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Colombia: Cartagena to the max!

A short guide for visiting or living in Cartagena.

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Welcome to Cartagena

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I lived in Cartagena for six months, working for a public institute.
It is a captivating, beautiful, yet sometimes confounding place to live.
Here is a guide to making the most of your time there, and some lessons learned.
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The is South America The Caribbean

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Many visitors arrive from Bogotà or Medellín, and find themselves in a very, very different world.
The climate, use of language, people, culture and atmopshere on the Caribbean coast is dramatically different to the southern areas of the country. But that's Colombia.... It's a diverse universe of itself, unlike any country I've been to.

When I first arrived here from Panama City I experienced genuine culture shock (in a good way) for the very first time. It was nothing like Panama. It felt like Cuba on steroids.
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Cuba and Colombia certainly have a long standing kinship. Cuba played host to the epic peace talks between the Colombian Government and FARQ, and the two countries share a passion for music and dancing. Bars to barber shops curiously adorn Cuban flags on the walls, and Salsa is everywhere.
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Viva Africa!

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Cartageneros identify themselves primarily as afrodescentes before anything else.
It's worth noting that Colombia is the second biggest afro-latin country, after Brazil.
You will learn a lot about Colombia's afro culture and history here.

Have a listen to Carlos Vives' ode to the city in Fantastica and the chants of "Viva Africa!" here:

Cartagena was the first major city in the Americas where slaves were liberated (after the tiny Palomino), and was also the site of the first riots to end Spanish oppression.

Culture

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Colombia is definitely a boisterous country, and not for the faint hearted.
Cartagena takes that idea to another level. The traffic is chaotic and loud music is everywhere!!

It is a remarkably friendly and open city. It doesn't take long to make friends in Cartagena!
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Living

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Finding a place to live long term can be a little difficult here. The options on the internet are more tourist orientated and priced accordingly.
For long term apartments boots on the ground works best. Feel free to send me a private message for contacts.
There is a great Expats in Cartagena Facebook group that is also a great source of information and support.

Getsemani

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Getsemani is the up and coming hipster area of the city.
There are many great restaurants, bars and hotels.
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The area around Trinindad Square is a hive of activity every night - but especially on weekends.
Music blasts from family homes and blends into a wondrous mash of rhythm. Many families cook food from their homes and sell to revellers.

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Every Sunday night, local Zumba instructors give a free class in Trinidad square which is seriously intensive in the heat... lasting nearly two hours.
it's a great way to sweat out the weekend's excesses!
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Manga

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Manga is a posh bayside suburb where I lived for six months.

It's tranquil by Cartagena standards, and has a gorgeous walking track lined with outdoor exercise equipment along the water - looking out to the myriad of boats that dock here.

It has a lot of great boutique restaurants and small bars. If you are going to live anywhere in Cartagena, I really recommend here.
it's very close to the old city.
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Sports

Baseball

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Just like the other Spanish Caribbean ports, Cartagena is a baseball city!!

There are several pitches around the city, and in all the schools and colleges.
The interesting thing about pitches in Cartagena is that they often play loud music during the matches amping up the atmosphere.
It gives a great vibe to the games.

The main streets behind Getsemani are closed from traffic on Sundays to make way for a baseball tournament!!

Gyms

Bodytech in Bocagrande rivals any high end gym in the first world.
It has two levels looking out to the ocean from the 5th floor and has every piece of equipment you can think of, including an MMA octagon.
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Music

Like the rest of Colombia and the Caribbean, music is an extremely prominent and important part of culture in Cartageana.
Salsa, Vallenato and Champeta rule the roost.

As Cali is now known as the world capital of Salsa... Cartagena is the capital of Champeta; a folk and melodic beat heavy genre from the Atlantic coast of Africa.

Champeta parties are great fun and really exemplify the open and boisterious nature of the Colombian north (and presumably the African coastal towns). You will also find Champeta in neighbouring Barranquilla and Santa Marta.

Music legend Joe Oroyo was a Cartagenero (though he adopted Barranquilla as his home later in life)
Here is one of Joe's more famous songs depicting the rebellion and revolt of slaves.

