The Beginning

I hate the beginning. Love it and hate it. Acostumbrarse is one of my favorite verbs in Spanish, meaning “get accustomed to.” What, you don’t have a favorite Spanish verb? You really should.

I like acostumbrandome, settling in to a new location, though I prefer the general knowing that comes in a few weeks once I can establish a routine and understanding of life. It’s an exhausting process of remembering names and conjuring the correct Spanish. I don’t have internet in my house, and while I have vague plans to figure out which mobile plug-in to buy for my computer, it’s so much easier to disconnect and disregard.

We graduated from orientation with several dozen hours of TEFL training and two free t-shirts and the airport bus collected all but the twelve Bogotá volunteers for their trips to Baranquilla, Cartagena, Santa Ana, Cali and Medellín. I took a car to my new home, the tiny brick town of Tabio. I’m living here with a lovely older couple named Edith and Amalcar who seem a bit unsure about this random foreigner staying in their back bedroom, but welcoming nonetheless. Most of their four kids and seven grandkids have been constantly filtering through the house and cheerfully entertaining me.


The school where I’ll be teaching, Gimnasio Moderno Santa Barbara, is about three blocks away. When polled last year, 60 percent of the parents indicated that they wanted an improvement in the English program. This calls for two big changes: new books and curriculum, and a native speaker. One of the biggest obstructions to English acquisition in Colombia is simply that the English teachers don’t have sufficient levels of the language themselves. Classes end up being taught in Spanish and focus on grammar and reading comprehension with little to no development of speaking skills.

GMSB is very small with only about 200 students and fifteen teachers for grades 1-11. The tentative class schedule has me teaching English full-time to the 7th-11th graders, and an hour a week with each of the other grades. It’s going to be a busy year.

Slowly, the particulars of the year are finally making sense, and more speedily I’ll be writing about their development.

Also, I officially have an address where you can send me prezzies and love letters. Email me ( and I’ll gladly share – past volunteers assured me that packages actually do reach the wilds of South America.

Dios mio this country is dangerous.