Saturday, August 29, 2009

In The News

The Summit of UNASUR in Bariloche, Argentina to discuss the increased use of Colombian military bases by the U.S. military was the only thing running on any television I saw yesterday afternoon, except the occasional soccer game of course. Click here for a quick New York Times article covering the story.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Beat Goes On

This past weekend was of normal length. Colombia is now entering a bit of a dry spell for my newly beloved puentes or three-day weekends, but I don´t need to worry to much as they will be back with a vengance starting in mid-October. Nevertheless, I decided to set off into the mountains in search of a slightly cooler climate after spending Friday night rocking out to a concert here on campus with my foreign language major buds pictured below. The two other language assistants and I along with three of our Mexican friends studying abroad here in Cali spent the weekend at the recreational facility of the university, complete with mountain views, a pool, a fresh and clean river, and of course, nightly dancing. The whole time I was thinking to myself, ¨Why doesn´t Northwestern have something like this?¨ Aside from the sunburn, I have no complaints. My lungs, perhaps more than any other part of me, especially appreciated the trip to breathe in some fresh air. On our return to the city, I could immediately feel the air quality plummet, welcoming me back to my newly adopted home.

In terms of work, things are generally positive. I have now set into my schedule here at the university, running an English conversation club Tuesday through Friday, helping out professors Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and teaching kids from nearby disadvantaged areas on Thursdays. My favorite of these duties thus far has been my conversation club. At the moment, we´re keeping the topics light, focusing on the always deep and profound Michael Jackson and an American city perhaps best known for its intellectual prowess, Las Vegas. As my friend Josh recently wrote me after expressing exagerated excitment over the release of the next Twilight film, please note the sarcasm. My students here are enjoying speaking English and starting to be a bit less timid, but we´ve still got a way to go. One difficulty thus far has been the great variance of ability within one club session, but I´m experimenting with some ways to make sure everyone gets something out of the two hours. A good sign is that the numbers of students coming each day are growing, meaning word is getting around that conversation club is a bit more fun than your regular English class. In conversation club, you get to have a stab at dancing the moonwalk and listen to American top 40 pop as well as discuss slightly more serious topics such as American and Colombian politics. Beats conjugating verbs any day of the week. Also positively, I have finally been able to make a solid contact in terms of volunteering and hope to be starting in the next week or so with a program that tutors kids recently rescued off the streets of downtown Cali. The search for such a position has been one of several lessons of patience and perseverance I have had so far here in Colombia. I am looking forward to starting this second aspect of my oficial purpose here.

In addition to these focuses on teaching and volunteering, I have been reading quite a bit. With college officially over, I get to make my own classes, reading what I want to read and pursuing topics as far as I wish to pursue them. I´ve broken up my more academic readings into three grouping which I hope to keep going throughout the semester . Colombian history, the writings of Gabriel Garcia Márquez, and Contemporary Latin American issues, leaving that final one quite interdisciplinary. After sitting in on a couple of official classes here at the university, I decided to hold off on those until January and take one semester to explore the previous topics on my own without any other academic stresses (at least on the student side of things). As I finish books, I will try to write up some thoughts and post them on here. Call me a nerd, but this all gets me very excited about life-long learning after university.

I have also had time this week to continue exploring a bit of the city, visiting Granada, the ritziest neighborhood of Cali I have yet to visit, as well as the famed Cali zoo. The streets of Granada are lined with art galleries, fancy restaurants and cafés and not so fancy discotecas, pulling all this off without, to me at least, seeming too pretentious. The zoo was indeed more than I had expected. Colombia contains the greatest diversity of both birds and butterflies of any nation in the world as well as great biodiversity in fish and amphibians which the zoo presents very well. Marveling at these creatures in environments that were nicely un-zoo-like was a lovely way to spend the afternoon with a group similar to the one that spend the weekend at the cabañas. Cali continues to offer plenty to explore, but I can feel myself itching to branch out and visit another city. I am currently starting to plan a weekend getaway to Popoyán and trying to find some travel companions to come along. As they say here in Colombia, a big hug to everyone! Hope to hear about events going on in your lives. I have really enjoyed the updates I have received from many of you so far. Seeing an email from someone back home always puts a smile on my face!