Champeta

Champeta found it's way to Colombia via the Atlantic coast of Africa.
Champeta parties are great fun and raucus!! The great thing about Champeta is that you don't need to dance it with a partner, but of course many people do! You will notice friends dancing in big circles at Champeta parties, and also expect to be pulled in to join them.

Watch famous Cartageneros, Bazurto All Stars brand of Champeta here:

Nightlife

Donde Fidel

Donde Fidel is probably the most famous spot in Cartagena.
A relatively small and unassuming bar that plays Salsa and only Salsa... very, very LOUD.

Music at Fidels is so loud that folks can sit in the tables, outside - on the other side of the street to enjoy the music.
Inside, the walls are lined with photos of Fidel himself with many of the Salsa legends from Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico over the past 50 years!
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The vibe is casual and reflects the working class boisterous nature of Salsa lyrics and culture that Latino musos established so long ago in New York, and took to their home countries.
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I met all kinds of people here - from Colombia and abroad.
Folks bring drum sticks to bang out rhythmns, and dance betwen their tables; either in tuxedos after the many weddings in town or just in shorts and thongs after a day at the beach.

Bazurto Social Club

This is the home of Champeta in Cartagena and also the namesake of Cartagena's most famous Champeta band!

I love this place and made many new friends here.
The decor is great and vibe is friendly.

Champeta Parties

Keep your ear to the group for Champeta parties, including the monthly Champetú.
They are so much fun and have a unique, friendly and fiery vibe of Cartagena.
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Aivissa

I mention this place, but really it's the worst club in town with the best view.
They play electronic/house music and as such really only pulls in backpackers and their hangers on.

Each time I was dragged in there, I waded through sweaty gringos who had inhaled more of the white stuff than their bodies could handle, inflating their sense of importance and eroding their sense of decorum.
If you're missing home and "getting on it", then by all means, but it's not a very Colombian place to be.

Jamaica Club

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This is a bit further out in the burbs in a small complex of different clubs.
As the name suggests, the club plays a lot of Jamaican dancehall and also Bachata, Salsa and Reggaeton.

Torre Reloj

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As the weather is either hot and balmy or hot and swealtering, many people just congregate and drink in the many public plazas.
You might wonder how this can happen without trouble.... well the simple thing is that law and order works in Colombia.

The cops have a presence and are formidable. I've seen them deal with even moderate rowdiness with brutal, military precision.
Dont worry about drinking at night with your friends, just don't be an idiot or talk back to cops, because they will not hesitate.

The plaza at the famous Clock Tower is eye and ear opening.
The raucous tunes blasting from Donde Fidel provides a soundtrack for the myriad of tourists who roam the gorgeous area, along with the many ladies who stand relatively unassumedly in their finery looking like fashion models; availing their company for wealthy tourists.

Cafe del Mar

The only place you MUST visit just once.
Words really can't describe it.
It has an amazing view, nice cocktails and decent service.
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The Wall

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Around the wall, you will find many impromptu parties and vallenato buskers roaming the ornate surrounds.
Tourists and locals alike congregate around the wall, where the sea breeze provides gives reprieve to the heat and the illiminated ancient city in the background looks amazing!

Restaurants

As Colombia's premier destination there are awesome restaurants everywhere for all budgets!!
I don't even need to list any here, none will disappoint though, my favourite restaurant experience in Cartagena is....

Cuba 1940's

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The walls of this huge old building are lined with photos from pre-revolution Cuba.
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The area in front of the band stage is a swimming pool where clients and sit and dip their feet after dinner or whilst sipping coctails.

