It’s time to start my orientation and actually settle in Colombia for a few months. I hadn’t worked since being in Australia and that was just under 5 months ago. Back to the work life will be slightly hard but at least it’s in another country, where I get to experience a new place and culture.
I applied to this programme through Greenheart travel, who are a great organisation; sorting out everything, preparing you and giving you lots of useful information (this is the second time I’ve been through them).
After, staying with my friend in Bogota and being shown around the city, he took me to the nice hotel, Estalar Fontana in the north of the city. I was feeling nervous to start and meet new people, which is kind of weird as I had been meeting loads of different people over the last few months. I just didn’t know what to expect in regards to the people, training, expectations or the accommodation. I was going to be in the hotel for the next 10 days with the same people and lots of seminars. In the end, the hotel felt like a prison as the schedule was so jam-packed with sessions from 8am-6pm everyday. I was fed with seeing the hotel’s four wall everyday as we were sleeping, training and eating there. However, the hotel was luxury with huge rooms with bathrooms and a kitchen/lounge area.
Once I arrived there, I bid farewell to my friend then started the registration process of signing and filling in forms before being able to go to the hotel reception. After checking in and being given a room, I carried my luggage to my room, where there were 6 of us sharing a room with 2 bedroom, 2 bathrooms and a shared kitchen-lounge area. This was way more nicer than the hostels I had been staying at.
The evening was a bit of a blur consisting of having dinner and chatting with some of the other people at the orientation.
For the next few months, I was going to be a volunteer with Volunteer Colombia in Caldas, just south of Medellin. I would be co-teaching (I was not prepared for this) to mainly young adults with a free institution called SENA. Each centre has a specialist training courses, for example, business, textiles, agriculture etc.
The 10 days kind of flew by with numerous seminars and workshops, which I have to say, some had no relevance or useful and there was definitely a lack of TEFL training for those who had never taught before. However, we stuck together, building friendships, pacing through the days with several nights out at the local bar drinking beer and one big night on the weekend. There were lots of lovely people from all over the world, from different backgrounds and ages. The average age was a lot higher than I expected. I had been told they wanted more mature people with experience to eliminate past problems.
Some of the training included:
- Lots of information about SENA: aims, what they do…
- Colombian history
- Tourism in Colombia
- Security from the American Embassy
- A little about English grammar
- Multiple intelligence
- Authentic English Materials
Most of the seminars consisted of listening to lecture whereas some others were more interactive. Question time, generally, was annoying as volunteers had either personal questions or stupid question e.g. what can I do in my city? (we have this amazing thing called the internet) or are there trains in Colombia? (I think this was answered by the same person three times… why are you obsessed with trains?) It was always a form of amusement but maybe not after sitting and listening for 9 hours.
On our one day off, a group of us got up sort of early after a night out and walked to a local market with artistic pieces, food stalls and souvenirs. I had an arepa and juice (which late become one of my favourite foods in Colombia) to fill the emptiness with my stomach. After a bit of a wander, we piled (I mean squashed with 7 of us in a 5 seater) into an Uber to take us to the historical centre.
After meeting a few other from our group, we joined the graffiti tour around the centre of Bogota. It was interesting to see the work of so many artist and learn about the history of graffiti. Our guide was from England, who was an artist himself and had recently done a project in my hometown.
Towards the end of the tour, it started pouring it down so we in search of some taxis, which was harder than you think to find as everyone wanted a taxi. Eventually, we found one, where we took it back to the hotel. I rested for a bit before having dinner and a few beers down the local bar.
The night before leaving the prison of the hotel was slightly sad as we were all separating to spread around the country to teach English and settle down into the Colombian community. Majority of us hung out at, our now local bar, drinking, chatting and dancing salsa until the early hours of the morning, even though most of us had to be up super early.
There was a bus taking those who needed to and others who didn’t want to pay for a taxi to the airport. However, the bus was leaving at six in the morning so I decided to opt out and a group of us took a taxi just before our flight boarded. One of the guys in our taxi told the driver to go to a terminal, where only he needed to go. In confusion and pacing around the terminal, we realised our flight was from the other terminal. With slight annoyance, we caught the transit bus and eventually found where we had to check in. After, we walked through security easily before meeting the others that were taking the same plane. We were going to Medellin, the second biggest city in Colombia with a warmer climate and beautiful mountains surround the city.