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Sarge

Sueños y Aventuras en Colombia

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Today marks 6 months in Colombia. What an adventure. One of these days I'll write up a big reflection.

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This is all awesome, Sarge. It sounds (and looks lol) like you're doing amazing down there. So happy for you!

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Sarge we need a pic of this Columbian girlfriend of yours.

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She's actually nothing special here in terms of looks. She's pretty, but if I had gone hunting just on the basis of looks, I could've had some serious hotties. But most of the super hot girls want everything handed to them, and they aren't usually all that smart. My girlfriend is a music teacher. She's a super cool, intelligent, patient, kind person. She loves trying new things, whether it's music, food... ahem... stuff in bed... She we make each other laugh constantly too.

 

Just a great girl to spend time with.

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She's actually nothing special here in terms of looks.

I wouldn't tell her that.

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It's looking more and more like I'm going to end up staying here for a while. I don't know how long, but I plan on renewing my work visa in May, which allows me to stay for one year. As long as I am employed here, I can stay without any problems.

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When I spent a semester in Chile a guy that was on the trip with me met a girl and she eventually moved back to the states with him. They've now been married for 7 years and have 3 kids. This is your future, Serge

Edited by Socal

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I could see that happening, other than the moving back to the States part.

 

If I choose to stay here long term, I have a tremendous opportunity available to me that I don't have back home. I could start my own English teaching business here. I've only been here 6 months, but word is getting around the city that I'm a pretty decent teacher. After a bit more time I would have the necessary contacts to build up a clientele from day 1 of striking out on my own. I really like the school I work at now, but having my own business with my own hours and making 5 times as much money sounds pretty great to me.

 

By local standards I can make a fortune doing this. Small classes, no more than 10 students. Charge way less than the established schools charge. I also wouldn't focus on boring grammar drills. My classes would be almost exclusively conversation-based. If you want to learn to speak, you have to practice speaking. Most instruction for English as a second language severely neglects the practice of conversation, which is terrible because conversational skills are the most important (and luckily the most fun) to learn. Of course I would also help them practice writing and answer grammar questions as they arise, but the focus of my class would not be on grammar books that repeat the same boring exercises for 50 pages.

 

This is a long term plan anyway. I've only been teaching for 6 months. This is something I could do after I have 2 full years of experience or so. By then I will have figured out how I want my classes to go and I will have networked enough to become a trusted name in the city. Of course if I marry a local the networking part would be 10 times easier.

Edited by Sarge
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I think I would be really sad if I left this place. I would probably just turn right around in the Miami airport and come back. I never expected to get so attached to living here.

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I am thinking about moving to another city in Colombia. I like the city I am in now, but maybe it would be a mistake to just stay here without exploring at least one more new place. Still not really sure, but I am thinking it over thoroughly.

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So I have decided that I am indeed going to leave here after Christmas. I am in the process of gaining as much information and insight about other cities as I can from my friends here and online. I'll let you guys know what I decide and where I'm headed.

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Sarge is joining FARC to take down the capitalist swine.

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That was supposed to be a secret. :shifty:

 

Since my friends here know I like smaller cities, they have recommended that I check out Manizales and Pereira. Those are smaller cities with like 400,000-500,000 people near Medellín. I have read about them before, so I could just go check them both out when my vacation comes up. They are close enough together that I can spend 3 days or so in each to see which one I like more before deciding where to stay.

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Heading to Manizales on December 30th. Some time before that, I'll write a reflection of my time here in Bucaramanga, my first Colombian city.



Time for a new data sheet!



Manizales - "The City of Open Doors"



Location: Western Colombia. 4 hours south of Medellín. High in the Andes Mountains. This is a totally different part of the country from where I am now. It's an 8 hour bus ride from my current city to Medellín and another 4 hours to Manizales. So everything will be different: the food, the weather, the way people speak, and so on.



Population: 400,000



Demonym: Manizaleño/a. The people here are also called Paisas, the same as those from Medellín. The same people founded both cities long ago.



Elevation: 7,000 feet above sea level. Towering peaks with some volcanoes.