Beaches

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Cartagena's beaches are not the best in the country, or even the Caribbean coast of the country - but their are the most lively.
Music blasts, folks sit and wade in groups, drinking beer and eating.
The beaches of Cartagena are somewhat hedonistic - especially "Playa Hollywood" (Hollywood Beach) where literally everything is within reach of the many touts.
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Shopping

Cartagena has several malls, that are pretty standard, but be aware prices vary depending on the neighbourbood. The same pair of Adidas will be pricier in Bocagrande than at Caribe Plaza....Caribe Plaza is the biggest and best of the bunch, and throughout the old city are myriad of jewellers and awesome clothing stores that cater to hot weather.
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Bocagrande Plaza is a must visit, if not simply for the amazing view out over the beach to the Caribbean sea.
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Safety

Is Colombia safe?
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Well generally speaking it is. The kind of thuggery that happens in the suburbs of my home city in Australia is unheard of in Cartagena.... simply because the police presence in Colombia is really strong, visibile and formidable. Colombian cops have leverage to act as the situation requires - and they use it... and everyone knows it.

At closing time in Gertsemani, a group (of what looks like hundreds) of cops march through the streets and make sure everything is closed and that people are moving on.
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Drinking in the street, for the most part is legal and most young people drink and socialise in public spaces - the same as most latin countries but I have never seen any act of disorderly behaviour in an entire year in the country.
Cops are almost always within eyeshot.

One day after teaching class, I was walking along a main road. As I passed a police check point a male and female officer were dancing together to music blasting on their cell phones, and occasionally stopping cars for shake downs, but kept the music on. As they ushered the cars away, they resumed their boogies with big smiles. Only in Colombia.

Adieu Cartagena

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It's hot, humid and chaotic, yet beautiful, majestic open and friendly.
i had an awesome six months living there and made great friends and took away wonderful experiences.
Enjoy!
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Posted by SkinnyFists 10:02 Archived in Colombia Tagged travel shopping colombia cartagena colombia_safety Comments (0)

Colombia: Heart for Change

An account of my six months of "volunteaching" at SENA in Cartagena through the Heart for Change program.

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Heart for Change

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After eight awesome months of travel, including nearly five in Colombia I decided to get useful again.

The Heart for Change program with Volunteers Colombia appealed, because it is government affiliated and would give me insight into the country that visitors don't usually get. Plus, I'd be working with the nation's most revered educational organisation, SENA.

SENA

SENA is a public technical institute that provides free education for people living in stratus 1-3 (Colombia has a 6 tier social class system that you can understand here: here)

Their courses are concise with a view to putting people to work in short spaces of time.

There is no fat in SENA courses, students learn only what they need in order to work effectively. The syllabus are often developed in conjunction with industry.

In other words, once you do a SENA course, you are almost guaranteed a job, and enterprises are guaranteed skill relevancy with their SENA graduate recruits. It's definitely a smart path to win-win.

SENA has role specific courses for nearly all industries; from hotel maids to network security engineers, fighter jet maintenance crew and everything in between.

Having been on the road, and sharing my insights here, Volunteers Colombia suggested I join the new tourism program in Cartagena.

The program aims to uplift the level of English in the city's hotels, bars, restaurants and tourist guides through both classroom based learning, and with students as they work.

After years of being tainted with the danger tag Colombia is finally becoming the attractive tourist destination that it deserves. Understandably, there hasn't really been an impetus for Colombians working in tourism to learn English until recently. Though now, it is a high priority for local enterprise in Cartagena as word is spreading and tourism is on a rapid rise.

Cartagena is easily one of the most beautiful cities I have visited. Plus it is culturally vibrant and distinctly Caribbean in every way. It was an easy decision to accept.

Bilingual Colombia

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Graduating with decent grades in a new language is now a requirement for most tertiary level courses in the country. English and German are the top two.

Many engineering graduates go to Germany to work with the bigger companies, and friends here told me about the many scholarships offered by German universities to Colombians.

Volunteers Colombia employs "volunteachers" numbering around 360 native English speakers to join SENA and co-teach with local instructors.
Volunteachers are paid a stipend of 1.5 million pesos, which covers rent, food and possibly more depending on your city. Cartagena is very expensive so that stipend didn't cover much more than rent and food for me.

This progran benefits the students in a myriad of ways - both linguistically and culturally, and (in theory) benefits the local co-teachers who we work with.

This is reportedly the biggest bilingual program of it's kind in Latin America.