Monday, August 24, 2009

And A Couple Photos of New Friends

A couple photos of a group of foreign language majors that Servane and I have been hanging out with.

Photos from My Weekend at The Cabañas

The following photos are from this past weekend which I will write about shortly. 1) View from the cabañas. 2) View from the drive to the cabañas. 3) Swimming Pool. 4) Servane and I. 5) A group of us taking a break from dancing salsa and merengue.

Photos from Petronio and Fishing

1) Billboard for the Pacific Music Festival. 2) Inside the Plaza de Torros for a concert night. 3) Pacheco, Linda, and I enjoying the music. 4) I caught a tilapia. 5) The other language assistants and I with Juan and his baby daughter post fish fry.

Photos from Cali and La Universidad Santiago de Cali

1) The Cali River...oh so clean. 2) La Ermita Cathedral downtown Cali. 3) A view of dowtown Cali. 4) Main Plaza of the University. 5) The view from where I am currently staying on campus.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Chit-Chats and Haircuts

There is something invigorating about meeting someone new. You never know what to expect. At times, you aren´t even expecting to meet anyone at all. Simple tasks here in Cali such as a visit to the office of this or that here at the university have resulted in conversations that have lasted half an hour chatting with a secretary or the director of a department. I´m not sure what this says about caleños in terms of efficiency in the work place, but they are certainly warm and welcoming which I have so greatly appreciated.

My favorite first meeting as of late was with Migali. Tuesday, I decided the mop on my head had to go and that I wasn´t going to begin down my old Chilean road of some odd Beatles, 70´s, retro-not-quite-chic coiffure. Thus I asked around and set off to have a haircut just down the road from the university after, of course, consulting my dictionary for some haircut vocab I thought might be vital in describing what I wanted done with my locks. After a few minutes of describing my desired -do and basic chat, I got the question that usually comes up after two to five minutes. ¨You´re not from here, are you?¨ Blame it on the blue eyes or the oddly accented occasionaly flustered Spanish, but no matter how you slice it, it´s pretty obviously that I´m a foreigner. The declaration of my nationality attracted the manicure ladies, who at the time had no customers, to draw near and begin to ask questions. One question I generally ask is what someone´s favorite place in Colombia is. Rather than the usual Cartagena and Medellín answer, I got two Buenaventuras and a Tumaco, both cities on the Pacific coast west and southwest of Cali. These cities were where these women were from. After the manicurists returned to their posts, Migali, the woman cutting my hair, began to really tell me about Tumaco. Tumaco is a town just north of the Ecuadorian border on the Pacific, beautiful but very poor as Migali described it. She continued explaining that she had moved to Cali ten years ago, but that her mother and son were still in her home town. It is a place to which she would prefer to never return. The old people are really the only ones left, she told me. Eight, nine, ten people get killed every day. She explained that her mother lives at a sort of crossroads between paramilitary and guerilla stomping ground and that one has to be very careful to whom one talks and how they talk to them or it could be their life. She wants to get her son out. After he graduates from high school this year, she´s bringing him to Cali. I prodded and asked who she blamed more, the paras or the guerillas. Neither of them. That was her reply. It´s all just a mess and everyone is caught in between. You can´t just blame one side or the other. It isn´t that simple. That was not the easiest conversation to segway out of, but after a minute of two of silence, the two of us found our way back to more standard topics such as salsa and snow. I greatly look forward to getting my ears lowered again for another chat with Migali.

