A Travellerspoint blog

Oh Happy Days

True happiness does exist...

This past weekend I went with my 2 best Colombian buddies and partners in crime (Ximena and Adriana) to Minca.

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Ximena

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Adriana and me

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If you remember, Minca is a small mountain village about 40 minutes from Santa Marta. We arrived on Saturday morning and organized moto-taxis to take us to this one village school, high in La Sierra Nevada ( I think about 1000m). Ximena and Adriana have a personal interest in it to see what can be done to improve the quality of the school for the kids. The ride up on the back of a motorbike was exhausting! I think walking up could’ve been easier. The path is rocky, muddy and for one hour I had to brace myself from slamming into the driver or falling off the back! Often I could feel the bike slip a bit too much and I could easily imagine myself covered in mud, with a bike on top of me… The view of Santa Marta from the school and the bay was beautiful! Going back down wasn’t any easier…

The school

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We found a place with spare hammocks for the three of us and went to find food! We had a great lunch and finished it off with a coffee and the best brownie in all of Minca and Santa Marta. We then chilled by the river below the restaurant.

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Later in the afternoon some other friends joined us and we hung out at the hostel we were staying at. It gets a bit chilly at night and I was so cozy in my hammock. I miss snuggling! In Santa Marta I just snuggle with sweat and mosquitoes…

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I slept pretty well and woke up early in the morning with a magnificent view of Santa Marta below with the sky a beautiful pink and purple which coloured the mountains the same. Ximena and Adriana are like me and don’t like to waste a beautiful day sleeping, so we took an early walk to Pozo Azul (Blue pond) which is about a 45 minutes’ walk up. It was basically empty of the Sunday morning crowds and we had the place to ourselves. What a perfect way to spend a sunny Sunday morning: in great company, eating a juicy and messy papaya, beautiful noisy cascades behind us, surrounded by hundreds of year old trees and a clear blue sky above…

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We got super hungry after a while and returned to the village in search of food. (It seems we are always looking for food, no? :)) We found “Fresh Baking” and thought what could be better? Apart from the eggs and freshly made bread, we indulged in fresh lemon muffins and this choco-café-cream-mousse tart….hmmmm! When you go to Minca- you EAT!! But it’s totally ok, because all you do in Minca is walk up and down hills; so it’s all about keeping your sugar levels balanced, no?….

Teaching is going well. Last week was a pretty hectic week; the kids were just terrible and by Friday my throat was hoarse from shouting at them (I do get a small power trip when I shout and they all stop what they are doing and look a bit worried, hahaha!) I’ve been told that my normal speaking voice has gotten louder… By the end of the year I won’t need a cellphone, or least the avocado man who zooms past my house will be able to hear me shouting at him from my balcony to wait a minute please because I want to buy some avo’s.

On Friday I went out for supper with some good friends (isn’t it just lovely to be in the company of great, humourous people?) and my state of mind was just incredible: I was so extraordinarily happy and these days I think I am experiencing what “pure joy”, “pure delight in life” o algo asi. It’s amazing: to feel so happy I want to explode so everyone can feel what I’m feeling. This is what it must feel like when you know 100% that where you are is exactly the place you have been searching for your whole life… :-)

Posted by piratejax 07:55 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Are you from here?

The question of the year

Are you from here? Are you from here? Are you from here? Are you from here?
This question has been playing in my mind for a few days; ever since a sweet Swiss girl asked me it. SI! A foreigner asked ME if I was from here: i.e. she thought I was Colombian! Hahahaha!! :-)

And it’s an interesting question actually because in a way, right now, I am from here. Santa Marta is my home; it’s where I work, where I eat and sleep, where I socialize and where I have a community of great friends and strangers. I even have a dog. Ok, it belongs to the building I live in, so she belongs to all of us. It’s nice to come home from work to a dog that is so excited to see me, and to take her for walks on the beach.

Teaching is going well. It got better as the week went by. I have learnt so much regarding classroom management and that 7 year olds cannot keep themselves busy and without something to do the whole school day; they run around crazy with me shouting like a fisherman at a fish market trying to make himself heard about the noise. (I didn’t lose my voice, so yah for that).

This past weekend was the SierraMar music festival; the first proper 2-day music festival in Santa Marta (with music that’s not Vallenato). WOW! The quality of Colombian music is absolutely superb! The bands were professional, the sound excellent and the crowd just amazing (what more would you expect from Colombians? (and foreigners for that matter)). Camping was available but I decided to just go to the festival and then go home and return the next day. Reasons being I don’t have a tent and secondly it’s the rainy season: tents+rain+mud=an unhappy camper, and no amount of rum or beers are able help solve the sorry-ass situation…

The festival took place about 20 minutes from Santa Marta at a natural reserve- what can be better than watching live music with mountains in the background, beautiful nature all around and the stars above?? On Saturday night the bands were alright (Sunday was better), with an after party DJ playing until 3am.

