Four weeks, 800 words

YOU GUYS, I KNOW. I know it has been a little bit of a while. But! I promise you all, I’m still alive and generally very happy. A brief life update: We spent the first three weeks after arriving in orientation at a house in a town called Cota, just outside of Bogotá. Despite being next to the city, Cota felt like being way out in the middle of the country, complete with cows, chickens, stray dogs with the potential for fleas, all kinds of exciting plants, minimal air pollution, and a really incredible cheese shop hidden at the end of our street.

I probably would've been okay staying here for more than three weeks.

The three weeks of orientation were your typical cliche whirlwind of madness, crammed with a series of classes on everything from teaching writing to how to deal with the slightly slower pace of work here in Colombia to Spanish tongue-twisters (sorry, trabalenguas. There’s your vocabulary word for today). And of course, there was the bonding. Oh, so much bonding. After classes and dinner, most of us would head to the little tienda across the street for a beer or five — I think we probably gave the lady running it enough business to take the rest of the winter off. On a few nights, we ventured into “town” (either Cota center or the neighboring town of Chia), but the 10:30 p.m. weeknight curfew made significant adventuring kind of challenging. Oh, curfews! It really was just like summer camp (except with fewer canoes and more beer).

The view on the climb up to Guatavita. Bogotá air pollution can't touch us here!

The whole group is pretty damn cool, too. I can’t remember the last time I was around such a large combination of (very different) people who managed to get along so well. There are so many awesome, talented, intelligent, interesting people here, covering a huge range of ages, backgrounds and life experiences (and we even have two Australians!). It’s pretty inspiring to be part of such a great group of people, and it definitely made orientation a really positive experience — well, that and the constant supply of in-house coffee.

One of the many pieces at the Gold Museum. This was not, however, the one I wanted to put in my pocket.

In between all the classes, we managed to sneak in a few quick trips to Bogotá — to the Volunteers Colombia office (where we weathered a massive rain/hail/windstorm); to the Ministry of Education and the American Embassy (more on that later); and to La Candelaria, the “historic” (read: oldest) part of the city, where we visited the incredible Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) and had a few hours to wander around, most of which we spent hiding from an enormous rainstorm (are we sensing a pattern yet?) in one of Bogotá’s many gorgeous libraries. SO MANY LIBRARIES. It’s like my dream city. We also took a day trip to Guatavita, which is a little more than an hour’s drive from Bogotá, to visit the famous lagoon, which allegedly gave rise to the legend of El Dorado. That’s right — it’s a lake filled with centuries-old gold. Not such a bad place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The view from the Plaza Bolivar in La Candelaria (taken heroically whilst dodging horrible pigeons). The church on the mountain is called Monserrate. It's a big deal here in Bogotá.

Orientation came to a bittersweet end on January 22nd — as much fun as the camp atmosphere was for everyone, we were all really anxious to get to our sites. And get there we did, with only a few minor mishaps and homestay cancellations! Since the 22nd, I’ve been living in a ridiculously tiny room (those of you who’ve seen my rooms the last two years — divide that in half. Yeah. It’s that small) in an apartment complex in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Bogotá. It also happens to be a casual 20-minute walk from my school. Considering I have to be at school at 6:45 a.m. most mornings, this is nothing short of a miracle. I live with a very nice middle-aged Colombian woman named Cristina, and there’s a 19-year-old Colombian dude renting out another room in the apartment — a room which shall become mine in June, when he leaves for France. I have maybe measured the closet space already.

SO. That’s my life, right now. I have so much more to say, but this is already getting ferociously long. So I’ll cut it off here, and try to post another entry that’s less about me and more about Bogotá itself, since that’s really the fun stuff. Besos!

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