Author Archives: marisch

Two weeks left(!)

This somehow took me completely by surprise and I’ve been incredibly bummed out the last couple of days. But it has made me reflect a little over how its been to live in Colombia – what I’ll miss, what I won’t miss and what I look forward to back in the real world

Things I will miss:

  • My Santa Marta people ❤
  • Cab rides for $2.25
  • Maracuya juice
  • Always being ten minutes from the beach
  • Cheesy Latino music
  • Three minute dance parties
  • French mani-pedis for $5.60
  • Happy hour in the pool
  • Outrageous outfits
  • Costeño logic. Like all white people must be trying to get to the beach.. at all times.. always
  • Costeño humour. Like pretending to rob your friend in a dark alley
  • Men who can dance
  • Getting away with everything cause I’m blonde

Things I won’t miss:

  • The parrot
  • Queuing for half an hour at Exito
  • All the psycho people who call my phone
  • Bug bites
  • Having to break out of my room every morning
  • Street dogs, often in packs of ten
  • “The backpacker conversation” …where are you from? How long have you been here? How long are you here for? Where are you going next?…
  • Excessive honking
  • Hair gel
  • Ants and cockroaches
  • Fired foods

Things I look forward to:

  • Seeing friends and family
  • Warm showers
  • RED WINE!!!
  • Flushing toilet paper
  • Customer service
  • Blending in
  • Running outside without the fear of heat stroke and street dogs
  • Spicy food
  • Being left alone while shopping
  • People with organisational skills
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Christmas is finally over

So we were scared we’d be all alone in Santa Marta for Christmas with no plans, no friends or family and basically no fun. So naturally we took on way too many tasks, got sick and drank too much alcohol. But it’s not really Christmas until someone cries is it? I’m still not sure how we managed to make Christmas in the Caribbean stressful..It’s actually quite the acomplishment. We had a Christmas party at our house on the 22nd, brought all the kids over for a Christmas present party on the 23rd, prepared food for 7hour and went to Fundadores for dinner on the 24th. I guess we would have been fine if we had gone home after that, but instead we went back to Brisa to dance on the bar until the wee hours. On Christmas Day we were back at Brisa by 7.30 a.m. and arranged a dinner for about 70 people. I also think we would have been better off if fewer of the volunteers had had tonsillitis and if Rachel haden gotten Dengue fever. Oh well – some things you can’t control and in between the stress we had a very merry christmas here in Colombia!!


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Where else did we go…

Oh yeah; Minca and La Guajira.

I really loved Minca! It’s an adorable little town about 600m up in the Sierra Nevada where the climate is fresher and the coffee is excellent. Minca is also very tranquil; if you haven’t eaten before 9p.m. then you’re fresh out of luck! Julian, Lindi and myself stayed at a hostel where we were six people including staff. It was a bit like being at camp. During the day we’d hike and swim in waterfalls and during the evening we’d drink beer and play Djenga. I lent my camera to Tom and Polly who were filming  a documentary about FMA, so I’ll post the photos once I get them from Julian. Its pretty incredible that a place so close to Santa Marta can be some completely different in climate and scenery!

The last weekend before Christmas, Norah, Lindi and myself went on a somewhat impulsive trip to the region of La Guajira. We’ve all wanted to go to Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas, but usually you have to go with a Tour Guide and that’s ridiculously expensive. So we booked a two hour bus ride from Santa Marta to Rioacha, and pretty much took it from there. It turned out to be quite the ride.. We took a taxi from the bus station in Rioacha, then a shared ride for another couple of hours to Oiriba, a jeep through the desert for what seemed like an eternity before finally arriving in Cabo de la Vela. We left the bus station at 7a.m. and by the time we got settled at a hostel in Cabo the sun was about to set, so about 10 hours in total. We spent the night in hammocks on the beach and woke up well rested and covered in bites. We caught a one hour ride in a jeep to Puerta Bolívar and from there we got in a boat with some indigenous guys. We were told it would take another hour, so after about an hour and a half we were sure we were being taken to Venezuela. It took two hours and caused some serious bruising, but we made it to Punta Gallinas! And it was well worth the trip! Pictures are all up, except from the crazy boat ride and the delicious lobster dinner at the hostel

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The past month

Clearly I was never meant to blog. Here is a list of SOME of the things I wanted to write about, but never did:

  • Our trip to Cartagena
  • Thanksgiving Dinner
  • Weekend in Minca
  • Cabo de la Vela and Punta Gallinas

The list just goes on… But I will at least (clear space and) upload pictures + write a short paragraph on the highlights of each trip or event. Starting with the first two.