I know people in high places ;-p, so I was able to get a VIP pass for Sunday night. This meant I got free drinks during the night, a nice place to chill and proper toilets (not the portable ones the rest of the people had to use). The bands that played were fantastic (rock, reggae, ska, electro-cumbia). It’s incredible when a foreigner (such as me) can watch a band sing about Africa, (with African/South African sounding beats) but the band isn’t from Africa, they are Colombian with African heritage… My love for Colombia never ceases to keep growing. The DJ that played at the after party was sooo cool! I couldn’t stop dancing- the beats were a fusion of electronic, cumbia, salsa, reggae, reggaeton, tropical and African. And dancing to this music, with the cool morning breeze and the mountain and stars above me… can this be what heaven’s like? :-)

What’s also great is that I know people to say hello to. This might sound a bit odd, but in Joburg I don’t really know people when I go out (just whoever I’m with). I wasn’t part of the “in-crowd” or any crowd for that matter. But here, it’s different and I feel part of the “going-out-watching-live-music-community”. It’s a very small community and at any event, more or less, the same people are there. And it’s getting to the point where if someone isn’t there (at a party, event etc), I wonder where they are…

Here are some bands that impressed me, which if you are curious in knowing new music might interest you:
-Monsieur Perine (my new favourite band- they are so freaking amazing!!!!!!!)
- Bomba Estereo
- Voodoo Souljah
- Dr. Krapula
- Superlitio

That’s all for now. Chao!

Posted by piratejax 08:51 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

School is cool

Time to get serious

So, I am now a real grade one teacher; complete with smiley-face stickers and a wooden stick (just kidding!). The kids are actually kind of sweet (do I sense a love for children in myself?? Que paso conmigo? ;-p)… There are 2 boys that get up to mischief quite easily, but a loud warning and they fall back into line. Today we started teaching- earlier had 2 lessons that went well and I’m now free for the next 2.5 hours! Woohoo!!!! What’s great is that we have to hand in our planning a week before, so I will never have to “wing it” (like I did in South Korea, haha) or not be prepared for the lessons. I also plan everything with Maria (the other grade 1 teacher), so I’m never alone in planning and it’s much easier than I thought it would be. We have the freedom (within reason) to do what we want in class, as long as we fulfill the curriculum. So we choose the activities, the games etc. Right now I’m not feeling too creative, but I think in time I will come up with more exciting activities….If anyone has any good ideas, games etc- drop me a line, por favor!

Getting up at 5:30am hasn’t been that bad-it’s much cooler and the sky is really beautiful at this time. And I enjoy being included in the hustle and bustle of the early workers as I hold on tight to the motor-taxi as it zigzags through the traffic. But by 3pm I am completely buggered! In reality I really like having a job and a purpose/direction to wake up in the morning… but let’s see how I feel in a month shall we? Hahaha!

Last week I went with Mies and Josh to get our work visas. We first flew to Bogota and stayed the night in a hotel (all paid for by the school). I was fortunate enough to meet up with 2 friends (who I met while they were living in Santa Marta). I took full advantage of the fact that I was in a big city, and ordered that we go and eat Asian! I have been living in a hole in Santa Marta, and I had forgotten how amazing Thai food is! I had the most amazing spring rolls and noodle stir fry, and finished off the meal with a raw chocolate tart- absolute heaven!
I was in awe of the wide roads, cold air (I had forgotten how it felt to snuggle up in a blanket) and tall people. I will most definitely return to Bogota with an empty stomach and suitcase…

From Bogota we flew to Cucuta and crossed the border into San Antonio, Venezuela. We were met by some dude that works for the consulate in San Antonio who drove us through and made sure everything went smoothly. We had to wait at the embassy for a few hours, but eventually we got the visas. (We had a missing document (not our fault), but it’s Colombia and anything can be sorted out with a few phone calls…). Then we flew from Cucuta to Bogota and then onto Santa Marta. When the pilot announced that we would be landing in Santa Marta soon- I automatically said “I’m home”, and it felt good! :-). Next week I will go and apply for my “cedula”- foreigner’s Colombian ID. (Estoy casi Colombiana...)

A few people have told me recently I look much better than before; that my eyes are brighter. I think I was depressed for the past few months; with no direction and hope. But now that has all changed :-). I feel so lucky to be working and living in one of Colombia’s top holiday destinations. When I come home and see the beautiful, shimmering sea and blue skies (well this week it’s been black skies-the rainy season has begun), I can’t help but think of how fortunate I am to be in this situation, and I will do everything to keep it for as long as I can/want to. The headmistress of the school keeps telling me “please find yourself a Colombian boyfriend, get married and stay here and teach for a few years”… well, who knows what my future holds ;-P

Ok, I’m outta here….Peace and love from the Caribbean! Come visit! Please! :-)

Posted by piratejax 06:44 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Back to school….Play time is over

Good things happen to those who wait…. and those who have generous mothers to allow the waiting to occur in comfort.

So I have a job! :-) After searching and then waiting for almost 6 months, I finally got one at a bilingual school here in Santa Marta called Colegio Bilingue. It’s the most elite school in the region, so I have it good in terms of salary and benefits. I will be teaching grade 1: math’s (gulp!), English, science and social studies. I actually started last week, but it’s just been workshops, meetings, lesson planning, decorating classrooms, organizing materials etc. For the past week I have been in a semi- state of shock…. too much holiday has this effect on one. And especially because I need to be at school at 6:30am!!! Yesterday I pitched up at work in colourful casual attire, while everyone else was dressed in “uniform” (all staff needs to wear beige/khaki pants and any white shirt) to look smart to meet some of the parents. I missed the memo… whoops!