Last night, I had a slightly more planned first meeting with the minister of a small Presbyterian church here in Cali. Javier picked me up from work at seven and we went and sipped on some coffee and talked life for a while before heading to the house of some church members for supper. All the conversation was pleasant and the people, again, so warm and so hospitable. Nothing that happened nor nothing that was said was especially out of the ordinary, but what was so nice was being able to have real social interaction in the home of people in no way affiliated with the university. It is nice to branch out. I can´t wait to get to know the church community and I hope I will both find what I´m looking for and be able to be of some service. Only time will tell, but I´m feeling quite good about it.

Of course there have been many other first meetings and fun conversations these past few days - a trendy barista at a euro-chic contemporary art museum café, a multitude of children from the pooere neighborhoods of Cali up on the mountainside to whom, every Thursday from today forward, I will be teaching English and playing to hour of soccer that is their reward for good behavior after class, Alex, a seemingly brilliant man who has psyciatric troubles, but loves learning English and has come to all my conversation clubs thus far, and so on - and there will be many more to come. What I can also look forward to is continuing the friendships with students I have already started. Tomorrow night, the university is having a concert on campus and I will be there with my favorite foreign language majors, ready for a good time. More on classes and such soon. For now, chao chao y nos vemos!


For those of you curious as to how to communicate with me the old fashioned way and send some snail mail, my address through the beginning of October will be the following...

Nick Cheadle
Universidad Santiago de Cali
Carrera 62 Calle 5ª esquina. Edificio 5, Apartahotel.
Cali, Colombia

Monday, August 17, 2009

Festival & A Fish Fry

¨Are you going to Petronio tonight?¨ This had been the constant question on seemingly everyone´s lips for a good five days. The first few times I heard this question in passing it seemed to me as if everyone was planning on making a late night gas station run. My little American ears were hearing ´petróleo´ rather than ´Petronio´. Petronio, however, was what the Colombians were talking about, meaning the 13th annual Festival of Music from Colombia´s Pacific coast. With each passing night, the crowd at the Plaza de Torros became larger and livlier until it go to the point where we couldn´t even get into the stadium and had to watch on a jumbotron set up outside! Despite the masses, or perhaps attracted by them, I found myself walkingn orth to the plaza each and every night with various groups of Colombians that either Dave, Servane, or I had managed to befriend in our first week here in Cali. The music was a mixture of traditional Pacific rhythms with strong African roots and some more modern interpretations thrown in from time to time, often reminiscent of a sort of Spanish speaking Wyclef Jean. The music was incredible and had everyone inside and outside the stadium waving their white pañuelos and grooving to the beat. That was the fun of it really, the commmunal spirit of expressing enjoyment and appreciation of the music through dance. In addition to all the music and dancing, the festival provided two other gems of the Pacific: food and drink. The stands around the stadium were whipping out sancocho de mariscos (delicious seafood soup), empanadas filled with shrimp or beef, arroz con leche (akin to rice pudding), guayaba tarts and plenty of other scrumptious treats of which sadly I cannot recall the names. There was biche for all, the traditional liquer of the Pacific coast region, which I found a bit too strong for my liking unless made into arrechón by adding condensed milk, cinnamon, and a plethora of other spices - that hit the spot! What I will remember most from the festival however, more than evern the music itself, is the way the people enjoyed themselves. Impromptu drumming and dancing would pop up during the few breaks in the programmed musical line up that spread like wildfire, everyone dancing with their hands in the air and a smile on their face. It only deepened my utter fascination and appreciation of Afro-Latino culture and society and made me want to delve in deeper and find out more. The whole event was especially impactful remembering that much of this music and culture was coming out of the very region that is hurting most in modern day Colombia, caught up in violence it did nothing to create.