Climate: Daily average high: 70* F Nightly low: 55*F. Lots of rain but it helps create the stunning greenery seen all over the city. Much cooler than where I am now.



Industries: Coffee. Manizales is world famous for its coffee cultivation and production. Along with nearby cities Pereira and Armenia, Manizales makes up what is known as Colombia's Coffee Triangle.



Signature dish: Bandeja Paisa. I posted a photo of it earlier in this thread. Also the aguardiente made here is famous all over the country. It's an anise-flavored liquor. Most popular alcoholic drink in Colombia and most of South America as well.



Education: Manizales has more universities per capita than any other city in the country. It is a very young city.



Music: As with the rest of Colombia, salsa, cumbia, and vallenato are the most popular kinds. Reggaeton is also popular in many clubs.



Miscellaneous: Manizales is an outdoor person's dream. You can drive 30 minutes one way and find much hotter temperatures or 30 minutes another way and freeze your tail off. Hiking, biking, kayaking, mountain climbing, natural hot springs, volcanoes, and other natural wonders await visitors and residents alike.



A few photos:



manizales_13473693621.jpg



manizales-colombia-578x345.jpg


Edited by Sarge
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Why do people live anywhere else in the whole effing world?

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:D I can't wait to get there. It's going to be awesome, especially now that I actually know something about Colombian culture from the inside.

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Immensely enlightening and well articulated, as always, Sarge. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying thank you for sharing your journey with us. I look forward to more reflections and to your move to Manizales.

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Part 2

 

Safety: This is something people always ask me about. In our world today, I can understand why people are preoccupied with the safety of a place, especially one with the reputation Colombia had in the past. But the past is exactly where the reputation for violence belongs. You may not believe what I am about to tell you, and I certainly can’t force you to. But it shouldn’t be a surprise that people have been misled about this place based on the media portrayal of Colombia.

 

Although there are still some pretty bad dudes here in Colombia (mainly the FARC), they don’t bother normal people anymore. Basically FARC would be considered a terrorist group, but their targets are the government and super wealthy people. They also deal in drugs, and there are other big drug lords here in the country still. FARC isn’t located in the cities. They make their bases in the unpopulated mountainous regions. The reason is the last few Presidents have really beefed up military and police efforts to get after them. Tourists really don’t need to go to the areas where they hide out anyway.

 

Their targets are more strategic these days. They’re not going to kill their potential customers. They are going to kill other drug lords trying to invade their territories. If you come here looking for trouble, it’s not hard to find. But if you come here to live like an everyday person, you have nothing to worry about. I have never once felt threatened, and I’ve certainly never been verbally or physically threatened.

 

There are areas of the city where I would not walk after dark. But that’s true for any big city in any country on earth. I listen to what the locals tell me and heed their advice. The only thing that’s going to happen is homeless people asking you for money. There are also guys who come around with garbage bags to collect your empty beer cans. Finally, there are plenty of pushy street vendors. They are aggressive in approaching and asking for a sale. This kind of thing doesn’t happen in the U.S., but it is seen as normal here. But these people are all harmless.Sometimes I’ll give someone a little money in exchange for some gum that I don’t really want or need. But at least they are selling something instead of stealing.

 

I’ve been here 8 months and have only seen one street fight that was relatively harmless. I saw one drugged up homeless dude try to steal an outdoor restaurant owner’s dog, but that kind of thing happens everywhere. Also, even if you do get robbed, most of the time you’re not going to be hurt if you hand over your stuff. I haven’t been robbed here though. This country is really trying to put its past behind it. They have really worked hard and made a lot of progress.

 

I suspect that Colombia as a whole is definitely more dangerous than the U.S. in terms of the chances of getting your phone stolen or possibly mugged with a knife. But violent crimes are becoming increasingly rare against normal citizens. Despite my Spanish ability, it is still obvious to anyone I encounter that I am a foreigner. But they don’t target me. And none of my friends who are expats have ever had problems either.

 

tl;dr version: Colombia is not the “Banana Republic” it was 20 years ago. It’s a country with a bright future and plenty of resources to make the vision come true.

