The Art in Colombia is as plentiful as it is diverse. There are festivals (where the masks and traditional dress are jaw-dropping), vibrant murals, sculptures and paintings by famous Colombian artists, such as Fernando Botero, and much more. Best of all, much of it is free and open to the public.
As I’m sure you’ve heard, the views in Colombia are beautiful! Living here, you encounter countless picturesque scenes by climbing to the peaks of mountains to simply taking a stroll through the neighborhoods.
3. New Family and Friends
Colombians are very warm and welcoming people. Shortly, after your arrival, you will be welcomed into their homes and into their families. Additionally, you will meet and befriend wonderful people from all over the globe who have also come to Colombia to teach. You all will share teaching techniques and you will have numerous options for travel buddies for the long weekends.
While going new places and meeting new people are wonderful, the most fulfilling part of being here in Colombia is building relationships with and teaching such wonderful students! Make no mistake, the work can be exhausting. However, every day, you will be greeted by smiling faces that scream your name on arrival and give you hugs and kisses (I hope you’re an affectionate person. There will be lots of hugs and kisses.) It is so awesome seeing new concepts finally click for students and hearing them gleefully thank you. Don’t miss that opportunity.
1. Personal Growth
Finally, the best part of teaching and working in Colombia is the opportunity to develop into a more well-rounded person. I believe that being displaced from what was familiar to me in a place with a different language has really helped me grow as an individual. I’ve learned how to be more independent and dependent simultaneously. Colombians are very friendly and family oriented. They love helping and caring for one another and visitors. Therefore, help is never a far cry away. However, there will be instances where you will be on your own, a little lost and maybe having trouble understanding the language. You will survive, you will find your way and the next time will be a breeze and you will be proud of how far you’ve come.
Author: Ivory Smith
Coming to Colombia to teach was definitely not one of my ordinary decisions of what type of outfit I was going to wear or what colour I am going to dye my hair. I would have never made the choice of coming to Colombia if I was not feeling impulsive about my next step in life. None the less I made the best irrational decision and was on the first flight to Bogota.
Bogota was a Big city with palm trees. People were everywhere, cars were bumper to bumper. The vendors selling arepas, I found my new snack but unfortunately, after eating them for two weeks I got sick of it. After being in Bogota for training I was on my next plane to Cartagena.
WOW! The heat was so intense that I couldn't even breath when I took my first step out of the airplane. Shortly after, we walked out of the airport. This was suggested by an amazing guy who then became a very close amigo of mine. He is from Cartagena so I trusted that he knew what he was talking about. He said that cabs would be cheaper to catch going into the city if we walked out of the airport. Now, this would be true if we had practiced negotiating prices or waited for him to negotiate for us. I quickly realized gringo/ gringa tax is a real thing. My little to no Spanish didn't help in negotiating. The stress was high but we took the cab and he drove us to our hostal. Driving into the walled city was so breathtaking that I instantly felt stress-free.
Cartagena quickly became very special to me for many reasons.I moved into a house with a family in Nuevo Bosque. The place was filled with children playing football and adults playing dominos at night. They taught me so much about the culture and food in Cartagena. From how to make empanadas to safety precautions including how to hold my purse. I was grateful for all of them.
In the process of all of this, I discovered why I came to Colombia. My main focuses were the students and traveling on the long weekend. My amazing mentor (Co-teacher) and incredible students made it easier to further concentrate on my focuses.
(This is some of the amazing grade 9 students and my mentor that has been unbelievably helpful.)
I am truly lucky to be apart of the students English learning journey. Their inquisitiveness amazed me, they asked me all types of questions without any shame. I have learned a lot from them. I get asked a lot by Colombians and other fellows where my favorite place that I have traveled to is...... here is some evidence of those places.
(Medellín Comuna 13)
Some other places are Bucaramanga and Santa Marta. Without any hesitation my answer was Cartagena. It had t heart. This was my honest truth. It's not that I do not have bad days or culture shock, it's not that they have amazing beaches here or great nightlife. It is the support team I have made. The connections with my students, Co-teachers, principal and school coordinators. The people I met in the conjunto I lived at, and the people I continue to meet here. Colombia is without a doubt one of the most beautiful countries I have explored and I'm grateful for this experience.
Soon after starting school again with my students in February, my student English Club and I discussed event ideas. Last year my students wanted to do a talent show, but we didn’t have enough time. As I knew that my students are incredibly creative and love costumes, I suggested the idea of a “trashion fashion” show combined with a talent show. “Trashion fashion” is fashion created from only recyclable materials. My students loved the idea. We planned the Trashion Fashion Talent Show for the end of May. I coordinated this event with my mentor and the art teacher. The art teacher and I decided for this to be a combined art and English project for grades 8 to 11. Students in those grades would design “trashion fashion” costumes as a group project for a grade.