In addition to all the fun had at the festival this weekend, I spent a day out fishing with Juan. Juan is a 24 year old student in the foreign language department who also works in the office at the language institute and teaches beginning English classes. He, his wife, and little 5 month old daughter Ana Sofia took the other language assistants and I just outside of town to a lake stocked with delicious fish. I caught a black tilapia and Dave and Juan each caught a white tilapia. Not to boast, but I did in fact catch the biggest fish! We cleaned up our catch, brought them back to Juan´s house, and fried them up, head and all, along with some rice and plantains. Let me just say that I don´t think I have ever eaten such tasty and flavorful tilapia in all my life. Washed down with a few Club Colombias (what I believe I have decided is the best domestic beer), the day was a huge success. Juan has been so hospitable and kind and is absolutely hillarious, sort of a teenager trapped in a 24 year old body. He loves to pull out his English slang he learned when living in Miami and says ´bro´after about every third sentence in Spanish. I am going to go to church with him and his family this weekend which I´m hoping I will enjoy!

That pretty much gives you the highlights of the weekend. Today is yet another Colombian holiday, so I´ve been doing quite a good job of chilling out, reading, and writing. I can really feel the rhythm of life slowing down here and, although it takes some getting used to, I have to say I like it. We´ll see if I can make that last as my weekly schedule begins to fill up more and more. Other things I am enjoying in everyday life here include the amount of time spent outside in this awesome weather and the plethora of street food available at every corner from delicious sugar cane juice to obleas - two crispy wafers with caramel squished in between which I could literally eat one of these after every meal. All the best to all of you and a big feliz cumpleaños to my brother Jeff!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Book Rec

As I packed up to move to Colombia, I decided to bring four books with me aside from my journal and Bible. Three of them were history books which I have been reading side by side, moving along through history and currently finding myself in the mid nineteenth-century. The fourth book I loaded into my messenger bag was entitled, The Dispossessed: Chronicles of the Desterrados of Colombia, which I finished this afternoon. Within its pages are eight life tales of displaced people, each more heart-wrenching than the last. There were points where I simply could not understand how much tragedy could occur in one person´s life. Accompanying these first hand accounts are a few essays to offer perspective on the situation of crisis that has been plaguing Colombia for decades. Even if you do not totally agree with the somewhat leftist analysis provided by the essays, the information is solid and the stories speak for themselves. If anyone is looking to have a clearer idea of what displacement in Colombia looks like on the ground and would like to attempt to begin to understand the complexity of the issue, I would highly recommend giving this book a read.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bienvenidos a Cali!

I have been in this city for less than a week. In that time I have felt both incredible excitement and points of solitude and lonliness that I haven´t experienced in years. Tuesday, as I was sitting on campus journaling, I realized that this first week in Cali has been a little bit like starting college all over again. All at once there seem to be 1,001 things I could be doing and absolutely nothing to occupy my time. Until Wednesday afternoon, I was in this odd place where nothing had really started yet — no teaching, no volunteering, no classes — and yet I was here, in a place I had come specifically to do those things. I want not to dwell too much on those harder couple of days, but must acknowledge that they were there...the roller coaster days. Wednesday, however, I got my teaching schedule, picked two classes to sit in on, signed up for some dance classes, ran into my fellow Fulbrighter in Cali at the visa office, and made my first Colombian friends. Yes, Wednesday was a good day. Before talking about post—Wednesday thought I will talk about pre—Wednesday, the good parts. There were plenty, I promise.

First, I will describe my living situation. Until October, I will be living in an Apartahotel located on campus with my two fellow language assistants (Servane, the française, and Dave the Brit) as well as five Mexican students studying abroad here at the Universidad Santiago de Cali for the semester. It has come to be quite the cheery group, especially around dinner time when we are all cooking dishes from our native lands (well, I´ve been cooking a lot of pasta, but I pull it off by claiming my Italian heritage) as well as attempting some Colombian culinary masterpieces such as juices of various tropical fruits and fried plantains. I am becoming especially good friends with Servane and think we will be doing quite a bit together in the months to come. After two months, the other language assistans and I have to find our own housing, so I will most likely rent a room in a home near the university or get an apartment in the area. In the pre—Wednesday world which I have referenced (meaning primarily Monday and Tuesday, although I promise it seemed like more than two days), my days were filled with running around attaining the essentials (e.g., a cell phone) and documents in order to apply for my ID card (e.g., certified blood type...don´t ask my why they need to know that) as well as observing classes of some of the English professors here which proved to be quite fun!

