Well, I made it to Colombia! In case you didn’t know, I will be teaching English here for the next six months.
My flights yesterday from Raleigh, with layovers in Boston and New York, were fairly uneventful, other than the cute little mouse that scampered around me at JFK. I sat between two elderly Colombian ladies on the flight from New York to Bogota, and though they only spoke Spanish, which I have yet to learn, they frequently talked to me and were clearly excited for me to experience their amazing country.
After landing at El Dorado airport in Bogota at 5:30 this morning (no time change!), I was transported with fellow teachers to the hotel where our program will be holding orientation for the next two weeks. So all I have seen so far of Bogota is what we passed during our drive, which was mostly rundown buildings, a random amusement park, someone who had apparently passed out on the sidewalk with his legs completely sticking out onto the busy road, and the most bikers I’ve ever seen.
Our hotel is about 40 minutes away from Bogota, just outside a town called Cajica. It is surrounded by mountains, farms, and a gas station and is basically in the middle of nowhere. The area is beautiful, though I’m a little bummed that we won’t be able to conveniently explore Bogota during our stay. While the weather in Bogota was fairly warm, Cajica must be at a higher altitude because it is significantly colder here. It did warm up during the day, and of course I wore shorts and sandals, but now it is about 40 degrees outside and even colder inside because despite this being a four-star hotel, it doesn’t have heating. We have been told not to drink the tap water, though whether this is because it’s unsafe or because it might take some time for our bodies to become acclimated is unclear. The hotel’s gym is outdoors, and while I suppose the equipment, which mostly uses one’s own body weight for resistance, could be effective, after testing it out, I consider it more like a playground for adults.
Lunch and dinner were mediocre spaghetti and burgers; the hotel is probably trying to cater to the 150 foreign teachers who are taking up the majority of its rooms. But I have been loving the various drinks I’ve had so far. Of course, coffee is always available. At lunch, we had tamarillo (also known as tree tomato) juice, which tasted like mangos and guavas or that sort of fruit. The hotel also has agua de panela, which is tea made with sugar cane pulp. Obviously, I’m obsessed with it.
Today, I mostly met and socialized with the other teachers as they trickled in from about 40 different countries. My hotel roommate is English and has already visited Pereira, the city where I’ve been placed to teach, while traveling this week. She had great things to say about the area, Colombia’s main coffee-growing region, making me even more excited to go.
At one point in the day, a few of us tried to explore the area around the hotel, but the roads towards the mountains are blocked off, so it doesn’t look like there is much to see around the hotel until the next town over. We at least got to see many scrappy dogs and also what we decided was cowhide being stretched and dried out. Naturally, the comparisons between Colombia and Georgia have been nonstop in my mind!
Tomorrow, we begin our long days of teacher training, culture classes, and paperwork. Though I’ve only been here for 18 hours, between the friendly people and the country’s natural beauty, I’m sure I will love living in Colombia.