Sunday, September 20, 2009

My New Roommate

A few weeks ago I discovered I did not actually live alone in my apartment. Occasionally, upon entering the kitchen and flicking on the light I would catch blur of a little gecko as it dashed out of sight, usually behind the microwave. For about a week I would find the little guy hiding amongst the dishes in the sink and, as I turned on the water, he would dart up and out and return to his countertop sanctuary.

I decided to name him Mike (as that is where he seems to live - behind the MICrowave) and we saw each other on a daily basis for about a week and a half. I was just thinking to myself yesterday, as I was preparing to blend a delicious banana/mango smoothie, that I hadn't seen Mike in awhile. Well, today as I went to fry some yucca on the stove, Mike was waiting for me beside the knobs for the gas-top ranges. He sat there nice and still as I turned the burner on, while the yucca fried, and then wriggled away just as I was dishing them up.

This is Mike in the sink. I wonder if it looks like a water park when you're that small?

This is Mike supervising my yucca frying abilities. He must have gotten the memo that I burn things.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bien Pueda

Colombia is a very welcoming place and the people here are some of the most generous, inviting, and accommodating I've ever met. They often say, "Bien pueda" which means basically, "Sure you can!" (It really doesn't translate exactly.) You hear it when getting into a taxi, entering a store, being offered a chair or place to sit on the bus, borrowing a phone, etc.

So, as I am now settled into my new apartment in my third year in this place I have come to know as home, I say to you, "bien pueda!" Mi casa es su casa. Let's take a tour...

Mi casa desde el punto de vista de la calle. Vivo por el tercero piso. My house from the street view. I live on the third floor.

La calle en frente de mi casa. The street in front of my house.

La entrada (por la izquierda), el cuarto de la huésped, y mi cuarto. The front entrance (to the left), the guest room, and my room.

La sala de estar. The living room.

La sala de estar otra vez. The living room again.

La cosina (desde la sala de estar). The kitchen (from the living room).

La cosina. The kitchen.

Las cordilleras al oeste de Cali. Esta foto sacé desde mi patio. The mountains to the west of Cali. This picture is taken from my back porch.

Mi cuarto. My bedroom.

El cuarto tuyo (el cuarto de la huésped). Your room (the guest room).

Otra vez. Again.

Reservations can be made by email or Facebook. Lodging includes airport pick-up, private bathroom, breakfast, lots of back porch sun, free guided tours of the city, and lots of fun! Bien pueda!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's In A Name?

The start of every school brings many challenges to a teacher. Every class has it's own dynamic, there are different students with different needs and expectations, and there are the names. The kids have it easy, they have to learn eight new names, many of which they already knew. Teachers, on the other hand, have to learn a bunch and, preferably, quickly!

I the States this didn't ever seem to be a huge challenge; if I had a couple Amber's or Dillon's (or Dylan's) they just weren't seated near each other. Amber and Dillon didn't expect me to learn their middle names and call them by it as well. I also didn't run into too many nicknames in the States. Sure, there were a few but the entire class rarely referred to David as "Booger," just his close friends.

Let's travel south to Colombia. I still get that here. It's not uncommon to have a few too many Mateo's, Daniela's, Laura's, or Isabela's. The trick comes when that is not their whole name. The majority of the people here, it seems, have four names. Two first names that they are often called together, and two last names, the first from their father and the second from their mother. (Incidentally, it is very easy to trace family lineage here!)

My first year here I had five Juan Camilo's. (The two names together remember.) I also had a Juan Sebastian, a Juan Jose, a Juan Manuel, a Juan Francisco, a Juan David, and a Juan Pablo. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it, none of my Juan Camilo's went by "Juan Camilo" - all went by their last name only; a skill they no doubt learned early on when there are five of you in the same graduating class. That year I also had an abundance of Maria "something's: Camila, Isabel, Paula, Paulina, etc. The last two young ladies both went by an abbreviated "Mapi" and were in the same class.

The first year I was also wrestling with pronunciation. Having that under control my second year, I thought would make learning the names easier. I remember being momentarily pleased to see only one a few Juan Camilo's and no Maria Camila's. Suddenly, however, I had five Santiago's and four Valentina's; I had neither my first year! There were the omnipresent Juan and Maria "something's" but not necessarily in replicate. My bigger challenge turned out to be the nicknames.

The first year there were a few bizarre ones, in the sense that it was not related to any of their given names or surnames at all. There was "Chumba," "Tigre" (who got it when she came to school in second grade wearing a Tigger backpack), "Nano," and "Negro." If there were others, I can't remember, and that is what I call them when I see them around campus.

That second year was a zoo of nicknames, literally. I had "Hormiga" (ant), "León" (lion - although it was also his last name), "Mono" (monkey, and also "blond") and "Pollo" (chicken). Ironically, there was also a guy they called "Chicken" because his last name was Gallo, which is literally "rooster" in Spanish. There was kid who had moved to Cali a year from somewhere along the Caribbean coast so he became "Costeño," a name referring to anyone from that region. And, believe me, there were more...

The class lists this year look pretty tame. Again, I'll be up to my ears in Juan Camilo's and variations of Maria but the Santiago's and Valentina's seem to be in check once again. I do however have two Luis's - a Miguel and a Manuel - so that should be fun. The only new name comes in duplicate with two Tatiana's. There are three Juliana's inconveniently placed in the same period. Daniela seems to be the most popular name of the year with a grand total of four.

So, after I master the three Gabriel's and three Gabriela's from the three Alejandro's and three Alejandra's (and one Maria Alejandra), I should have a pretty easy time. Then I'll start attaching last names...