Both more entertaining and more informative than actually observing the classes was talking to the students during breaks and after class. They all had questions about the States, what I was doing in Cali, my political ideals (asked by a freshman girl with jet black hair and a lip ring who you knew right way was all about anarchy), if I was single, and my favorite, if I had children! Many wanted me to come back for their next class and I got quite a postivie response in terms of interest in the conversation clubs I´m going to be running. Just from one day of observing classes, I have run into quite a few students over the past few days who have stopped to have little five minute chats which has been quite nice and made me feel more a part of the university. The most interesting conversation I have had with Colombian students thus far has been about nationalism and regionalism in Colombia. The topic was touched on quite frequently during my orientation week in Bogotá and it began to really pique my interest after talking to my fellow caleño Fulbrighter about it for a while. Colombia is a country that by its very geography is broken into pieces. The three cordilleras of the Andes that shoot through the nation up from Ecuador have historically created distinct spaces between which there has been limited connectivity. Today all of these spaces find themselves in the modern nation of Colombia. You have the caleño from the Valle de Cauca, those who hail from Bogotá and its surroundings, and the paisas of Antioquia. Each of these groups hails from one of the three cordilleras. In addition, you have costeños who are in many ways more connected to the Caribbean world than the interior of their own nation as well as the people of the pacific such as the Chocó, a largely Afro—descendant population that lately has been on the move due to increased paramilitary and guerilla activity in the region, drawn by wealth in natural resources. Historically, areas such as Pasto (by the Ecuadorian border) and even Popyán (south of Cali) were linked to Quito rather than Bogotá in colonial times and attempted to reassociate themselves with the new Ecuador after independence and Simón Bolívar´s failed attempt at creating a Gran Colombia made up of the modern day nations of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Panama. All this has contributed to this academic idea that Colombians hold highly regional sentiments and identities. Colombian national identity it seems can perhaps only be based in its diversity. From every Colombian over the age of thirty I have heard some mark of pride for his or her region, generally at the expense of another; however, what I have found intersting thus far is that when I have asked students if they identify first as Colombian, caleño, or perhaps a racial—identity, as there is a large Afro—Colombian presence in the city that is reflected in the university, they have almost all said they consider their identity to be more wrapped up in their country, Colombia, than their region. When I began asking this question, I was larely expecting the answer I used to receive in Québec, that without a doubt Jean or Valerie was Quebécois before Canadien, but thus far this has not been the case. This theme as well as that of race are two topics I will be talking about quite a bit in Conversation Club, relating the Colombian experience to that of the United States, the anglophone world, and perhaps the rest of the planet as well!

Before all this chatting began, I took a day to wonder through Cali with my trusty Lonely Planet guide inconspicuously tucked in my messagner bag, but always close by my side. I hopped on the Mio (a series of bus lines running through the city, using exclusive lanes and in essence masquerading as a metro) and headed downtown. What struck me most about my first day of exploration was how the city would be congested and dirty for blocks and blocks with everything from baby chicks to pirated High School Musical DVDs being sold on the street, and then out of nowhere I would find myself in a lovely Spanish colonial mission, tranquilly walking through gardens and discovering old Catholic chapels. I would walk through ten more blocks of dirty urban hubbub and then be in a wonderful museum of Pre—Colombian artifacts, or, my favorite find, an adorable café with jazz music playing and delicious coffee. The café was called Macondo, the name of the fictitious city in Gabriel Garcia Márquez´s One Hundred Years of Solitude. I have certainly not seen all Cali has to offer. I have only driven through the nicest parts of town as well as the hottest row of salsa clubs downtown (although apparently there are better farther south near my university). There is much more exploring to do, without a doubt, but what my first day out taught me was that one has to sift through the grit of the city to find the pearls. I only found the most obvious, but I am sure that there is much more beauty of all kinds to be found.