It is also worth noting that the Colombian government has put education as it's top priority, reportedly allocating more funding than military for the first time in many decades.
Exciting times for the country.

Application

The interview process was pretty simple; a Skype chat with one of the senior teachers. It was definitely an encouraging conversation and I was really excited about joining!

The screening process that follows is pretty rigid though.

We needed to get police background and medical checks, references, etc.
The contract is a whopping 36 pages! With a lot if-and-but clauses that were perturbing.
I bought the most comprehensive insurance plan I could find.

Induction

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Before dispersing out to our cities, the 90 or so new volunteers from all over the world (USA, Canada, Jamaica, Kenya, Croatia, Germany, Russia, UK and of course AUSTRALIA just to name a few) convened in Bogotà for a two week induction, at a particularly flash hotel.

All courses, seminars and admin were conducted on site, so we didn't have to leave.... everything was taken care of.

We got to know about Colombian culture, suitable learning strategies aligned to cultural values, do's and don'ts, safety, Colombia's rich musical landscape, and the very distinct differences between regions.

It was also interesting to learn about the different types of students who attend SENA, including people who are repatriated back to mainstream society.

Visas are required to work here, (we got a special TP1 visa for volunteers). Volunteers Colombia took care process of which was relatively painless and also arranged our ID cards (cedulas) and health coverage.

During the induction we were visited by many big wigs, who gave us rousing speeches about positive change in Colombia and the role of language and education in this emergence.

Colombia is reportedly the fastest growing economy in Latin America, and is blessed as the most biodiverse country on Earth.

Colombians are grafters, and seize opportunities. They are also known for overcoming staggering adversity.
Some situations are known internationally... and some you only learn about after living here for a while.

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In my home city, Melbourne Colombians represent a significant portion of our 125,000 international students. The only significant group out of all of the Americas. Go Colombia!

Bonding in da Club

The volunteers group also managed to get some clubbing in before jetting off to our cities....
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In Chapinero, Teatron is home to one of the biggest clubs in the region, with 13 big rooms playing every kind of music you can imagine.
It's certainly chaos, in some kind of organised way... you can roam between rooms dedicated to Reggaeton, Salsa, House, Rock, Techno, etc, etc.

Upon entry you are given a cup as part of your fee. That cup entitles you to as many drinks as you can handle... but don't lose your cup... you don't get replacements.

Arrival Cartagena

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My team of 15 and I flew to Cartagena mid June poised with wonder.

The program gave us one month free at Hotel Bellavista; right on the beach in Marbella.
It was a little rough around the edges, and living without air conditioning in 80+% humidity was a little trying.

I left after only 10 days, after a cat fell through the skylight in my ceiling, in the middle of the night...landing on me as I was asleep, and then running and screeching in circles at a million miles an hour - until I managed to open my door and 'escort' it out.

I found a nice room in historic Getsemani, in the home of a really lovely couple from Boyaca.
Getsemani is a really nice, and up-and-coming area of the city with a vibrant culture.

In Getsemani folks sit outside their houses with the doors open and (giant) stereos blasting Salsa and Vallenato from their lounge rooms.

On Sundays our street was closed to traffic as the local baseball league used it for matches.
I stayed there for a month and then moved to the serenity of neighbouring barrio, Manga.

English Immersion in Guasca

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After a couple of months in the classroom, an opportunity came up to assist with an English Immersion program in Guasca, near Bogotà.
We had a small volunteers team of four spanning Germany, Australia, USA and the UK. A nice mix of backgrounds and accents for the program to utilise.

The idea was to take selected SENA instructors to a gorgeous hotel in a remote location for two weeks, where they could only speak/work English, with a view to devising English immersion programs for students across the country.

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During this time we ran/participated in many activities and seminars around teaching practice, enabling SENA's education vision, and ultimately devising plans for widespread immersion programs for students to attend.

This was an incredibly exciting two weeks, and actually my favourite part of being in Colombia because it was like a cultural immersion for me.
I shared a room with two other instructors - from Cali and Pereira. We talked a lot in off time and learned a lot from eachother.
I contributed with workshops on interview techniques and CV preparation, and also cultural sessions about Australia.

