Living and dining roomSo far in my CourseTalk blogs about teaching in Colombia, I’ve spoken at length about my classes and the educational system, but I’ve left out some of the most scintillating details — those about my daily life! Let’s rectify that.

Moving from Silicon Valley to Colombia has been a bit like replacing your Rembrandt painting with a Picasso — you end up with something less organized, maybe even a little chaotic, but all the more enchanting for its relaxed charm. I’ve had to get used to things like traffic rules being ignored, restaurants offering half the items on their menu, and bathrooms often lacking toilet paper, but I have gained so much more!

First, the people are unbelievably kind; everyone from a taxi driver to a bank teller has given me their phone number in case I need anything. And they are never in a rush. They value rest and relaxation far more than most Americans. For example, I live with a 73-year-old Colombian woman who exclaims, “Why are you up? Go back to bed!” even if I emerge from my room at 11 a.m. Also, Colombians are much less concerned with rules and guidelines. I can wear anything to work, and no one thinks it’s strange to eat ice cream multiple times a day. Are you starting to see why I love it?

As for daily life: I live in a large, long and dark apartment in the heart of Pereira, the unofficial capital of Colombia’s coffee region. My roommates are the wonderful woman I mentioned and her 30-something niece, who have filled the place with ornate furniture and brass knickknacks during their years there. We leave the windows open at all times, and our kitchen even has a large roofless section to let the typically-gorgeous weather in. Walk out of our building and you’ll find yourself on a busy, narrow block with restaurants, florists and more. From my doorstep you can see the corner of El Lago, a beautiful plaza with fountains and trellises covered in flowers.

I spend my weekdays teaching and preparing for classes, but I usually find time for a couple of lunches or dinners or dance classes with friends. I have a close group of teacher friends; you bond quickly when you’re some of the few foreigners in a city of 600,000! But I’m also getting to know a good number of locals, too. They’re always inviting me to their homes or favorite restaurants! Weekends, of course, are for exploring Colombia. I use two-day weekends to go on short hikes or visit nearby towns, and on holiday weekends I venture to places further afield, such as Medellin. My sight-seeing highlights thus far include: a waterfall in Salento, hot springs in Santa Rosa, a soccer game in Manizales and a theme park featuring farm animal performances in Quimbaya. Quite the variety!

I’m already starting to think about returning home for the holidays in December, and I can’t wait to eat American food and spend time with my family. But I’m planning to teach in Colombia again next semester, so it won’t be long before I’m back to rice and beans and my family of gringo teachers! It’s nice to feel at home on two continents.

Next time I’ll write about the details of my life at school! Stay tuned!