Safely Settled in Armenia (Not that Armenia…)

Note: I haven’t actually taken any pictures here yet, because I haven’t really seen much. What I’m saying is: Please ignore the picture of the barn that doesn’t have anything to do with the theme of this blog. I will replace it as soon as I have some decent picture of Colombia.

 

Here I am in Colombia!

It’s still sinking in, considering I found out September 12th that I was accepted into the Teach English in Colombia program and here I am, less than a month later!

Here’s how this all came about. As some of you probably know, before moving to Colombia, I was working for Child Protection Services in Mission. My situation was the opposite of what you hear from most twenty-somethings. I liked my job and enjoyed my coworkers. It was everything outside of work that I was unhappy with. I know a lot of people love the rural life, and the small-town feel for a lot of good reasons, but I’m not one of those people. Especially after living in Denver, one of the greatest cities ever in my opinion, with it’s endless things to do, whether you’re in to hiking, camping, clubbing, barhopping, shopping, museums, or $1.50 Margarita happy hours. It was really hard for me to move back to the Winner/Mission area. I’m 25. I shouldn’t be whiling away my twenties crocheting and listening to podcasts every Friday night. (Some Friday nights, definitely, because I love to crochet and I love podcasts, but not every Friday night, because that puts me on a slippery slope to becoming a recluse catlady).

I decided it was time for a change, so when I saw that the program was looking for someone to start on October 1st to fill some spots that had been vacated, I decided to go for it, since it worked out perfect with the end of my lease. I’ve also been looking into going back to school to be a bilingual speech therapist, but my Spanish has gotten pretty rusty in the last couple years, and I wanted to get it back up to par before going back to school. Moving to Colombia is a good way to do that.

So after I found out, I had a crazy 2 1/2 weeks of trying to get my stuff moved into storage, put in my last two weeks at work, find someone to take care of Macy (thanks Kelsey!), pack, and take care of vaccinations and visa stuff. Amidst all this chaos, my sister happened to be coming in from Georgia for a week with her whole family. So luckily I got to spend some quality time with my niece, nephews, and all my family before setting off.

On October 1st, I got to the airport in Sioux Falls at 5 a.m. to fly to Denver, then Houston, then Bogota. The plane to Bogota was delayed a few hours, so I ended up not getting in until around midnight.

So far, everything has gone pretty smoothly. Luckily I have learned over the years, especially while traveling, to just go with the flow and accept the fact that I have no idea what is going on. This has helped me a lot here, especially, since the details have been pretty scant from the beginning. I basically had no idea what to expect upon my arrival in Bogota. Since I was showing up mid-semester to fill in the vacancies, instead of starting back when everyone else had in June, a lot of the information on the website, and in the orientation packet they sent me didn’t apply. And I didn’t hear a lot from the organization before my departure. Basically, just an email saying how to do the online visa application. This caused a little worry when my plane got delayed and I couldn’t get a hold of anyone from Colombia to let them know. I kind of just had to cross my fingers that someone was paying attention to the flight schedule. Luckily Pedro was on it, and was there waiting for me when I arrived.

It was Pedro who told me that there were two other new teachers that had arrived that day. It was Pedro that told me I would be staying at the Hearts for Change house (this whole program is run by Partners for the Americas and Heart for Change, and contracted for recruitment with Greenheart). When I showed up at the house, Pedro told the other teacher who let me in that I was supposed to stay in Room 6. Unfortunately, Room 6 was locked. My choices at that point were the couch or the recently vacated room of a teacher who had just moved to her own apartment in Bogota. I really didn’t have a problem with sleeping on a strangers sheets, mostly just with not having a towel, and having to dry my face and hands on my hoodie. Minor hiccups. The next morning I awoke to the sound of all the teachers who lived in the house getting ready to go to work. I looked at the clock and saw it was 6:00 and went back to sleep. No one had told me if I had to actually do anything that day, but I assumed if I did, it wouldn’t be before 8:00. At around 7:30, I started wandering around the house and found the sign that said what the wifi password was. Once I got hooked up, I found an email that was sent to me while I had been on the plane to Bogota saying we would go to the immigration office to get our visas around 8:00. Good to know.