Cartagena was lovely. Eleven of us took a mini vacation within what is essentially a vacation and it was completely refreshing! Most of our days were spent walking around in the old city watching crazy parades. It was during the crowning of Miss Colombia so the whole city was buzzing. Its weird to travel from SM to Carta because everything is so much more expensive in Cartagena, but its great to be able to see something different so close by! The nights we spent drinking on the hostel roof with all the great people we met or salsa dancing at Café Havanna. We also all got soaked in shaving cream by random people in the streets – another interesting Colombian tradition.

Thanksgiving Dinner was a huge success!! FMA hosted a dinner for 50 people at La Brisa Loca to raise funds for the construction project. We made the most amazing feast, got a great local band to come play for us and sold all of the tickets. Coordinating an event in Brisa for the first time was a bit hectic and communication is challenging when not everyone has a phone and everyone is on Colombian time, but all the volunteers came through and it couldn’t have gone better. Also raised a lot of money for the kids 😀

Tomorrow I’ll summarise some more and upload some photos from La Guajira!!! So more of this to come


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Let’s Talk About Sex!

A couple of weeks ago a new volunteer arrived from Canada. She works with Sexual Education in Canada and has decided to bring all her knowledge and a ton of free condoms here to Santa Marta! We couldn’t be more pleased! Teen pregnancy is a major problem here. We have girls drop out of school at 13 and 14 to have babies. Norah’s approach considers more than one root cause, so the talks we do in the barrios cover not only contraceptives, but also confidence in young adults, techniques for saying no, how parents can talk to their children about sex and much more. Nora doesn’t speak Spanish, so before the talks all the volunteers get together and translate the material and talk about what is more appropriate here. Obviously more than just the language needs changing when you move a Sex Ed class from Canada to Colombia. 90% of Colombians are catholic and many of the topics we bring up for discussion have been taboo in these barrios. Older women and men, coming to these talks despite how uncomfortable it makes them, is a real testament to how important they feel sexual education has become. The idea is to have an open dialogue about sex between different members of the community, representing different generations, and supplying them with the knowledge they never received. The dialogue helps us find out where things go wrong. Is it difficult to get hold of the condoms or difficult to use them correctly? Is it a choice not to use them, and if so, why? We have had some really interesting discoveries on our way and we are really impressed that we have been met with such openness. Reducing teen pregnancy and the occurrence of STIs would be a huge contribution to these two barrios, so naturally we hope to continue the work after Norah returns to Canada

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Teaching English for adults

I’ve been teaching adults for a couple of weeks now and I have to say it’s pretty hard work! Not only do they all have different levels of English, they also have completely different backgrounds in terms of schooling. I spend ages preparing my classes and half the time we wind up covering completely different topics. I definitely have a new found respect for language teachers! Some of the topics can get really frustrating for them and me, but they’re very keen and motivated and they never give up. I also think it helps that we always have a good time together! I mean the Norwegian girl trying to explain English grammar in Spanish is pretty hilarious! My youngest student is 15 and my oldest is probably around 45. The younger ones still attend school some days a week and they pick up the grammar really quickly while the older ones don’t seem to completely understand the Spanish grammar. Luckily the younger ones love helping out and we seem to be getting there as a team! I am also getting some help form Rachel, a FMA volunteer with 10 years of teaching experience!  I’m really excited to see how much I’ll be able to teach them before I leave, but also how much Spanish I will learn in the process!! Here’s a picture of three of my students; Amparo, Luis and Jesus. (The snake is Riccardo, Amparo’s son)

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Field Trip to the University

On Friday we took some of the kids from Fundadores on a small outing to the University of Magdalena. The kids are always excited when they get to leave the barrio for a while, so they would have been happy with just the taxi drive over. But what awaited them at the university was so much better! There was a mini candy land set up at campus, and they were the guests of honour!

