German Experience at Colegio Americano Cali, Colombia
I thought it might be important to update everyone that I have had a name change. My name is now "Profe". At the school the students call all of the teachers Profe. And if the students are not calling the teacher by Profe then they are calling out the teacher by their first name. Imagine if we walked into a school in the states and all the students were calling the teachers by their first name! It was shocking for me the first few times I heard it. As I walk around the school I hear constant exclamations of Profe. I have been teaching my students to call me Ms. Thomas, since we are in English class after all. Also, Ms. Thomas is much easier for them to say than my first name. Just like they struggle with my name I am constantly struggling with their names. Most of the students are greatly entertained when I begin to struggle with the names during roll call. Sometimes the students do not even know what name I am saying because I have said the name so incorrectly. That is just another example of one of the daily struggles I face in the classroom. But, among my struggles are also daily achievements. When I give the students directions there will always be one student that will turn to the class with excitement and say "I understand! I've got it!" and then begin to translate to the class what I have said. I count those moments as a daily achievement. Not for me, but for the students.
In one of my classes I have come across the three musketeers. They are a set of three third grade boys who all got lucky enough to be put in the same class. They are constantly finding themselves out of their seats, crawling around the floor, and jumping up at every opportunity to be a volunteer for any activity. These three boys always keep me laughing. Because they are so outgoing they have begun to pick up on quite a bit of English. No matter what the activity is they are always willing to volunteer and have a chance to get in front of the class and speak English. I caught onto their names quickly because I was having to call them out so much. The boys can always be found together, usually with dirt stains on their white shirts from rolling around on the ground.
I have finally learned to take the Mio, the public bus transportation, on my own. Every morning I leave the house with the sunrise at six so I can get on the Mio and go to school. As I walk down the streets I have gotten very used to getting many stares. It is not common to see a blonde, pale person walking around. For a while I did not understand the fascination everyone was having with an American in Colombia. But, then one day I got off the Mio and standing in front of me were three Americans. I was so shocked to see them that I couldn't stop staring at them. And then I understood the reason for all the stares. It is not very often that you see a gringo, white person, walking around. So, when you see one it is hard not to stare. And even if I do not fit in on the streets I am feeling more at home everyday.
I will also be thinking of all my fellow friends in the states as the weather begins the process of becoming colder. I am so excited to be bypassing winter this year.
Desiree Thomas aka Profe
Fútbol, Quince, and Campamento
I'm sitting in a nail salon getting my nails painted for a Quinceanera. The nail salon is packed and I'm trying my best to hold a Spanish conversation with the lady painting my nails. Every now and then she will stop painting and look up at the television in the salon. All of us in the salon are on the edge of our seats as we watch the Colombia vs Chile soccer match. This game could qualify Colombia for the world cup, so it was kind of a big deal. And for those of you who aren't aware, soccer is one of the most important things in Colombia. The nail salon was filled with cheering and high fives as we all watched Colombia tie up the game, qualifying them for the world cup. I'm not sure I ever expected a nail painting experience like that. After the nail salon I got in a taxi and watched road as people cheered from their cars about the big win and swung Colombian flags out their window.
This past week I moved in with a Colombian family. They are a wonderful family of four, now five with me. And I believe I am now getting the complete experience. On the second day with the family we made our way to their cousins Quinceañera, a girls fifteenth birthday. The party was to start at 7pm, but we got to the house at 9am to help with pictures and setting up. It was a big day of balloons, steamers, cake, food, music, and most importantly salsa. It was a great time for me to get to know the family. All of the family. After a long day of working and playing we packed up our stuff at 12 and headed home to our beds.
Just two days before all these events I was with the second and third graders from the Colegio at a camp. When we got to the camp the kids were separated into their cabins they would "sleeping" in for a night. The day activity included worship, swimming, bible study, and lots of food. Since I have come to Colombia I have been in shock about the amount of food one Colombian can consume. Well, during my time at the camp I said goodbye to my American appetite and began to eat like a true Colombian. And the appetite continues. The night at the camp ended with a Hawaiian themed night. All the students and teachers dressed in white and wore a necklace of flowers. Once the students were all dressed they joined together to take pictures and enjoy each others company. The students had a great time at the camp, and by the end we were all exhausted. A few of the most memorable moments at the camp were being thrown into the pool, waking up to a group of students staring at me, and being called to the front to dance for the kids during worship.
