university will continue in a similar fashion. Later this afternoon, I’ll be accompanying Becky, the Canadian, to her private class to get to know the student and how to get there.

For now, I’m sitting at a Café chain of a popular coffee brain, Juan Valdez, located next to the “Centro Cultural de Gabriel Garcia Marquez” in La Candelaria neighborhood. I’m drinking a café con leche and am about to do some serious brushing up on grammar. At my interview I was asked to explain things like Past Perfect and Future Needs-Improvement, or whatever. Either way, I was like…


I’m sure I’ll have some serious embarrassment to write about in the near future, so stay tuned!
((Slips on banana peel)) ((Laugh track))

Things I’ve Learned So Far

-Mangos here taste like candy.
-Dogs can be trained to beg for money.
-Bogotá is best by bike.

"La Ciclovia" happens every Sunday: a major road opens up to only bicyclist, roller-bladers and pedestrians; one of the few circumstances in which people of all ages and classes come together.

“La Ciclovia” happens every Sunday: a major road opens up to only bicyclist, roller-bladers and pedestrians; one of the few circumstances in which people of all ages and classes come together.

-No matter what time of year, the sun rises around 6 AM and sets around 6 PM.

-When you travel alone, you’re never alone.

Before I left, people kept asking me: are you really going alone? What these people don’t realize is that when you travel solo, it leaves you open to meeting all the other people who are traveling solo. Since I’ve gotten here, I’ve befriended people from Germany, Canada, Australia, Mexico, LA and, of course, Colombia.
When you travel, the whole world is with you.

More soon. Eating well, adjusting to the altitude and daaaancing!


Getting Settled

I’m still trying to make sense of what it means to move to a new city. In a new country. When I moved to Minneapolis, there was order: orientations, schedules, meal plans, etc. It takes time to get in the swing of what food to eat and how to spend the days and such. Tomorrow I’m meeting with someone to discuss work, which I’ve known for a few days, so for the past two days I’ve been trying to figure out the other stuff.

-First off, each day involves considerable wandering. There is more or less a grid system to the streets– Los Calles (streets) run east to west and Las Carreras (also streets) run north to south– but for now I’ve been sticking to learning El Centro (downtown)/La Candelaria neighborhood, which is where I’m staying now. Apart from that, there’s a bit of a “breathing curve,” you could say. At 2,625 meters (8,612 ft) above sea level, the altitude (from being in the Andes mountain range) takes a bit of getting used to. The magnificent views absolutely make up for it, though.

_DSC0058b _DSC0055b
The view from the roof of the apartment I’m staying at.

Por suerte, the Spanish is coming back to me just fine. There are always new words to learn, though, as demonstrated to me by the game of Spanish Scrabble Javi and I played last night. (I won by 2 points by the way!) I’m also trying to get the hang of Colombian slang.


-I officially have my very own basic-as-they-come Colombian cell phone! Yee haw! I have also been apartment hunting, which is going mas o menos. (So so.)

-Thousands of miles, three layovers and a bunch of duct tape later, my bike is finally back to one piece. With help from many friends, I got most of it fixed in house, but I left my baby at the bike shop overnight to get air put in the tires and the handlebar fork to be tightened with a wrench I didn’t have. Then comes the NEXT step, which is biking on cobblestone. I think taking the bike apart, flying it over and putting it back together might be the easy part…

Other than all that, I’ve been to a few museums and walking around a lot. I’ll leave y’all with a few more pictures and sometime later this week I’ll try to do a post about what everyone really is interested in: THE FOOD.


Public art: hardened pants sitting in the road. Why? Why not!?

Public art: hardened pants sitting in the road. Why? Why not!?

(Temporarily not raining)


Day 1: Everything is Illuminated

I left my parents’ house at around 11 AM on Monday and arrived to Bogotá at around 10 on Tuesday. Needless to say, it was a long trip. The whole time, though– three hour layover in Boston, nine hour layover in Ft. Lauderdale– I wasn’t THAT excited or nervous. (In part, the exhaustion drained me of all emotions.) I was just focused on getting from point A to point B successfully and without losing anything. That’s kind of been the essence of the past few months: prepare to leave Minneapolis, prepare to leave Chicago, entertain myself in the airport…

… then, suddenly, I’m here. And everything is magic, just as I remembered it.

My friend, Javi, met me at the airport, where we took a van (to fit my giant duffel and bicycle) back to his apartment in one of the downtown neighborhoods called “La Candelaria,” one of the most colorful and romantic neighborhoods of the city. After getting set up in the spare bedroom he’s letting me stay in and washing the layers and layers of grime off, we got lunch and started walking around the neighborhood.

_DSC0268 _DSC0282 _DSC0283 _DSC0290b _DSC0302b  _DSC0338

Everywhere has color and history and life! Meanwhile, the fog swirls over the mountains to the east, a way to always figure out which direction you’re facing. Currently, it’s “winter,” which translates to about 50-60 degrees. Truly, there isn’t much of a winter here, just rainy seasons and seasons that are slightly warmer or cooler than others. As you can tell by the thick clouds, it’s rainy season. However, there’s an expression here:
“If you don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes.”
The clouds are always moving and the weather is always changing.

One of the places I encountered yesterday was an art center, which is also the home of the director, who states that the place is “siempre abierto;” always open. The shutters were open and Javi and I simply knocked on the door. Telling them that this was my first day and that I am an artist, too, they immediately led us to chairs and invited us to sit and chat with them. I have a feeling this place will be just the beginning of what Bogotá has to offer in terms of the arts. Here are a few photos I took inside:

The director, Silvia, lives in this "doll house" inside.

The director, Silvia, lives in this “doll house” inside.

_DSC0272 _DSC0273 _DSC0278

Javi had to go to a meeting, but I walked around as long as I could, before I had to pass oooouuuut. I got home at around 6:30pm and by this point it was already dark. I asked Javi about it this morning and he said that all year round the sun rises at around 6 AM and sets at around 6 PM. Who knew? I took this last photo from my bedroom window before I went to bed:

I slept about 13 hours straight.

Today the only plan so far is to get a phone and get settled a bit. I think it’ll take a little bit for my head to catch up with my body. More later! –Xena