The enthusiasm, drive and good humour behind the people in the program was incredible. We had so much fun!
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We played many games, ran dance competitions, movie nights, etc
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The volunteers got to practice our spanish, because we had to translate any of the participants' requests for hotel staff to spanish.
The participants were completely locked in to English!

Ultimately the group produced a very impressive looking proposal for a country wide English immersion program that could be implemented across the country.

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I made a video of the experience here:

Tour Guide Project: Documentary

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As part of our contract with Volunteers Colombia, we had to dedicate a portion of our week to a specific project.
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I chose to work with the tourist guides studying at SENA, and do something that would improve their revenue earning potential.

When we first met as a group I asked them what their priorities were in terms of learning.
The responses were mostly around how to explain history, dates, materials, events, verbs in past tense, etc.

I thought that a nice goal would be to get each of them to script an English tour of one particular site, and video it as a useful tangible outcome.
We decided that we could use the videos as promotion of themselves and/or businesses if I put them on Youtube.

We then had a goal - produce a video tour of Cartagena's main sites in English, and selected 10 of Cartagena's prime sites and formed small teams dedicated to each site. I then gave them an outline for a "script" for their videos.

They had to explain dates, genesis/impetus for construction, materials, events, etc... and it's uses (then and now).
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From September through 'till the end of November we had a great time writing and refining the scripts as a team.
The tour guides helped each other with the details and phrasing in such an inspiring and heartening way. It really was amazing to be part of the tour guide group. As we worked together I learned so much about Cartagena's history and also about the inner workings of tourism here.

Finally we had scripts ready at the end of November, and during the first two weeks of December we went out and filmed our Cartagena Tours in English video set.
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The result is 10 videos on Youtube (see below), that my students can now use for promotion, training of new recruits, and also as tangible outcome of our hard work.

Here are some of them:

You can find a complete playlist of all of our videos here: Video Documentary: Cartagena Tours in English

After we launched our videos online, we celebrated!!
My students treated me to a chiva bus party, night tour of Cartagena and an awesome dinner and drinks in historic Getsemani.

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Birthday Surprise

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There were a lot of nice unexpected surprises for my birthday.
When i arrived to class on the day, my students had a cake, balloons, streamers, coca-cola, etc ready for an awesome surprise!!

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I was also invited to the restaurant where many of my students work, for a delicious lunch and was presented with a cake.
This is tradition in Colombia that I'm sure teachers back in Oz would appreciate.

Co-teaching at SENA Cartagena

In terms of classroom teaching there were amazing highs, rewarding tangible exhibitions of progress and I was greeted with the most warm, embracing arms by the students who were really motivated to learn..

Beyond the project, and immersion program I was co-teaching classes 7am-11am, Monday to Friday in Casa de Marqués; a gorgeous building with very interesting/controversial history (see the video from my project) .

In the classroom I saw amazing camaraderie, learnt so much about Colombia's rich culture, idioms, food, etc, etc.
I also learned a lot from my co-teacher who is a very learned individual and incredible instructor, with solid techniques and a great demeanour for teaching.

Co-teaching Dynamics

Occasionally I saw flashes of misogyny, xenophobia, machismo, prohibitively competitive attitudes, and oddly dismissive views of phrasing and accents that were not akin to neutral "Hollywood"... not from students mind you.... rather by the local instructors.

Though the idea of co-teaching and bringing in foreigners to SENA is awesome - it isn't necessarily appreciated or bought into by university educated instructors, who conquer huge odds to get into their roles there.
It really felt like the volunteers were somewhat of an annoying imposition, and ultiamtely there were problems.

One class when covering dates I explained that when phrasing years, we normally combine the first two numbers then second two. (before 2000)
(example 1959 = "nineteen / fifty nine")

My co-teacher interrupted and exclaimed that really "wasn't correct", and that in fact you should say the complete number.
"No!" He interjected "The year 1959 is 'one thousand nine hundred and fifty nine'"

I inquired where he had heard that before....
He responded "I was in one of the expensive hotels, and heard a rich man say his date of birth using the complete number, so it must be correct."

