Monday, November 21, 2011

Unicef 10K

Can you find me in the picture above? This was last weekend's Unicef 10K race.

Here, its all about image, so they require that participants in races like this all wear the same shirt so that the pictures look impressive. I have to admit, it does look really neat when the whole street is filled with blue.

I also ran, about four weeks ago, the Nike WeRun Bogota 10K. There we all wore bright coral shirts.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

CNG Campus

The school that Jenna and I work at here in Colombia is called Colegio Nueva Granada. The name comes from the name of the old Spanish colony Virreinato de la Nueva Granada which encompassed Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Panama in the 1700s. Last weekend on our way up to school to toss around a Frisbee with some other teachers we realized that we hadn't posted any pictures of the school yet so here they are.

The school's mascot is the Condor but this elephant is actually used more than the condor on CNG merchandise, posters, etc (in fact I've never seen the Condor on anything related to the school, only the elephant). Since the elephant has been on the elementary/primary playground forever it has sentimental value for all CNG alumni since they played on it when they were little.

The campus is situated part of the way up the mountains on the east side of town so the view from most places on campus is beautiful. This, combined with the fact that the campus is huge since we have over 1800 students, does however make it hard to walk around campus since it involves walking up and down the mountain. The first few months here would leave me out of breath from going to the library which is up the hill from my classroom. I've gotten a bit more used to the altitude (somewhere around 8500 feet on campus) but walking from the front gate at the bottom campus up to the gym or soccer field is still not easy!

View from just outside the gym of some of campus with one of the eastern mountains and some of the city in the background.

More of the city view from the patio outside the gym.

The bottom right classroom in this building is Jenna's room. It's a bit loud with this soccer/basketball court right outside it!

Down in this cave the second door leads to my room. My kids are completing some cool projects right now so I'll post pictures of my room once those are up!

Looking down the middle school hallway.

Just outside the main middle school building looking up the mountain. There are more class buildings hidden behind the greenery there as our campus is full of incredible plants. I think one of the previous science teachers in the HS did a survey and found more than 1000 plant species on campus!

The building with the F on it contains the middle school office among other things. The building behind it to the left is the main middle school building and my room would be some of the windows in the bottom floor that you see.

The administration building.

Elementary soccer fields and basketball courts with a small, oddly-shaped track around them. The field is pretty amazing with field turf (just like the stuff on professional football fields) for the kids to play on since it rains so much that regular grass would be turned into mud. There is a full-sized turf field next to the HS gym which is incredible to play any sport on but we didn't take a picture of it on this day because there was a soccer tournament going on at the time we were there.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Tejo is considered the national game of Colombia (well, maybe the 2nd national game after soccer), so when we had a chance to go play it last Saturday night, we couldn't pass it up. Tejo is kind of like horseshoes or beanbag toss on steroids. Basically you throw a heavy metal disc at an angled box of clay with a small metal ring in the center. Placed around the metal ring are small paper triangles filled with gunpowder. If your metal disc hits the metal ring at the spot where one of the paper triangles is, the gunpowder explodes. Sounds like fun right!

And the explosions were much louder than that where we were playing since it was indoors! We divided our group of teachers and friends into 2 teams (the USA vs. the World team made up of 2 Canadians, a Colombian, and a Honduran) and began tossing our discs. You get one point for whichever disc is closest to the center ring, 3 points for putting the disc into the ring, and 5 points if one of the gunpowder triangles explodes. We kept score and ended up playing to 100 points (unfortunately the World team won) which took a couple of hours, but it was so much fun that it seemed like way less time than that. The second best part of the game (after getting to make things explode with gunpowder of course) is that playing is free; you just pay for whatever you drink during the game! Here are a few pictures to get those of you who are coming to visit us excited because we will definitely take all of you to play when you get here!

Our Colombian host for the evening, Guillermo, showing us how it's done.

Heather giving it a go.

My turn. I was actually pretty good until the we got near the end of game and I had a few more refreshments than were conducive to my hand-eye coordination.

As you can see, the clay is soft enough that the discs stick in it when they hit. If you look closely, you can see that the one in the center hit one of the paper triangles on the right side of the metal ring and made it explode and burn leaving some black marks on the clay.

Everybody gathered around getting their discs out and measuring to see who was closest.

We were playing on the "kiddie" courts where we only had to throw the discs about 40 feet. You can see the "big boy" courts here where people were throwing their tejos something like 90 or 100 feet... maybe next time we'll be ready.