I’ll have an assistant (Heli) to help me in the classroom. Heli is from Santa Marta and in his spare time he is a professional singer of reggaeton/pop and a few of his songs have been on the radio. He is a really nice guy and I know I will enjoy working with him. There are some other foreign teachers- Katie from Canada, Trent from USA, Mies from Netherlands and Josh from UK.

School starts tomorrow, but it won’t be a hectic day, and I just need to play games with the kids for a few hours. And then after school I am going with Mies and Josh to Venezuela to get our work visas! :-) We have a one- night stopover in Bogota, so I doubt we will get much sleep there… It will be good timing since my tourist visa expires on Thursday!

What else can I tell you?....hmmm…. Last weekend was Santa Marta’s 347th birthday, (it is the oldest city in South America after all) so there were many things going on to celebrate- including some amazing live music! The grand finale was held on my beach, so I didn’t have to stumble very far… A group from the Pacific coast called Chocquib Town played- they are really professional and fun to watch and have a very distinctive African sound.

That’s all for now, sorry it took me so long to update my blog. I hope the next one doesn’t take as long.

Chao!

Posted by piratejax 09:58 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

La vida simplemente sigue mejorando

mayores y más sabios

So I am now at the age that when I was in my teens I told myself "I be will married and maybe pregnant"... How lovely (thank heavens!!!!!!!) that life doesnt turn out how you wanted it when you were younger!

Being right on the Caribbean, I had a huge choice of where to go to celebrate my day. I had never been to Palomino (a small fishing village 2 hours north east along the coast from Santa Marta), so this was going to be it. I hopped on the bus and off I was! The road follows the coastline, so the scenery goes from empty beaches, to small villages with people selling avos, bananas, papaya on the side of the street to the mountains of La Sierra Nevada.

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I stayed at a place called La Casa de Guadua, which is a new eco-hostal. My friend, Javier from Chile is helping Julian (the owner, Swiss) with his website for the place. There is no electricity, just solar panels. I slept in a hamaca overlooking paradise! Early in the morning I couldnt count how many birds I could hear: natures symphony. The finca is about 300m from the beach, along a small path surrounded with amazing calm and beauty.

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The beach itself stretches endlessly both ways- you have a choice of hundreds of miles of deserted beaches and rivers flowing from the magical Sierra Nevada. I am a born and bred beach snob (all South Africans are, who can blame us!?), so when I say this place has beautiful, perfecto beaches and sea: it seriously must be something! This is the first time I am completely satisfied and in awe with a beach, outside of SA! Yahhh for Colombia!!! :)

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I spent the afternoon chilling on the beach, reading and preparing myself to turn a year older. That night I stayed up until midnight so that my family could phone me. I spent some time lying on the beach gazing at the most amazing, clear sky I have seen here in the north. Since I dont recognise/know the northern sky, I felt a bit lost. No Southern cross to guide me!

On my birthday I was up early and on the beach. I walked about 20 minutes to the Palomino river and found the perfect spot.

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For some reason no one came or passed here for hours. So I had the Sierra Nevada and el Caribe all to myself. I drank some good old Colombian rum, listened to music-belting out songs as loud as I wanted and cooled off in the river. I did miss my family and friends, of course! But it was rather nice to have quiet time to self-reflect on my life, my birth, what I want etc. I did some good soul-searching and I made some really important discoveries.

Later on I met Geraldos, a guy I randomly met the day before. Him and this other chico were trying to get their sea kayak out. They must have struggled for about 40 minutes! But every time they hit a wave they toppled over. I offered to help, but it still didnt help them. Hahaha! Geraldos had told me he would take me out kayaking on my birthday. Wow!! I think I have found a new hobby! It was so fun, and actually not that difficult as long as you keep the kayak straight when you crash into a wave.

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Geraldos invited me to his home for a birthday dinner. He is a chef and is going to open a restaurant on the edge of Julians (the Swiss) property. Him and his wife have been living in Palomino for a month now. They are from Los Llanos, which is in the south east of Colombia. They just decided that they had had enough of living inland, so they moved here and are going to start a new beach-bum life. Geraldos cooked up some seafood paella and prawns (sorry Greenpeace, PETA...)

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I had a really enjoyable evening, which even included a bit of salsa-ing for which I was praised for my skills. Yahh!!! :-)
This was my first birthday that I was in the company of complete strangers and no cake. BUT, it will be a birthday I will remember because I got to experience how incredibly hospitable and kind Colombians can be. So sometimes its good to be alone, because it opens you up to meeting people you wouldnt have otherwise met....
Later that night Javier arrived and the next day we spent some time playing in the sea: the waves were just perfecto for a mermaid-wannabe!

Thank you to all of you that wrote me messages, emails: they are greatly appreciated! :) I love you all!

Peace and love, hasta luego...

Posted by piratejax 09:48 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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