He then told the class that they could humour me, but "one thousand nine hundred and fifty nine" was actually the preferred way to phrase years.

Throughout the semester hearing jarring errors in pronunciation or phrasing being recited and rewarded with a proud smiling nod was... well...y'know.

Any attempts to suggest alternatives to his learned vocabulary (he insisted that "bin" was not actually a word and that rubbish goes in a "basket") were thwarted.

Occasionally he would half mockingly ask in front of the class "and how do you say it in Australia?", as if we speak some kind of very distinct localised dialect that students wouldn't benefit from.
Ultimately I just let him teach whatever he liked, assisted with a smile and focused on my project.

I found myself thinking of the 4000+ Colombian students living and studying in Melbourne, learning and yearning to say "G'day" properly, and pondered that more good would have been done running free classes in Fed Square.... and it would have cost a pretty penny less than the thousands of buckaroos shelled out on this journey.

I wasn't the only fella sobbing in to my arepas.

Regarding a fellow volunteacher from Ghana, I heard about one of the local instructors tell her class that Ghanian English is not "proper", and if they couldn't understand him to consult one of the Colombian instructors, or American volunteers.

The poor bloke was mortified...but to his credit kept smiling in the class and saved the tears for later.

At this point morale within the volunteer's group went in to freefall.

Utilisation of Diversity

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Between the volunteers team we cover native English accents from around the world and different parts of the US, plus Russia and Germany.

The point of the program was to expose students to different accents and localised phrasing of different countries; but the idea wasn't supported at centre level and the volunteers were hamstrung, reduced to teaching assistants.

Our team mix was in line with the aspirations and idea of this program, however this couldn't translate to reality as localised staff really were not invested in the idea, and I dare say averse to it.
And who can blame them....

Slogging out language and teaching degrees against the odds in a country finding it's feet after tough times, only to have starry eyed first worlders come in with imposed equal footing, and correct them - is probably a hard pill to swallow.

After experiencing the teachers' equivalent of a cock-block time after time, I put the lofty aspirations of the co-teaching program down to a huge chasm between talking the walk, and actually walking it.

In an effort to try to align the volunteers and SENA staff several "team building" days were organised and moderated by psychologists at the behest of both Volunteers Colombia and SENA. Though, it would take more than a few trust exercises to resolve the issue.

And yet comedically, despite everything, the biligualism program in Cartagena won an award for best language program in the country.

You might wonder why I didn't quit.....
The classes were ultimately great fun, and I actually learned a great deal about effective teaching and class management from my co-teacher, despite the dynamics. I was also determined to finish my video project with the tour guides.

I socialised with my students, and was often invited to their places of work to try the food, have cocktails etc.
The immersion in Guasca and my project especially made everything worth while, and I'm looking forward to contributing to tourism in Colombia again in some other way soon.

In the end

It was an exhausting yet rewarding experience full of new learnings and understandings.
The warmth and generosity of most Colombians is unparalleled to anywhere else that I have been.
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Also, Cartagena is a truly awesome and wondrous city to spend an extended period of time.
Stay tuned for a detailed insight into living in Cartagena.

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Posted by SkinnyFists 18:33 Archived in Colombia Tagged colombia cartagena sena teaching_english heart_for_change sena_cartagena volunteers_colombia cartagena_bilingüe _heart_for_change_colombia Comments (1)

Colombia: Cartagena

Border advice plus... dancin', chillin, cyclin' plus more in Colombia's paradise on the Carribean coast

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Arrival Colombia

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I left Central America full of great memories.... via Avianca and landed on the sunny shores/airport of tropical Cartagena.
Luckily I had bought a bus ticket to Ecuador for a month's time, because the customs officer asked for evidence of my departure before letting me in to the country.
This has happened twice for me so far.... so be warned.

I made the mistake of not supplying onward travel evidence in Costa Rica.
It created all kinds of havoc, though I'll save it for another chapter dedicated to border crossings.