This old-timer on the kiddie court next to us was looking at us disapprovingly all night and shaking his head at some of our throws. Oh well, we had fun despite our overall lack of skill, some funny looks from the locals, and a few errant throws. I can't wait til next time!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Exploring Medellin

After the Botero art we saw the first day in Medellin, we spent the other days we had there doing not a whole lot. We found a good breakfast place that made some awesome bagels and bagel sandwiches (as seen below) and proceeded to eat there 4 times.

Other than breakfast we explored a hill in the center of town called Cerro Nutibara, named for a former Native leader, which had a small replica of an old town on it called Pueblita Paisa. The weather wasn't great that day so the views weren't what we had hoped for and the hill itself was ridiculously touristy and therefore not too interesting.

This is part of the replica town.

Jenna is taking in the limited view. The mountain on the right is where the Biblioteca de Espana is located.

Since the weather wasn't ideal we just went back to the Hostel and read for the rest of the day. One of the following days (can't really remember which, might have been the next day) we hopped onto the beautiful Metro again and checked out the Botanical Gardens in town. The gardens were pretty impressive as far as their variety of plant and animal life and the fact that it was a very peaceful place, 500 meters from the Metro, right in the middle of a city of 2.5 million people.

The picture below is of a weird cactus-like plant in the desert exhibit.

A "green" wall behind the stage in the middle of the gardens.

An interesting flower with a bee doing its pollinating job well.

Cool-looking little bird.

The orchid house area of the gardens was covered with a beautiful wood structure to provide the orchids the shade that they need to grow.

As expected, there were some amazing orchids like this one.

Lots of beautiful flowers.

I found this little guy hiding on a branch while we were grabbing something to eat before leaving the gardens.

We then continued on the Metro to check out one of the proudest accomplishments in Medellin's urban renewal: the MetroCable. This system of gondolas (which are included in the price of using the Metro itself) is not just for tourists. It is actually a public transportation system intended to make it easier for residents of one of the slums on the hillsides to get down into town and work as productive members of society. Before installing this line, it would take people upwards of 2 hours to get down the mountain and into the main part of Medellin where they could find work due to the winding roads and haphazard construction of the slum preventing any sort of direct route down the mountain. That time has now been reduced to about 20 minutes using the MetroCable and this has improved the quality of life through access to jobs and the city for people in the slum so much that the city just built a second line to another slum on the other side of town.

At the top of the MetroCable there is another set of gondolas (you can see it in this picture if you look closely) that goes up and over the top of the mountain to a national park with hiking trails and access to nature for the people of the city. This ride would have cost extra and we decided not to do it as there was a storm coming over the mountain, but the entire system was impressive regardless.

Also at the top of the MetroCable (before you would get on the gondola to the national park) is the Biblioteca de Espana (Spanish Library) donated by the country of Spain to help improve the neighborhood as well. It appeared to be working as we saw signs for all sorts of classes and lots of people going in and out of the library with books.

The new title picture of the blog was taken from this same spot looking over the entire city of Medellin. We spent a few days outside the city at the Secret Buddha Hostel after this where we further relaxed and enjoyed a fantastic 8 course dinner with guests from Argentina, Colombia, New York, and Australia cooked by the owner of the hostel to wrap up the trip.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Botero in Medellin

A few weeks ago during our October break Jenna and I decided that more than anything we needed to relax after a hectic first few months getting used to the new school and new city so we chose Medellin as our destination. Medellin is called the "City of the Eternal Spring" because like Bogota its climate is roughly the same year-round, but unlike Bogota the highs get into the upper 70s or lower 80s which was very nice as we left Bogota right in the middle of the rainy season where it felt a little more chilly than normal.

Medellin has a very nice, new Metro line which was installed as part of all the work done in the last 15 years to make Medellin a progressive, friendly place to live so we hopped on the train our first day there and headed to check out some art by the 2nd most famous Paisa (person from Medellin): Fernando Botero. Downtown there is a park which has a large collection of bronze sculptures donated by the artist himself. Since it was a Sunday, the park was full of families and other people enjoying the beautiful weather so we wandered with them and took some pictures of the sculptures.

Me eating a very large apple.

Jenna found her new pet.

Finally found a Colombian taller than me.

Kinda cool looking building behind some of the sculptures.

Next to the park was a museum with a bunch of Botero's artwork. If you didn't notice from the sculptures, Botero is famous for making "voluminous" people in his art. The last picture explains why the people (and every other object he makes) are so large.

Fat guitar sculpture.

One famous artist painted by another: Cezanne.

Death of the most famous Paisa painted by #2. That would be Pablo Escobar if you can't tell.

Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI (after apparently eating a lot of cake...)

A Colombian family. Not really sure everything he's representing here but it sure is interesting.

Very large, fancy woman.

Last but not least an explanation from the museum that answers the question, "Why does Botero paint fat people?"