Suddenly a week before our event, the month-long teacher protest started. My mentor told me we could choose a new date for the event when school resumes. As time passed, my teachers realized that school was not going to resume in June. So around mid-June, I asked my mentor and principal if we could still hold the event. My principal and mentor were incredibly supportive and said “yes.” I am truly thankful for their support.
My mentor explained that there is not a good way to communicate with all students of the school. She also said that some people were traveling since they knew Colombian teachers were in “paro” (protest) for a long time. I was already Facebook friends with my principal, most teachers, and a few students (including my student leader Melanie, who is active in English Club and knew many students). I created a closed Facebook group for my school and added all the staff, teachers and students that I knew. In the Facebook group, I designated my English Club student leaders as group moderators so that they could add fellow students into the group. We had almost 200 students added to the group when I posted information about the Trashion Fashion Talent Show.
On the day of the event, about half of the teachers came and about 100 students showed up. As this took place at a time when Colombian teachers were in protest and they take the protest very seriously, I feel that the event was successful. It meant so much that many teachers came to support the event, despite the protest.
My English Club and I had decorated the English Zone board and created a music playlist a week before the event. Days before the event, the strong winds and rain storms had destroyed our board. But we did not let that upset us. On the morning of the event, the sound laptop was not playing the music playlist on my USB (which has not happened in the past). But my resourceful students had enough wifi connection to use songs on youtube and spontaneously DJ the music for the Trashion Fashion Show. We planned to do the Trashion Fashion Show first, followed by the Talent Show. Since many students could not show up, no students were prepared for the talent show part. Many students had been practicing songs and group dances for the talent show at home, but they were not at the event.
I told the English Club that after school resumes, they should choose a date to do the Trashion Fashion Talent Show in full. I hope that they do.
So we did only the Trashion Fashion Show and it was amazing! Students had put much thought and work into their recycled costumes. The teachers and I were incredibly proud of our students. Hopefully, the hard work of these students will inspire all the students at my school. My students are special and I will miss them so much. Without a doubt my year in Colombia will be one of the most memorable years of my life.
Below are photos of the students’ Trashion Fashion costumes:
Author: Elsie Samson
As my time in Medellin comes to a close, I would like to pay respect to all the things I have be enamored by in this city. So here we have it, seven things I will miss most about Medellin.
1. My local tienda- Shoutout to my family at Juanjo Puntico in la Loma de los Bernal. There is something so special about Colombia and the relationship you build with the people you interact with daily. There’s an Exito across the street, but why go there when you can support a small, family-run business that greets you with a friendly smile and treats you as if you’ve been a part of the neighborhood for years? They know I only like to drink Coca-Cola from a glass bottle. They give me recipes and are always anxious to know how they turn out. When I don’t stop by for a day or two, they wonder what I’ve been doing.
2. My students- These kids have been really special in my life. Our relationship has extended beyond the classroom. I’ll miss them telling me about their love lives, their dreams, their opinions and views of the world. I’ll miss them teaching me parlache and making fun of when I act out words in English. I’ll miss them walking me home, or seeing them on the street when they all say in unison “ANNA!, HEY TEACHER”. I’ll miss their incredibly invasive questions about my love life and what I think about Colombian men. I’ll miss how they always break out in song and dance or make jokes all across the room. They are animated and full of life. So, let’s pour one out for the homies.
3. The Paisa Accent- But for real, do I even need to explain this one? It’s cantando, playful, expressive and colorful.
4. All the green! Parque Arvi, the Botanical Garden, Cuidad de Rio- Surrounded by mountains, the city is filled with green spaces. There are so many places that are easily accessible to have a picnic, write in your journal, watch the slackliners, or escape the sounds of the city all within the city limits.
5. Frijoles- I’ve traveled all over South America and nothing compares to the beans here in Medellin. I would not complain if I ate calentado every day for breakfast for the rest of my life. Also, being a vegetarian, you latch onto the few things you can find that fit in your dietary restrictions. Who knows, maybe they are made with meat and that’s why they are so good. I told my friends at my local tienda about my love for the frijoles here, they gave me instructions to reproduce them at home. The results? Not the same. Los paisas make their frijoles magical.
6. The nightlife- The nightlife gets a spot on the list because coming from a 9-month salsa heavy stint in Cali, Medellin is much more my style. There is variety. There is an underground scene. You can find parties with the sounds of soul, funk, hip hop, reggae, dancehall, and electronic music, plus all the more traditional Colombian scenes- reggaeton, salsa, bachata and vallenato.
