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Monday, October 15, 2012
So, I've been so terrible at keeping up with my blog. Apologies to anyone (I'm sure there's a lot of you..) who has been dying to hear about my crazy life as an exchange student in Colombia. Its strange to think that most things have become normal to me now after just almost two months. Everything from the driving (stay tuned for more on this) to the food to even starting to know where I am when riding around the city that everyone here considers so small… I'd like to see these people go to Northfield for a year and then tell me they live in a tiny city. With a population of 1,158,672 it hardly seems like anyone could think they live in a small city. But what's crazy is that no matter where I go everyone seems to know each other. From restaurants to the grocery store to the mall to the club, everywhere. Its crazy. And everyone is so friendly. Hugs and kisses and arms around each other all the time. I think when I come home this will be one of the things I miss the most. And the food. Can't get enough fresh fruit… and oreos.
Okay so for some reason when I first got here I didn't notice that the driving was as crazy as it is. I remember thinking that it wasn't very different than back in MN. Maybe this was because my host parents are very good, cautious drivers, or maybe my brain was just absorbing too much and decided I didn't need to worry about my life while driving around, especially because no one really wears a seatbelt unless they're the ones driving. But after riding around a little more, I have realized I was mistaken. There are a lot of motorcycles because it never really gets cold here, so thats an added bonus. Also, its perfectly normal to ride a bike in the middle of the highway and not move over when cars try to pass. It seems like everyone is fearless. No problem if you are passing someone and there is a car coming from the other way, just honk so they know to move and everything will be fine. I have witnessed a motorcycle crash and seen the aftermath of two more; I've seen a cyclist fall off his bike and be unconscious for ten minutes. Getting used to it would not be the term to use, but after the first time I was less shocked. After a year of not driving and witnessing this kind of traffic and driving I think its good that I won't be bringing a car to college… Another thing about the driving, there is not such thing as a four way stop. The side streets always "stop" for the vertical streets, yet no one really seems to get too angry when someone cuts them off, which is all the time. Other than that, there are lots of round abouts. The roads by the mountains are surrounded by signs that warn you for falling rocks, last year someone died from a rock going through a window. There has been a lot of damage to roads this past year due to all the rain they've had.
So, I have been very lucky with not even being here two months and having the opportunity to travel so much. I've been to Venezuela twice; once to the border city Ureña, and once to the huge city of San Cristobol. My host grandma owns a restaurant there so we went to visit, had some good food and went shopping. Everything is cheaper there. Everything. Groceries, electronics, clothes, anything. So we stocked up on the groceries (and no apparently it doesn't matter that the meat was in the hot car for 9 hours) and we went to the mall for a few hours. I'm lucky that a lot of my family here is spread out. Right now I am sitting in my host brothers' apartment in Bogotá, and for the first time since I've arrived I am cold. Yes. Cold. I don't know what has happened to me… Its 64 degrees F and I am wishing I had a winter jacket with me. I guess I've gotten used to the climate in Cúcuta. So, yesterday we went about an hour out of the city and went to an area famous for their milk and cheese. We went to a place called "La Cabaña" that was filled with desserts and cheese. We stocked up, and everything was simply delicious.
That night my host brother and I went downtown to the T-zone, an area in Bogotá famous for their bars and night life. We walked around for a few hours and eventually found the hard rock cafe. I don't know why I haven't collected something from each hard rock I've been to, even if it's just a picture or something. I guess now will be the start. Today we are going into the city and later this week we are going on a tram up the mountain that is said to have an amazing view. I'm so happy my host family was generous enough to let me come with them for five days. And in about two weeks from now my luck continues when I board a plane for Barranquilla. Barranquilla is on the coast, so I will be spending Halloween on the beach this year. That's a first. All the exchange students from this district and five more from two other districts that we have had the pleasure of meeting once before will arrive on the same day and stay in the beautiful beach house of Colombia's youth exchange chair women. So much to look forward to and the time is already running through my fingers, I can feel it.
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
|On the way to school|
a.m. and we have a twenty minute break every hour and a half-ish. At around twelve we all go home and eat lunch; then at two its back to school until five. It's a long day. Its interesting because the students stay in the same classroom all day and the teachers walk from class to class. They have eleven grades instead of twelve. I am in tenth grade. My host sister is in eleventh grade and she just had to take a test. This past week all she did was study. Seriously every time I saw her thats what she was doing. She wants to study at a university in Bogota and this test will decide if she gets in or not. I'm sure she was very stressed about that and the fact that the day after the test she left for the United States for a year! I will miss her, I'm back to being an only child again. My whole host family is wonderful, I couldn't have asked for a better place to be. They are understanding of my bad spanish and help as much as they can. I've been to a few Rotary events already since I have been here. The first one was a welcome to me after a few days after I arrived and it was so sweet really. I got flowers and apple pie.The picture is with me and my three host fathers, all in Rotary. At the second Rotary meeting Milena (the exchange student from Switzerland)and I met our counselor, Carlota. She is so sweet. She invited us to her house the following saturday and we ate a great meal and she showed us around the city a little bit. The last Rotary event I went to was in Ureña, Venezuela. It was less formal, we went to a fútbol game. And you might assume that because it was a third and fourth grade game there wouldn't have been a huge gathering of fans with noise makers and drums and people with their shirts off and stomachs painted for their team.But you would be wrong. All of those things occurred.The picture doesn't do it justice. After the game was over we got invited to go out to eat with the Rotary club there. The meal was probably the best I've had since I've been here which is a very bold statement. We went to a little restaurant on a side street and I was a little surprised that it could fit all 30+ people that had come to eat with us. The other exchange students are awesome. I have met four from Rotary (I still haven't met the two girls from france) and I met some others from another program (ASF). In September there are a few days when all the exchange students from this district will come to Cúcuta. Even more exchange students woo! Random fact: being an exchange student is exhausting. If I don't take a nap during the day I find myself falling asleep at eight o'clock. I think its because my brain is always translating everything and taking in my new surroundings, I don't know. Its been a crazy two weeks and I'm sure the rest of the time I'm here will continue to be surprising and spectacular.
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Where to begin. It has been a long day (two days?). I left my house for a year yesterday and got on a plane that would eventually take me to where I am sitting right now. Colombia. Thanks to my parents, the Northfield Rotary club and many others who have helped along the way, I will be an exchange student here for ten months. If you know me you know I'm kind of a procrastinator. Which would make sense when I say I didn't start packing until the night before I left. But I got most of what I needed for a year into two suitcases (and
two very large carry ons). My flights went well, it just took a while to get here. But here I am now sitting outside in the sunshine looking forward to an amazing year. When I arrived I was greeted by my host family and some members of the Rotary club here. Everyone was very welcoming and most importantly helped me with my bags, my arms are a little sore. After that they took me to their club (it has tennis golf swimming pools and a gym. And probably more that I couldn't understand) and I had a delicious breakfast(?). Steak and french fries. And the steak came with an avocado dip that made it taste even better. I think I will have no problem liking the food here. Surprising tidbit. I had coffee afterwords and actually liked it. After traveling for a day, the food (and coffee)hit the spot. Then we went back to my new home, which is gorgeous. I get my own room with two beds to choose from. They have a pool which I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of my time. They have two (three?) cats. I think I just saw another one I have never seen before. I could get used to life here. My host mom also told me that in October we would be going to Bogota for a week. Score. Things are going great so far and I can't wait to meet all the other exchange students and see what else this year has in store.