I met the other volunteers who had arrived the day before, and we went out with a Heart for Change employee to get our visas taken care of. It sounds so simple in theory, but it ended up being hours of going back and forth, running to a little shop down the street 3 different times to make photocopies, sitting in 4 different waiting rooms, until finally, I have a visa in my passport to prove I’m legit, and a Colombian ID card on its way to me. Later that day I got my room unlocked, with it’s nice clean bedsheets, and a towel (hallelujah, I can shower!). I also got a months free trial of Latin American Netflix – so many telenovelas to choose from! They didn’t have La Perricholi, so Yo Soy Betty, la Fea won out.

As of yesterday, we knew that we would be flying out to our respective placements (Armenia for me, and Medellin and Cartagena for the other two newbies) sometime this afternoon. As of around 3ish yesterday, the tickets still hadn’t been bought, so when we were flying out would be a surprise. This morning I got up, drank some tea, and went out for breakfast. I walked up the main road (not THE main road of Bogota, just the main road close to where we were – I also have no idea where we were) and found a little shop selling empenadas. Nothing like a hearty breakfast of fried dough stuffed with chicken and rice and drizzled with salsa rosada, which is mayo mixed with ketchup as far as I can tell. We were just kind of chilling the rest of the morning, wondering whether we would have time to do anything before having to go to the airport, when the doorbell buzzed. I went out to the gate, and a man that I did not know, said “You’re going to Armenia right?”

“Yes.”

“You’re leaving for the airport in half an hour to fly to Armenia.”

“Haha, okay.”

“No really, you’re leaving in half an hour.”

“Oh. Okay.”

At that point I packed up the little that I had unpacked in the past couple days and got ready to go. The man, who worked on the logistics team, explained that I would be going to the regional airport, flying out at 1:30, and arriving at 2:30. When I arrived in Armenia, a woman who owned the apartment I would be living in would pick me up. He gave me her name on a scrap of paper. We were quickly given our cellphones and our first months pay (in cash since our bank cards hadn’t arrived yet) and got in a car to go to the airport. I had a pleasant hour-long flight, and then was picked up by Luz. It turns out Luz owns the apartment and lives in it. So the whole sharing an apartment with another teacher thing that the program advertised didn’t quite work out that way. Which was kind of a bummer. I was looking forward to the independence. Not that I haven’t had great host families in the past, (I’m looking at you Rosa, Juan, Regina and Toni!), I just think it’s kind of stressful to be put in a situation where you start living in the house of a random stranger, and have to use all their stuff and feel weird about everything you do – like hey, will they think it’s rude if I just stay in my jammies until like 3 p.m. on Saturday and binge watch Parks and Rec? And one of the big draws for this program, for me, was living independently. But what can you do?

That being said, this apartment is amazing. It’s huge and beautifully decorated with a giant terrace overlooking one of the main streets. I’m right in the center of the city, and judging by the amount of Marc Anthony music I’ve heard blasting from the streets, it’s a pretty happening part of town. Luz is a sweet lady, and we share the apartment with a dog and cat. The dog is 11 years old, wears a barrette in her hair, and hates me. She bit my finger the first time I tried to pet her, and while I was eating supper, she sat a few feet away from me the whole time and barked at me. The cat is just sneaky and untrustworthy, as all cats are. My room is adorable, and is connected to a study with a TV and a printer. I have my own bathroom and there’s pretty good wifi. I get to buy and cook my own food, which is a plus. All in all, I probably shouldn’t complain, it’s just that I would have like to know ahead of time, that this is the situation I might be stepping in to.

More to come, as I actually step out into the world and get to see things, which I haven’t been able to do much so far!

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