Catching up on Colombia pt.1

Catching up on Colombia pt.1

I’ve been in Colombia for three months now, and I broke my main resolution that I had coming here almost straight away. I was supposed to write every day. And post regularly. Well I kind of kept to the writing part, but most of it is the kind of stuff that I’d only feel comfortable publishing once I’m dead and famous.

So to spare you the rollercoaster of ups and downs (mostly ups!) I decided to do a quick round up. (edit: I tried to make it quick, I promise)

Background

I’ve been obsessed with coming to South America for years, but I really wanted to make sure I did it properly. I didn’t want to just blow loads of money drinking with gringos on different beaches (although that is still one of my favourite things…)

After an underwhelming experience in south-east Asia, I wanted something more authentic.  I wanted  to live and work and learn the language. Preferably on a beach.

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Spoiler alert: There is still a lot of drinking on beaches with gringos…

The programme

I stumbled upon Heart for Change’s program on an EFL cafe online, and applied there and then through a recruiting company called ESL starter. I was thrilled to have finally found a volunteer programme that didn’t sound massively douchy or ask for a huge lump sum up- front. And most importantly, genuinely seemed to be about sustainable change.

The programme is an English teaching fellowship funded by the Colombian government, who aim to get Colombia bilingual by 2020. The government has a bigger budget for education than defense this year, which is pretty bloody impressive at the best of times, never mind the fact that the country is only really at the beginning of a peace process.

After around 50 years of civil conflict (seriously, Narcos barely scratches the surface!) a peace treaty was finally signed last year. But everyone is aware that it is very much a process, and a delicate one at that. Many members of FARC have never known another life, especially the children, who are slowly coming out of the mountains to integrate into Colombian life.

…And Colombian life means Colombian state school. Which should have been obvious I suppose, but didn’t occur to me until it was brought up in training, and kind of blew my mind. We were told how we are not just witnessing a crucial part of the countries history, but playing an active role in it. No pressure.

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Our last day of training in Bogota