Adapting to Colombian culture and learning to accept sudden changes in schedules (or not really having a set schedule) appearing to be working for most volunteers as does doing things “in the moment.” For our goodbye and to celebrate completion of our Practicum and orientation, WorldTeach Colombia 2014 volunteers enjoyed a delicious farewell asado prepared by the staff of Finca Santa Cruz, while anticipating departure to our placement locations on Monday.
Just when we thought orientation was over… we received news yesterday of an unexpected delay…quite possibly of the best kind… giving us one bonus “free” day to explore the area around Bogotá.
While the news will remain a secret for now, volunteers took full advantage of the time, with many groups going to the city to shop, others planning a hike in the nearby mountains, and several going to Zipaquirá, a small town past Cota and Chia, famous for its Salt Cathedral.
A fan of unusual tourist attractions, and especially Latin American churches, I joined a group of about 8 volunteers and caught a morning bus to Zipaquirá. We arrived in the small town after a 40 minute ride in a fast-moving bus via twisty 2-lane highway. Melissa, a volunteer from the UK, and I sat up front with the driver, enjoying a first-hand view of the wild navigation and close stops typical of this public transportation.
Zipa is a cute town with a large main plaza flying colorful flags, small shops and cafés, plus several religious icons, churches and common areas throughout. We hiked the 30 meters or so to the famous Catedral de Sal, a large cathedral built underground in a former salt mine. As volunteers on a budget, some of us winced at the $2300.00 COP entrance fee, but upon leaving felt the visit was worth every peso.
Following cues from the informative tour guide (en español, claro), to the large carved cruxes along the dark, stone-lined walkway, to the colorfully-lit arches and huge statues of angels, we were mesmerized by the eery yet tranquil caverns and crevices along the way.
After about an hour and a half in the Catedral de Sal, we emerged to a sunny afternoon and searched for food in el centro area, some enjoying a cerveza bien fria, others a full sit-down almuerzo, and yet others munching on street food, including banoleras – arepas con queso, bocadillos de yucca, and empanadas con carne – washed down with icy refrescas.
As we made our way back to Cota and Finca Santa Cruz, we agreed our free day was well-spent, taking in a new small town while enjoying an historic and famous Colombian attraction.
Mañana we leave Finca Santa Cruz early in the morning for our placement locations, following a special event. While the event remains top-secret among our group and Field Directors, we are all excited (and some even a little nervous), anticipating to be motivated and encouraged beyond words as WorldTeach volunteers.