7. The cultural scene- You can find a variety of workshops, live music, free showings of movies, talks at the Universities. There are tons of Casa Cuturales and meet-ups of people that share your interests.
Although Medellin has so much more to offer than just this list, these are the things I’ve loved about the city. Without a doubt, I will be back.
Author: Anna Trautman
Getting to Tayrona from Barranquilla is very easy:
Take a local bus to the Brasilia SA office on the corner of Calle 19 and Carrera 6a ($2,000 COP).
Ask for a ticket to Tayrona ($15,000 COP). The bus takes around 2.5 hours. You have to look out for the entrance to the park and ask the bus driver to stop as it is en route, but not an official stopping place. Look out for a large hut with a straw roof about half an hour past Santa Marta.
With a cedula, entrance to the park costs $20,000 COP, which is much cheaper than the price for other foreigners traveling with a passport. There is a two-mile road to where the hike begins proper – but you can (and should) skip this, and take a small bus for $3000 COP.
You can camp close to two of the main beaches – Arrecifes or Cabo San Juan. Hammocks are $25,000 COP for the night, and tents are $30,000 COP. It’s not possible to book in advance and the hammocks make for a more comfortable night’s sleep but are usually the first to go, so make sure you arrive early. There is also the option of riding a horse if you’re feeling lazy!
Walking to Cabo San Juan takes two hours without any breaks, but can take around four hours if you stop at the beaches along the way and have a bite to eat. There are lots of animals to look out for too – we saw lizards, birds of prey, blue coconut crabs, monkeys, and marmosets. The marmosets were very interested in us, and followed us through the trees, occasionally throwing things at us! Depending on the time of year there can also be lots of colorful butterflies. The environment varies a lot too – at times you are walking along pristine beaches with crashing waves, tropical forests, or mangrove-like areas (albeit without any swamps). There are some steep climbs through the wooded areas, but you’re rewarded with fantastic views of the coastline.
When you finally reach Cabo San Juan, sweating and tired, there is nothing left to do except relax on the beach with an ice cold beer ($5000 COP) and swim in the Carribean sea. There are lots of palm trees so it’s possible to find a shady spot too.
It’s highly recommended to stay the night - stargazing is excellent when the sky is clear as there is no light pollution, and there is nothing to do but relax and chat with the other visitors. There’s an on-site restaurant serving pretty reasonable food for around $20,000 COP, but it’s advisable to also bring plenty of snacks, and maybe your own dinner if you want to save some money. You should also bring sufficient water to avoid buying expensive, and small, bottles during your stay.
When it’s time to leave, you can walk back to the main gate and catch a bus back to Barranquilla from the side of the road, as they pass by very often. A trip to Tayrona is one of the most relaxing, beautiful and simple trips you can take in the coastal region. Including a meal, one night’s stay in a hammock, and a few beers, it should only cost around $120,000 COP (or $40 USD)!
Author: Thomas Fletcher
Hey there! My name is Craig Williams. I am an English Teacher Volunteer with the Ministry of Education. I am based here in Barranquilla. Barranquilla is the capital city of the department of Atlántico. It’s the 4th biggest city behind Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali. The average temperature here is 25°C-35°C.
I wrote this blog post to share some insights about my time here in Colombia. To be more specific I’m going to recommend a few interesting places I think you'd like to visit it you have the time. Colombia is a very diverse country and with that being said there a lot to do and see. There’s a little bit of everything to do here.
San Gil, Santander. Is a town municipality in the Department of Santander in north-eastern Colombia, located roughly 300 km (192 mi) from Bogotá and 95 km from the department's capital, Bucaramanga. There is a lot to do here. The location of this small town makes it an attractive place to get your adrenaline rush. There's a lot of extreme sports that you can do here. There’s rafting, bungee, jumping, paragliding, zip, lining and so much more.
Parque Tayrona, Santa Marta. Tayrona National Park is a protected site that covers the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain in Santa Marta. It’s known for it's coastal lagoons, and coves. When at Parque Tayrona you can go hiking, check out the indigenous settlements there to be informed about the culture and history of the lost city.
Guatape, Medellín Colombia. This is a small coastal town in Eastern Antioquia. It’s roughly about 2 hours from Medellín. This is a must visit on your travel itinerary around Colombia. The view from the huge rock ‘El Peñól’ is simply breathtaking and magical. This huge rock takes 740 steps to get to the top of it. But it’s really worth it.
Tolú, Sucre. This is a small municipality located in the department of Sucre. It’s on the North coast of Colombia. Tolú is known for it's beaches and shallow waters. This town is just hours away from the capital city Sincelejo. And it’s also hours away from Cartagena a famous coastal city.
I hope you find the beauty that lies within this country and that you will be motivated to want to explore it’s depths.
- Author: Craig Williams