The kids found a great story teller

The students from one of the marketing classes have been given the assignment to do a project for an NGO and one of the groups chose to do a campaign for the FMA shampoo. The foundation has been given the necessary help to produce this all natural shampoo for a low production cost and we get to keep the profits, but in order to make profits we need to actually sell some shampoo. Obviously it’s difficult for an NGO to seriously promote anything when funds are so low, so having the assistance of the marketing students was much appreciated!!

FMA schmpoo: Orquideas

On Friday all of the teams set up different stands at campus to present their project and to promote the charity they worked for. FMA was invited to visit the stands and knowing the kids don’t often get experiences like these; the marketing students went all out! There were tons of candy and balloons, the kids got presents and they even set up a mini bouncy castle in their auditorium! Obviously by the end of the day the kids were completely hyped up on sugar, and we were all pretty tired by the time we got back to the barrio, but I’m so glad we did it! Even at their craziest; they’re such lovable little monsters 🙂 Click here for more photos from our little adventure!

The tiniest bouncy castle and the happiest kids!

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I ❤ Pirates!!

Pictures are added from both the Halloween event in Fundadores and the  Halloween party at la Brisa Loca

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Moving Day is finally here!!

I’m so excited to move in to a place with a kitchen and a key!!!! No more sausages and snails for me 😀 no more waking people in at 3 in the morning to let me in. No more barking dog at 05.:30. But finding this magical place I speak of was no easy task… We’ve spent the last two weeks being moody, wound-up-too-tight bitches – and that is no way to live in the Caribbean! I don’t think we would have made it if it weren’t for the cheap rum! But at least the experience was culturally educational

This is what I have learned about flat hunting in Santa Marta, Colombia:

  • The internet is overrated
  • Pounding the pavement is the only strategy that works
  • If you go flat hunting with a friend of the same sex, you must specify that you’re not gay, so you’re not looking to share a queen bed for three months
  • Anyone can rent out a flat, so you might want to ask your hairdresser, the guy at the juice stand, the guy at the electrical supply store or the guy that sleeps on your doorstep
  • Homeless people are to Santa Marta what the Yellow Pages are to the western world
  • Real-estate agencies and rental contracts are for squares
  • In Santa Marta “amoblado” means furnished, but also not furnished
  • There is a general misconception that white people come to Colombia with a truckload of furniture
  • You say “I’m looking for an apartment in Santa Marta”; They hear “I want to move to Rodadero
  • Don’t give out your number! Your phone will never stop ringing
  • In the context of wanting an apartment, ‘Yes’ means yes, ‘maybe’ means yes, ‘no’ means yes and ‘definitely not, not in a million years’ means maybe…
  • That the apartment has a shower is not to say that it has a working shower
  • In Colombia, a working shower is not a necessity…
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Columbus Day Weekend!!!

Today was Columbus Day and for some twisted reason the Colombians enjoy celebrating the colonisation of the Americas…anyway, for us it meant a long weekend and after all the hopeless attempts of finding an apartment, we were ready for a break! Saturday was spent with the Sin Fronteras girls in Costeño. The weather was pretty bad, but Costeño is a great place in any weather. Its an hour bus ride and a 30min walk away, but the beach is practically deserted. There’s a nice little hostel with some surfers chilling in their hammocks and a couple of dogs, but that’s about it really! Unfortunately for us we missed both lunch and dinner, but we caught the sunset before heading home and left Costeño pretty pleased! Photos

Saturday we took our first trip to Tayrona National Park. I love hiking, but 2,5 hours (each way!) in this horrific combo of heat and humidity was almost too much to bear… Turns out we could have cut the trip short by one hour as there are minibuses inside the park, but except for sports day we don’t get a lot of exercise here, so it probably did us good!! And when we FINALLY arrived at “El Cabo” the third beach and the front page of Lonely Planet Colombia, it was all worth it!! envy away!

After Tyrona, Pippa was Pretty in Pink, so we only spent a few hours at Playa Blanca on Monday. We had some issues with the boat driver that took us over, but the day was still pretty nice:) Here are some photos!

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