Now you´ve had your fill of pre—Wednesday. Post—Wednesday in the short term is going to be filled with the Music Festival of the Pacific, taking place right up the road at the Plaza de Torros. There are tons of musical groups that have come from the Pacific coastal region to perform as well as some international acts including (drum roll please) Gilberto Gil! Gilberto was playing while I was in Stockhoom, but my bank account filled with U.S. dollars couldn´t quite foot the bill. This time around, the concert is free and I am going to be there tonight singing along in my best Portuguese. I attended the first evening of the festival last night and was really wowed. I have a feeling there will be a post in the future devoted solely to the festival because I´m planning on being there for the next three nights. You can check out a live stream by going to In the long term, I will be busy leading conversation clubs for both students and professors as well as working in a local primary school on Thursdays. I am also going to start sitting in on two classes, one on the Colombian constitution and the other on human rights in Colombia, both in the law department, as well as attend salsa and merengue classes at the university. This all leaves my Monday and Tuesday afternoons totally clear, so that is when I am hoping to volunteer. I will be sure to keep you all updated on how all these projects are going as well as any travels I begin to plan! Keep in touch as always. I love hearing from all of you!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Photos from Bogotá

Here are some photos that a friend of mine took from our time in Bogotá. The first is of the Cathedral in Plaza Simón Bolívar. The second, Botero´s version of the Mona Lisa...he does like them plump! The third, a view of the city from the top of Monserrate...enormous! The fourth, this is how beautiful it is above 3,000 meters...again at the top of Monserrate. And finally, the fifth, some fellow Fulbrighters and I enjoying a night out with our amazing program director Alexandra! Enjoy! Caleño updates are coming SOON, I promise!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday Bliss

Just in case any of you were thinking to yourselves while out and about today...¨hmm, I wonder what Nick is doing in Cali right now? ¨...

Today I took it easy, grabbed some fresh lulo juice, sat under some palm trees and read about Colombian history all day with a view of the mountains in front of me and a lovely little breeze to dissipate the heat. This, I´m thinking, is going to be my Sunday afternoon tradition all year round...I could get used to this!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

From Bogotá to Cali: My first week in Colombia!

I have now been in Colombia for one full week, although it seems as if I have been here much longer, most likely because until today my days have been full with activities from dawn well past dusk. The first five days of my stay were spent in Bogotá for orientation. 12 Fulbright English Teaching Assistants and half a dozen or so Fulbright student researchers met at the Fulbright Colombia Comission´s house to participate in seminars covering a myriad of topics concerning the next year of our lives. Daniel Garcia Peña, an incredibly well known and respected Colombian academic and journalist, spoke to us for the better part of an afternoon about Colombian history and U.S.-Colombian relations. Several employees from the U.S. Embassy in Colombia spoke to us about issues of security as well as teaching English and researching abroad. A few former Fulbrighters who are still in Colombia provided a greatly informative Q & A, and finally Ricardo Romero, an energetic and intriguing English professor from La Universidad Nacional in Bogotá, gave a great lectyure about English teaching in Colombia, methodology, and techniques; however, simply observing Mr. Romero´s style of lecturing and engaging discussions was even more helpful than the content of his speech itself.