 

Sharing an Apartment with Colombians: I have a different experience here than many other people who come from other countries. Most expats stay in their little bubbles with each other. I’ve met a few people here that have been here for years and they can’t speak Spanish worth shit. They also really know nothing of the very culture they live in. They only hang around other foreigners. I told myself I wouldn’t let that happen to me, and I followed through with that promise. I live in an upper-middle class neighborhood by Colombian standards, but I share an apartment with 2 young professional Colombians. One of them is a producer for the local TV station, and the other is a bartender at one of my favorite bars.

 

They don’t really know any English, so any time I want to or need to communicate with them, it’s in Spanish. This is a real Colombian experience. We usually eat lunch together and sometimes even dinner. I have learned how to prepare some of the typical foods here with their help. It’s still funny when one of their friends comes over and sees a foreigner staying with them. Meeting people has been super easy because of this. And I don’t have to be shy or take a guess about what I should do or say in a certain situation. I’ve picked up the expected mannerisms and etiquette just by living with them. I didn’t come here to live like an American. I came to live like a Colombian.

 

Because I live with Colombians, I know more about life here and the tiny intricacies of it than the ones who stay hidden in their gated communities. I know where to get the best food for the lowest prices. I know about the little places to go that aren’t on the tourist trail to have a good time or see something new. I know when cultural events are happening and what there is to do at those times. Sharing an apartment here also takes a huge burden off of me. I don’t have to negotiate with utility companies or landlords. And I know how to get fair prices on everything. People know they can’t overcharge me for stuff because they know my roommates will ask me how much I paid for it.

This has all made social integration so much easier for me. My roommates are so patient with my Spanish and explaining things to me that seem difficult. I will definitely miss them when I move, but I plan to continue sharing an apartment in Manizales with new people I meet there. I also know that if I ever come back to this city, I have made friends that I can count on for help. I have also met their families and friends too. I very quickly made a social circle for myself just by living with Colombians. I predict that it will be even easier to do this in Manizales thanks to my experiences here.

 

Working in Colombia: As you guys know, I work as an English teacher. I work in a language institute that is partially funded by the U.S. Embassy. Compared to other countries in Latin America, it is very easy to get a work visa in Colombia. That’s one of the main reasons I came here in the first place. I have heard horror stories of teachers in other countries getting kicked out for not having the right visa. And even if they never got in trouble with the law, some schools don’t pay on time or at all if you’re there illegally. You have no leg to stand on. I am an adventurous guy, but not that adventurous. My school filled out a few papers and paid for a bus ticket to Bogota where I got the visa. I had to pay for the visa initially (about $ 300 U.S.), but I got all the money back as soon as I returned and signed the contract with the school. I am paid every 15th and 30th via direct deposit.

 

I’m not going to get into much detail about the actual teaching. That’s something I could write a whole thread about, but I’ll save that for another time. I want to focus more on the job as a whole. If you read part 1, you saw that life here is a lot more relaxed than in the U.S. In addition to the previously mentioned 2-hour lunch break, there are many differences between working in Colombia and working in the U.S. I have a boss, but my boss doesn’t tell me what to do. In the classroom I have 100% autonomy. There are some goals the students have to meet, but it’s my call on how to deliver the content to them. I am not required to submit a lesson plan, but I make one anyway. You have to be prepared as a teacher, and you also have to have at least thought about what you’ll do if they don’t understand the lessons or if they get bored (that’s sometimes more common than the not understanding part).

 

Here it is almost expected that you will become friends with your co-workers. It’s not wise to turn down invitations for dinner, drinks, whatever from co-workers. In my field, of course, these are Colombians who learned English as a second language and now teach it. They are always interested in making friends with the foreign teachers. Some of the female teachers are really hot, and I was told flat out by my boss that he understands life happens. In other words, it’s not off limits and it is basically expected to happen. But I decided that discretion is the better part of valor. Getting involved with a co-worker is almost always a bad idea, unless someone leaves that workplace.