I am having a wonderful time and I am looking forward to seeing my family in December!
Lots of love,
Days ago I was standing in the Birmingham airport preparing to fly off to Cali, Colombia. I was feeling anxious, nervous, excited, scared, and so many more emotions about these upcoming months. With these emotions firmly intact, I said my goodbyes and began my journey. Once I arrived in Cali I was immediately embraced by the friendly culture. My first obstacle was to make it out of the Cali airport with very very limited Spanish. As I stepped off of the plane a fellow Colombian lady stood next to me and in fluent English said, "Just stick with me and I will help you get through this airport." This was just the beginning of all the help I would receive in Colombia. Once I stepped out of the airport I was picked up by the family I would be staying with for the next few weeks. This was the same family that took my parents in when they first arrived in Colombia to begin their mission adventure.
The next day I went to the Colegio Americano, the school I am working in during my time here. The following days were orientation, so I got to use that time to meet the teachers and learn more about the school. Those next few days helped to wipe away any anxiousness and nervousness I was feeling. Everyone was so friendly and immediately made me feel comfortable and accepted. The school is so beautiful. Who all can say they teach at a school where there are so many flowers they daily have to be swept off the sidewalk?! Along with the beautiful campus comes perfect weather. At least perfect weather to me. I can't say my fellow teachers are as thrilled with the Cali heat as I am, but I keep telling them to come experience some Alabama humidity sometime.
Surprisingly the biggest obstacle for me has been trying to keep up with their eating habits. Not because I don't like the food, but because there is so much food all the time. When it is snack time that means a lot more than a bag of chips or a piece of fruit. It means sandwiches, empanadas, rice.... things that seem like lunch to me. Then when lunch time rolls around it is really time to dine. Lunch consist of soup, meat, rice, salad, a side item, jello, and a fruity drink. Hopefully by the end of my stay in Colombia I will be able to eat like a proper Colombian.
I am so grateful for the experience I am having! Everyday I love being in Colombia more and more. Maybe by the end of the school year I will be able to do a blog in Spanish ; ) Thank you to everyone that has been praying for me and for all the help I was given in order to make this experience possible!
Sending my love!
P.S. I had my first Colombian roach encounter and it was just as terrifying as I expected it would be.
"No entiendo" has become one of my number one Spanish phrases. Not only for me, but also for my students.But that phrase does not keep us from communicating to each other. We just get more creative with how we speak. I like to think we are playing a continuous game of charades.
A few of my students have taken it upon themselves to teach me Spanish. During my breaks I like to spend my time sitting with the students and practicing the language. These little teachers even give me homework. And although my students and I do not always understand each other, it is what bonds us. Together we have an understanding of how difficult it can be to learn a different language. At the school I am one of the English teachers for second and third grade students. I spend forty-five minutes to an hour and a half with each class. Now, imagine teaching a class of students that don't understand a word you say. Something as simple as telling the students to write everything on the board can become a challenge. "Yes, write everything. No, it doesn't matter that I wrote it in black and you wrote it in red. Yes, you can use a pen. Yes, you can use a pencil. Yes, write on that page. No, do not write it in the back of your book. No, do not crawl under the table." In order to relay those messages my true Spanish and charades skills are put to the test.
Throughout the week, and on the weekends I have had the opportunity to go out and explore the city. And what a beautiful city it is. One of the favorite places I have been is San Antonio. It is a really old city where many people hang out. There is an area where people come to sit and look out at the city, buy food, trinkets, and listen to stories. I hope during my time here I will have the opportunity to go to San Antonio many times. Another one of the many experiences I have had was eating Cholado. Cholado is a dessert filled with fruits, ice cream, and shaved ice. For those of you who know me really well, you know I am not the biggest fan of fruits. But I honestly cannot tell you what half the fruits in my Cholado were. Some of the fruits I did not even know existed. I am so grateful to everyone here that has been so welcoming and helpful to me. And even though I often do not understand what is being said to me, I understand friendship, love, sincerity, generosity, and kindness. I understand a smile, a hug, a kiss, a wave. I understand the actions of those around me, and those mean more than their words every could.
Thanks for the prayers!