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Showing posts from 2010

A Caribbean Christmas

I didn't think I could get in the Christmas spirit in shorts and 80 degree weather. It just isn't Christmas without cold, clouds, and ice mimicking the North Pole. However, despite the palm trees, Cartagena definitely is in the Christmas spirit. Everyone is painting their cement homes and decking them with blinking lights, glowing Santa Clauses, bright candy canes, white snow flakes, and plastic trees. The City has decorated all the parks and tourist areas. The carols have a rhythm unlike anything you've heard in church or on the radio.  Last night, fireworks filled the sky above my house. Children woke up at dawn to light candles in honor of the Virgin Mary (Dec. 8th: Dia de la Concepcion "Velitas") to officially start the holiday season.  I will be spending Christmas in Boston this year, but I'll be turning up the heat and music so everyone can celebrate Caribbean style.

Cartagena has made the New York Times

Cartagena celebrates fervently its independence with dancing in parades, spraying foam, chucking water, throwing flour in people's faces, lighting firecrackers, drinking beer, and last but not least, worshipping beauty.  Check out this article: Dueling Beauty Pageants Put Cartagena's Income Gap on View. Make sure to watch the video.

The only problem with the article's accuracy is that it neglects to mention the middle/ middle lower class neighborhoods. Don't worry everyone. I am not living in the poorest barrio in town, Boston. When people ask me where I am from, I always say Boston... el barrio. They always smile and respond, Nooo! Boston... Los Red Sox... Estados Unidos.  ¡Sí!

I Have It Maid

I live with a host family and one of the perks is that there is a maid named Emi. She left home when she was 19 to work in the big city to pay for her education. Now after 6 years of cleaning, washing, and cooking, she is graduating as a teacher from my school. I enjoy talking with her and try to help her out when I can. For example, she washes and irons my clothes by hand. She wanted $10 for 40 articles of clothing, the going rate. I agreed of course, but slip in some extra from time to time.  Yes, I am a big spender adding a fiver. I won't tell you that she brings coffee to my room every morning too.

Last week, I gave Emi some ibuprofen for a headache. Yesterday, she asked me "does ibuprofen work for a backache? I said, "it works for all aches." She said "thank goodness because my back is killing me!"  "Why?" I asked. "Because of all the laundry I have been washing!" I wasn't sure how to take that so I just sipped my coffee.

Emi i…

Americas' Dream Continued: Will Camilo be discovered?

Two entries ago I wrote about my student Camilo who hopes to train at a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic. First, he needs the scouts to find him in Cartagena. Judging from this article there are the human and fianancial resources for this to happen. Scouting and grooming future MLB players is very controversial, but it also may be the only way for talent to be found. Here is more in on the subject from the New York Times:

What's your number?

My street
I live in a 3 neighborhood so I am pretty lucky. Some volunteers live in 1 and 2 neighborhoods which would be pretty tough for me in my old age.  I have water, electricity, paved streets, low crime, and many of my neighbors are employed and have some sort of degree in higher education. Some even have cars, fly to Bogota to visit family, or minimally, eat out at the mall.

In Colombia, individuals are assigned a number 1- 6 (1 being the lowest income and 6 the highest income).  Everyone knows their estrato (social class); even kids. If you are in a public school, you are probably a 1 or  2. 3s probably go to private school even though it's tough for the family to make the payments. 4, 5, and 6s enjoy vacations at the beach and have American or Canadian English teachers at school.  Parents are well aware of their number too. Their government subsidies are based on it. 1 and 2 families receive support for their children and health care. It isn't much, but it helps. Utilit…

Americas' Dream

Camilo (in the center) just graduated from the two-year teacher training program at my school. He likes to practice English with me, not because he plans to be an English teacher right now, but a major leaguer. Currently, he plays baseball for a farm team sponsored by the San Diego Padres. He is a right fielder and bats pretty well.  His dream is to play at the Padres baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, then in San Diego, and finally, a baseball player's paradise, Fenway Park. Camilo can't believe I am lucky enough to go to games once or twice a season. I don't have the heart to tell him I am not a citizen of the Red Sox Nation. I just like cold beers on hot nights and a good excuse to eat a hot dog.

Camilo also reminds me of how lucky I am to have an American standard: an old baseball glove. The Padres only pay for only his uniform, not for cleats or gloves. The season has just started and his glove is too worn out to use. He just paid for his $500 teaching progr…

Crossing the Line

As an educator in Boston, I never considered being apart of my students' lives outside of the classroom. I didn't give them my personal cell. phone number, go to any of their parties, and we definitely weren't Facebook friends. The line between my personal and professional lives was straight, easy to see, and hard to cross. Now as an educator in Colombia, the line is slowly disappearing as I shadow the English teacher I am going to be working with for the next year. Gabriel has taught me to dance in the streets with students, go to their graduation parties, buy them snacks when they don't have any money, drive them home when it's late and most of all, make them laugh. Maybe caring about my students is more than important than conjugating the verb "to be?" The people of Cartagena always tell me, "life is short, enjoy it!" So my new plan is to teach my students how to speak English like an American and in turn, they will teach me to love life like…

Peace Corps Colombia Begins... Again

9/26/2010 – 10/15/2010 C1 On September 26, 2010, I arrived along with 8 others to Barranquilla, Colombia to reinstate the United States Peace Corps . We are called Colombia 1 (C1) even though there were many groups before us from 1961- 1981. Peace Corps had to shut down its programs to protect Peace Corps Volunteers’ (PCVs) safety endangered by guerilla warfare and civil unrest. Now, we are back serve to Colombia`s northern coast, but are still proud to be former PCVs from Liberia, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Dominican Republic, Guatemala,  Honduras, Paraguay, and Colombia. Our ages range from 26 to 69 years old. We are all are from different regions of the US and have different ethnicities. One PCV, Carolina, is from Bogota, Colombia, but moved to Florida when she was 17 years old and became a US citizen. Now, she is serving both the US and Colombia. Our oldest PCV, Philip, served in Colombia from 1963- 1965, returned home to be an ESL teacher in the Compton and Watts neighborhoods of Los …