 

Teachers are very well-respected in Colombia, especially foreigners. Most of these kids don’t get a chance to interact with native speakers that often. I invited my students to call me Matt, but after a few weeks they still called me “teacher.” I asked my colleagues why, and it was explained to me that disrespecting a teacher is something the kids here are taught not to do. But when class is over, I am often invited out to eat or even to visit a finca. A finca is like a ranch house that wealthier Colombians have out in the countryside 30-60 minutes outside the city. The relationship between teachers and students here is a lot more personal than back home. It is not only allowed but encouraged for you to spend time with the students outside of school if possible. In Colombia it helps the reputation of the school if the teacher is very friendly and willing to spend time with the students outside class.

 

Girls: Ok, the part you’ve all been waiting for. So what are Colombian girls really like? I’m going to tell you right now, they are probably not what you have been led to believe. Some of the stereotypes about them have some truth, but others? No way. Let’s walk through some of my general impressions of the girls here.

 

Colombian girls are not nearly as easy as people think. If you don’t know what you’re doing with girls in the U.S., you won’t fare a whole lot better here. The only exception is if you speak Spanish. That’s the game-changer. People have been coming here for years to get laid. Any girl worth a shit knows this, and pride/image is a big thing here. Girls don’t want to be known as whores. It hurts their reputation. So you have to prove you stick out from the typical backpacker sex tourist and show her you are interested in her culture and language. It is not a coincidence by any means that my success with girls grew as my Spanish ability grew.

 

There’s also a trust issue. Due to the turbulent years in the 80’s and 90’s, the girls my age now were raised in an environment of fear. For their part, I can’t really blame them. Also, Colombian guys can be huge assholes by our standards in the U.S. In Latin America as a whole, a feminist would not have a very good time, and Colombia is no exception.

 

It is so much easier to meet girls anywhere in the world if their friends recommend you. In Colombia, the approval of a friend goes a long way. That is one reason why people here often go out in big groups, and there are some guy friends around to keep them safe and weed out the guys they don’t like. Girls feel safer meeting guys through friends. They don’t have to guess what the guy is like or if he is going to waste their time. That may be one reason why relationships can get hot and heavy in a hurry here. In short, you have to build your overall social circle first in Colombia before the opportunities (and legs) open up to you.

 

Girls here are very traditional women. What I mean by that is they enjoy doing the things that have been expected of women in ages past. Once you are in a relationship with a Colombian girl, you are only going to miss out on the vag when she is on her period. As long as she’s good to go, you’re going to be a happy guy. My girlfriend treated my penis like her personal pogo stick. It’s because they know they have to put out to keep their guys happy, and they don’t want to lose a good man for any reason. Sometimes my girlfriend would come to my house early in the morning before work, fuck me, and then go work all day. Then she would stop by my apartment on her way home from work and fuck me again, or we would at least have dinner first… I have been told this is the norm here

.

At the same time, that also means they expect you to be a real gentleman. Or what they say here is “cada hombre deberia ser como un caballero.” Each man ought to be like a Knight. Knights in the middle ages were known to be the best lovers and the definition of a true gentleman. So that means holding doors for her, letting her do things first, buying her flowers and candy just because. You get the idea.

 

They love holding hands with you and showing affection in public. I hope you don’t mind a bit of clinginess. If you have won a Colombian girl’s heart, she will eventually start calling you her “papasito.” When this happens, a lot of her life is going to revolve around you. But not always in an annoying way. She is going to make sure you are well-fed, well-fucked, and whatever else you need or she thinks you need. She will clean your apartment and do your laundry without being asked. These girls are really amazing.

 

And the best news is, they are not all gold diggers like you have heard. If you date normal girls that come from respectable families, you won’t be treated like a walking ATM. My girlfriend and other girls I dated never once asked me for money. The girls I choose to date don’t need my money. My girlfriend used to come and pick me up on her motorcycle and take me places. It’s pretty easy to tell if a girl is going to ask for money or not right away. It’ll be on the first date. “My family needs help…” I haven’t encountered it because I focus on girls who are educated with careers or are going to college now.

 

I think I will stop here for now. Part 3 will cover sports, cultural events, and probably a stream of randomness of some kind.

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