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Street Meat, Practicum and Stealing Our Eyes

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Mazorca en Plaza Bolivar!

Time is passing quickly for my WorldTeach Colombia 2014 peers and me; we are in the home-stretch of training, learning to master South American life skills including calculating pesos, eating street meat with maizorca and playing a mean game of tejo, as well as how to plan a well-executed lesson in only 3 hours.

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Teleferico high above Bogota

On Sunday our group was treated to a rare “free” day which included another bus ride into Bogotá, this time to La Candelaria, a neighborhood brimming with universities, cafés, street vendors and a magnificent view atop Monserrate, high above the city. Most volunteers rode the funicular, a small electric train that took standing passengers up a steep mountain side, while a few others braved the terrain and walked the hour-long climb to the top.

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Justin, Frank, Becky and Melissa high above Bogota

Religious carved dioramas depicting the crucifixion of Christ lined the stone path that lead to catédral San Augustin, where a mass was being held with the congregation spilling out of the front and side doors. Many  volunteers enjoyed the sprawling view of Bogotá, and walked around the lush park area, breathing in the sunny afternoon air.

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Lllama ride while waiting for the Funicular, anyone?

A small group, curious for more of Colombian culture, braved sampling local cuisine and shared a serving of morsialla, tripa, chicharonnes and plantains, described by volunteer Frank Hand (Paco Mano) as tasting like “a zoo.”

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With my beautiful friend Shauna on Monserrate

As the climate changed from chilly and damp to warm and dry, we shed our sweaters and jackets, noting a few stares from the crowd. One especially tall volunteer, Justin, had a beautiful Colombian girl request a photo with him; I took an identical photo to capture the moment of this anonymous cultural encounter.

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Justin and his beautiful Colombiana misteriosa

In addition to learning Colombians are friendly and curious about non-Colombians, we were told in our training that if your eyes are light-colored (blue or green), people will ask you for them. While no one directly received the request for their eyes, our group did receive it’s share of attention as touristas.

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Teleferico high over the city

After enjoying la buena vista, volunteers descended down the mountain, again a few by foot and others by man-made devices, this time, the Teleferico, a small cable car on wires that swiftly moved passengers below. Hungry for anything but morsialla, we split up into groups and searched for lunch before returning to the bus for a sleepy ride back to Finca Santa Cruz.

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Field Directors know, Practicum is harrrrdd :)

For our last week of orientation, volunteers began Practicum training: our first day in the Colombian classroom, and for many, the first time ever teaching. Some volunteers fumbled while others excelled, and some experienced ripples of chaos followed the next day by waves of achievement.

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Outside Chicala, ready for action!

Despite living in Finca Santa Cruz, with no Internet access and limited resources, the general consensus for our teaching practicum was that of success, as volunteers asked each other for advice and shared ideas to help with lesson planning.

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The kids love Mr. Ashley!

With Practicum now finished, volunteers appeared to have gained perspective from peer observation and “de-briefing,” where our Field Directors discussed what worked in the classroom and what did not. While some parts of Practicum were difficult, such as traveling in smoggy Bogotá or leading 45 4th graders in a reading lesson, most of us were grateful for the experience, and enjoyed meeting the staff and directors of the schools.

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With my 4th grade Practicum class

As orientation comes to an end, our Colombia 2014 group remains alive and well, as we prepare for our prospective placements as WorldTeach volunteers.

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Lesson plans and futbol, definitely where it´s at

Author: Kate Dana

Teacher, traveler and writer living on the Caribbean coast of South America.

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