Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Me Llamo Sergio


I am finally at a computer after about five days, which in this day in age seems like an eternity, especially when so much has been happening. Today is the first day of teacher workshops. I've met all the other science teachers. There are nine of us in all and five are Colombians. Everyone is really nice and promised to help me with my Spanish. I cannot get over how beautiful the school grounds are. My classroom is enclosed and has air conditioning but most of the other non-science rooms have just three walls. I've been told that the incoming freshmen class is "wild" by the Colombian teachers but the physics teacher clued me in that "wild kids" in Colombia are the equivalent to "pretty good" in the States. Either way, bring 'em on! In addition to biology I am also teaching Pre-AP Biology for juniors and seniors. (Surprise!)

This afternoon we have work time but I was originally told we would not get work time the first two days so I did not bring anything for my classroom darn it, I guess I will have to email. And occasionally look out the windows at beautiful trees. I'm still waiting to see the iguanas that supposedly roam the campus.

On Monday we got our maid. Her name is Omaira and she is very nice. It was great that we were home the first time she came so we could show her what we wanted her to do and not do. (Note that I said show and not tell. I am getting quite good at charades.) She comes Mondays and Thursdays and we pay her $60,000 a week (Colombian pesos) which is the equivalent to about $30 a week. That sounds horrible but that is at the higher end for maids here.

I've been exploring my barrio a little each day. There is a nice corner store right across the street from me. It is basically a little tiny grocery store. The anti-kidnapping army is also located one block down from me. They are always out on the street in their army gear and giant guns. I make it a point to say hello since they are there for me...well, that's what I tell myself. They are also very friendly.

We went on a tour of the city yesterday got to see a lot of great stuff. The bus drove us to the top of a mountain that has a giant Jesus statue at the top (kind of like the one in Rio in Brazil but smaller). There is another mountain with three giant crosses on top that can be seen from the Jesus mountain. The teacher giving the tour told us that folklore says that the reason Calenos (people from Cali) party so much is that the devil stopped to rest in Cali and then because they built both of these monuments on top of the mountains, he couldn't get out and is stuck there...thus the constant celebrations and partying.

Speaking of partying...we went out to a salsatecha (salsa club) last weekend. It was so much fun. I knew the basic salsa steps from many summer nights at Famous Dave's in Uptown (Minneapolis) salsa nights but was worried they wouldn't be enough. Apparently I learned Carribean Salsa, which is much more formal. Colombian salsa is all hips and not so much feet. I'm learning to adjust. The crazy thing about a salsatecha is that the dance floor isn't that big and it is HOT and sweaty. People go out and dance and then when the song ends there is a complete change in the dance floor and new people replace the old ones. You rarely see anyone stay out there for more than one song in a row. People go back to their tables and have a drink and talk and then go back and dance some more. Oh! And you don't order drinks. You choose a type of liquor. They bring you the entire bottle along with glasses, shot glasses, and ice bucket, and mixers in pitchers. You are your own bar. The only thing that sucks is that you pretty much have to decide what you want to be drinking all night long. There is a local liquor called Aguardiente (I think that's the right spelling) and it is kind of like tequilla but it smells and has an aftertaste like licorrice. It's...interesting.

Spanish speakers have a problem with the "st" sound, since it doesn't really exist in Spanish, so my name is a trick. Especially when I call for a cab. I lost count the number of times I've been hung up on. I have adopted a Spanish name to alleviate such confusion. I am now Sergio. It seems to be working. To get a cab here you call (pick a number) ###-####. All the same. It was recommended to us that the 5's and the 7's were the best. The 6's and 3's are not to be taken and the 4's are suspect as the Colombian mafia used to run/use those. So far the 4's have not hung up on me so for now I prefer to go with the mafia.

Some other things I have learned in the past week:

1) You can NEVER eat too many fried plantains. It is not possible.
2) Riding shotgun in a Colombian taxi trumps any rollercoaster ride. There are no traffic signs, only suggestions. Case in point: when going to the salsatecha (salsa club) our driver took us down the wrong way of a one way, yelling at the drivers going the correct direction, mind you. Then backed down another one way, still travelling in the wrong direction. (These people are either the worst drivers in the world or the best. I have yet to decide.)
3) Pedestrians have no rights. Basically, I'm getting really good at playing human Frogger.
4) Fresh mango is the best thing I've ever tasted.
5) There is always a reason for Colombians to party (have a fiesta). I've been here a little over a week total and already there has been a national holiday. There is another next week.
6) Colombians have there own system of time. Manana means both "morning" and "tomorrow" also means "whenever I feel like coming/doing it." We waited three days for our living room furniture to be delivered. They came once at 8pm on a Saturday night. We were not there anymore. Our doorman told us they would be there on Sunday. Normally I would not expect anything to be delivered on a Sunday but I also would not expect anything to be delivered on a Saturday night! They came Monday, by the way.
7) Cali is the capitol of plastic surgery. A fun game to play is "spot the fakes." Let's just say that there are enough around to not have to look very hard.

Hope everything is going well for everyone! Have a GREAT day!!