Lodgings

I stayed at two different hotels at different times, and both were excellent!
Though, I really recommend Patio de Getsemani.
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It's run by a super friendly family, the rooms are wonderful, cool and quiet... and the hotel has the most amazing rooftop patio/garden with astounding views.

Getsemani

Barrio Getsemani is a wonderful, hip suburb just outside of centro.
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The streets really come alive at night... many families blast music out of their front rooms with the windows open and often sit out the front socialising with their neighbours and tourists alike.

It's a very nice environment to be part of.

There are many bars in this area, but the spot where most people congregate is Trinidad Square.
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Many food stalls surround it, and there is often sound systems blasting quality tunes.

Centro

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Central Cartagena is wonderful!
It is a photographers dream, and most likely heritage protected as it has a very antique feel, retaining its 600 year old charm.

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You will find all of the boutiques, upscale shops, and fine restaurants in an amazing setting.
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It seems like from the facades the city has not changed since inception nearly 600 years ago!
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There are many squares, where people either sit and eat, or amazing performers ply their trade.

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Café del Mar

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If you want to impress your loved one, book a seaside table at Cafe Del Mar for sunset.
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It's a truly beautiful spot with incredible views out to sea, and out to Bocagrande.

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Beach

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Cartagena isn't famous for the beach, but it is nice.
It is easy to get to the more pristine places like El Rodedero or Playa Blanca

Explore by bike

Cartagena is a great place to explore by bike.
It is very flat, and doesn't have much road traffic, with many bike friendly avenues.
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I took 3 hour tour covering centro, Getsemani and often less visted barrios for a bit of contrast.

Festival of Lights

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Cartagena put certainly put on a show in terms of Christmas lights.
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Huge light statues and presentations were scattered all over the cities and parks.

Nightlife

Cartagena has amazing nightlife! All Latin forms of music plus electro are catered for here!

Salsa

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Salsa is the staple form of music in Caribe Colombia, and Salseros are in for a treat.
You can study at Crazy Salsa, and enjoy some awesome venues to dance or just listen and marvel.

Here are some venues I visited....

Donde Fidel is a small bar with a huge voice!
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(Folks sit outside of Donde Fidel, in the main square enjoying the music by night)

There isn't a great deal of dancing here, it is more of a place to sit appreciate/talk about music with others so passionate about it.
Many groups, couple, individuals sit and appreciate the tunes, amidst the photos of famous Salsaneros who have visited the place.
Bring sticks and even a cowbell!

Quiebra-Canto is a 3 story venue dedicated to Salsa.

quiebra_canto.jpgThe bottom venue attracts many casual punters, and the top floor was filled with aficionados passionate about the music .
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I spoke with the barmen about different artists... and they of course bash rhythms and singing passionately when they aren't serving drinks.

Havana Café. Arguably the premier live Salsa joint in town.
They have smokin hot musos gracing the stage and a really festive environment.
My only problem with it was that it was full of tourists and no room to dance.

I had the best time at Donde Fidel and Quiebra-Canto!

Music

One day I came across a busker playing didgeridoo... in a way that Colombian's would - rapidly, with marvellous complex rhythms and a strong groove.
His girlfriend was playing a soulful clarinet accompaniment.
It was truly amazing and I'm kicking myself for not filming, but if you visit Cartagena watch out for them!

I saw a lot of other really wonderful performances in different pockets of Cartagena.
It was my first taste of the country and the importance of musicality in Colombian culture quickly became very clear.
I could write subjective tomes about it... and others have done exactly that....

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

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The Jewel of Cartagena and a very significant/strategic part of Colombia's history.
I spent more than four hours exploring, via aid of audio guide.
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It was really fascinating, especially to lean that at one stage British Pirates conquered the fort.

Amable personas

Cartagena is just one of the many magnificent cities of the Carribean coast of Cartagena.

I also had an amazing time in Barranquilla, Santa Marta and Parque Tayrona, which I'll write about shortly.
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I definitely recommend Cartagena as a destination for families and backpackers alike.
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Hasta luego!

Posted by SkinnyFists 14:18 Archived in Colombia Tagged salsa cartagena colombia_cartagena Comments (0)

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