The previous list sums up the bulk of our orientation in terms of academics, but there was much more to enjoy. My fellow Fulbrighters are a pretty amazing group of people ranging in age from 21 to 35 and hailing from universities across the country. After only a couple of days, we were already cracking each other up (at one point during an especially jolly lunch I literally had to excuse myself from the table I was laughing so hard), sharing ideas and life experiences, and of course discussing Colombian history and politics. As a side note, a lot is happening right now in the world of Colombian politics. President Uribe and his fellow uribistas (Uribe trancends traditional Conservative and Liberal two party politics that have dominated Colombia´s rather violent political history, although he certainly lies quite far to the right of center) are attempting to transorm the Colombian constitution, yet again to allow him to run for President after already serving two four year terms. Although Uribe still enjoys incredibly popularity ratings, political processes, which I won´t go into now, seem to have nearly put a halt on this possible third term; however, it is still too early to tell. In addition to this issue, Uribe has traveled all over the continent for the past few days attempting to explain the possibility he has been discussing with the United States concerning the U.S. use of several additional Colombian military bases for the war on drugs (and on terror, as the two become increasingly linked in rhetoric). The concern of others, voiced most strongly by not only Chavez and Correa, but Kirchner as well, is that the increased U.S. presence may be aimed at more than just fighting drugs and would potentially destabalize the region. On top of all that, one adds the tenuous back and forth diplomatic relationship between Colombia´s Urivo and Venezuela´s Chavez and you´ve got a real show on your hands. One final point of interest that Mister Peña pointed out in his discussion with us during orientation is that despite being on opposite sides of the political spectrum, Uribe and Chavez have much in common when it comes to the ways in which they govern and their ideological allegieance to Simón Bolívar, making them perhaps not quite as different as we all assume.

Pardon the fact that that sidenote turned into the majority of the paragraph. My relationahips with my fellow Fulbrighters has certainly not been all business. One evening we all attended a dinner at the elegant penthouse suite of Mr. Bian Nichols, the second in command at the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá (which, by the way, is the second largest U.S. Embassy in the world). The guest list included not only the U.S. Fulbrighers but the Fulbright Colombia Commission staff, several State Department representatives, and Colombians who were about to pursue Fulbright study grants in the United States. I must say I had no idea that orientation was going to be so swanky and this was only the highlight of several receptions, lunches, and dinners in which we took part. I will admit that it did make me feel just a little important! On our final night in Bogotá, after a full day city tour culminating with a gorgeous cable car ride up to Monserrate with a beautiful view of sprawling Bogotá on one side and the lush Andes Mountains on the other, several of us decided to have a night out on the town. We danced the night away around Parque 93 to all sorts of music including, of course, my first introduction to Colombian salsa. Not to toot my own horn, but let´s just say people were impressed with the way this little gringo could move!

I could say more about Bogotá, but Iam going to stop there. The fellow Fulbrighters Imet as well as the incredible staff at the comission will all provide a wonderful resource for discussions as well as a network of friends around the entirety of Colombia with whom I can crash whenever I happen to make it to their city! Friday, I hopped on a plane bound for Cali. After a whopping 35 minutes in the air, we had arrived. The temperature had increased about 20 degrees, the mountains had become smaller and greener, salsa was constantly in the air, and the people were a beautiful mixture of black, brown, and white. This city is the place I will temporarily call home for the next ten months. Today, I started my exploration of this dynamic city seemingly full of contrasts, but I will leave its description for next time. At the present, I´ve got a salsa date with my first friend in Cali, a fellow language teaching assistant from the Northwest of France! Keep in touch and email me at I´ll write again soon as things get under way here in Cali. I will be figuring out my English teaching schedule, improving my salsa skills (as well as my Español) and begining my social justice work the internally displaced peoples. All the best to friends and family in the States or wherever in the world you may be ...I miss you!

P.S. As for pictures, I have yet to take any great shots. There is nowhere I have been where I will not be again, so do not fret. I am trying to wait until I become well accustomed to the area before whipping out my camera and screaming tourist just to be on the safe side.

P.P.S. Also, Fulbright would like me to add that this blog is not an official Fulbright Fellowship site. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, a 2009-2010 Fulbright Grantee.

Friday, August 7, 2009


I just finished up five days in Bogotá and am now in Cali where I will be located for the next ten months. Check back soon for a full report of my first glimpse of Colombia!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I have arrived! After a missed flight and an unplanned night in the luxurious Crowne Plaza Miami International Airport hotel (please note the sarcasm), I made it to my hotel in Bogota! After a quick shower I am going to hit the town with a friend of a friend and hopefully check out the famed Andres tonight for dinner, drinks, and dancing! Orientation starts tomorrow evening - can´t wait!