Ibarra: a finca, monster trucks and ice cream helmets

My home for a week in Ibarra was “La Finca Sommerwind”, a camping and cabins set up next to the Laguna de Yahuarcocha a couple of miles outside town. It is beautiful and largely peaceful, except for when there are motorbikes racing around the racetrack that is directly opposite. 

View of the lake and Finca Sommerkind on the left
View of Lake Yahuarcocha, with Finca Sommerkind on the left and the racetrack in between

Still, this was really only for a few hours at the weekend. During the week the busiest it gets is with people walking, jogging and cycling around it. Also, the view from the cabin of the volcanoes across the lake more than made up for this slight annoyance. Continue reading Ibarra: a finca, monster trucks and ice cream helmets

Adios Colombia, Hola Ecuador

I officially finished work on 25th November and my visa ran out on 30th November. This did not give me an enormous amount of time to leave the country, especially as I was going by bus rather than flying out.

There were long distance buses available but these involved travelling overnight, which I am not a fan of and are also more risky in Colombia as they can be held up and robbed, and so I chose to stretch the journey from Palmira to Ibarra over three days.

Day One – Palmira to Popayan

On Sunday morning I was picked up by Libia Estella and her husband Raul. Libia Estella teaches at the school I was placed at, Institucion Educativa del Valle, and she had been especially welcoming, having me round to lunch soon after I started.

Farewell to Palmira
Farewell to Palmira

The couple drove me from Palmira to the bus terminal in Cali. Not only did they refuse to accept any money to cover petrol or the toll on the road, but they also gave me a little packed lunch for my journey. Continue reading Adios Colombia, Hola Ecuador

Palmira, hasta luego

Tomorrow is my last full day in Palmira

I’m writing this after leaving school for the last time and going for lunch with my co-teachers. So, this post might get a bit sentimental.

Teachers from Politecnico at Karen's Pizza in Las Mercedes, Plamira
Aydee, Livia Estella, me, Adela, Alvaro, Gladys, Patricia and Francia at Karen’s Pizza in Las Mercedes, Plamira

Altogether I’ve been here for ten months. I’ve settled in so much that it is going to be an awful wrench when I go. I’ve had a wonderful time here and have made some lifelong friends. I am truly grateful to the power of the Internet that will make it easier for me to stay in touch with them. Continue reading Palmira, hasta luego

Meet the teachers – Alvaro

Since coming to Colombia I have been working on the government’s Colombia Bilingüe project. I have been a co-teacher at Institucion Educativa del Valle (also known as Politecnico) in Palmira, which is in the Valle del Cauca department, about 20 km from Cali.

The system we work to is one where we always work alongside a Colombian co-teacher in the classroom. Our role is to be native speakers in the classroom, assist our co-teachers and help to develop lessons, especially ones that encourage the students to speak.

So, who are these teachers that I have been working with I hear you ask? Well, meet Alvaro

Alvaro

Alvaro during a lesson on healthy eating
Alvaro during a lesson on healthy eating

Continue reading Meet the teachers – Alvaro

Colombian Holidays – San Andres

“We must go to San Andres!”

This declaration, and variations of it, are my first abiding memory of Martha, who is mine and Max’s mentor here in Palmira. This sentiment was amplified by many of our fellow teachers in school who all enthused about us needing to go there.

And so we scrimped and we saved our co-teachers’ salaries so that we could take a five day trip to Colombia’s tropical island paradise in the Caribbean.

Photo showing the many colours of the sea in San Andres
The many colours of the sea in San Andres

San Andres

San Andres is a coral island that (whisper it) lies off the coast of Nicaragua. However, it has historically been a part of Colombia and, despite the best efforts of the Nicaraguan authorities, Colombia isn’t about to give it up any time soon if they can help it. Continue reading Colombian Holidays – San Andres

Colombian Holidays – Cartagena

Alvaro, one of my co-teachers at school, and me visited Cartagena for a short city break in the July holidays. We stopped in a beautiful colonial style hotel, with white walls, an interior patio and hot and cold running WiFi.

Each morning we sat on the roof terrace and looked out at the castle while having our breakfast. This was usually in the glare of the morning sun, but still early enough for the temperature to be bearable.

Alvaro having breakfast on the rooftop terrace
Alvaro having breakfast on the rooftop terrace

Continue reading Colombian Holidays – Cartagena

Colombian Weekends – Paradise and Pance

The city I am living in, Palmira, is in the South West of Colombia in a department called Valle Del Cauca. The valley stretches from El Eje Cafetero (The Coffee Region) at its North Eastern point down and across to the Pacific Ocean coast in the West.

Where I am the valley floor is a wide plain about 1000 metres above sea level, making it cooler and more tolerable than it is at sea level. This means average days in the high 80s to low 90s. Down by the coast it gets warmer and much more humid.

Palmira itself is resolutely not a tourist destination, but we have been blessed by living close to some pretty cool places to visit for the weekends.

Standing on the steps of Hacienda El Paraiso with Max, Martha and Maritza
Standing on the steps of Hacienda El Paraiso with Max, Martha and Maritza

Paradise Continue reading Colombian Weekends – Paradise and Pance

Colombia Votes On Peace Deal

On Sunday 2nd October Colombia has a plebiscite to decide whether to accept the peace deal that was signed on Wednesday this week between the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).

If the country votes Si then FARC’s guerillas will continue the process of disarming that began last weekend, following a unilateral ceasefire that has largely held for the past year. The FARC have been at war with the Colombian state since 1964.

This means that the majority of the friends I have made here in Colombia have never known their country at peace.

Woman waves Si flag in Parque Bolivar, Palmira
Some people are very open about their voting intentions

For the past four years the government has negotiated with the FARC in Habana, Cuba. For most of that time the talks were held in secret. What has emerged is a detailed agreement, with the?headline being that the FARC will disarm in exchange for their legitimisation as a political entity. Continue reading Colombia Votes On Peace Deal

Colombian Holidays – Leticia – Welcome To The Jungle

Back in June and July we had a three week school holiday and so myself, Karen and Jenny decided to take a trip?to the Amazon.

We flew out of Cali late at night and headed for Leticia. When we got there it was “too wet to land” and so we headed for Bogota. After a couple of hours camped out in Bogota Airport in the middle of the night we set back out for Leticia, this time discovering that it was now just wet enough for touch down.

Part of the port area in Leticia, photo by Gunay and Cengiz Alparer, https://www.travelblog.org/Photos/6017199
Part of the port area in Leticia, photo by Gunay and Cengiz Alparer, https://www.travelblog.org/Photos/6017199

We sloshed our way onto the bus and headed through town for the port area which sits on a backwater of the Amazon. From here we caught one of the lodge’s boats down the river. As we left Leticia we left the backwater and joined the main river at a point where it is possible to see both Brazil and Peru across the water. Continue reading Colombian Holidays – Leticia – Welcome To The Jungle

Interview With a Fellow – Jenny Deseres

Jenny is one of five fellows who is working alongside Colombian teachers here in Palmira from February to November 2016. The two of us share a house with Maxandra, from Jamaica and Karen, who is from the States.

Who are you and where are you from?

I’m Jenny and I’m originally from Michigan in the United States, but I have lived all over the United States and have also lived abroad.

Jenny with Tim, her fellow co-teacher at Cardenas Mirri?ao, Palmira
Jenny with Tim, her fellow co-teacher at Cardenas Mirri?ao, Palmira

Why did you decide to volunteer on the Heart For Change/Volunteers For Colombia co-teaching programme? Continue reading Interview With a Fellow – Jenny Deseres