sábado, 8 de septiembre de 2012

English Song Festival

As TEL (Teaching English for Livlihoods) Volunteers, we face some challenges inside the classroom here on the coast of Colombia! (!=to say the least) With a more flexible sense of starting and ending time for classes greatly reducing the time students..and teachers...are in the class, coupled with disciplinary problems and often times general chaos from the students, teacher's here find their instructional time dwindled to a fraction of what the class time should be!  Add to this the frequent cancellation of classes it is hard to teach enough material to students to have them learn and retain much information.  

So, when struggling with these obstacles and how to motivate students to learn English, we are forced to think outside of the box...or outside of the classroom!  Peace Corps Volunteers all around the world have been putting on English Camps, English Days, and English Song Competitions to motivate students to learn English and have fun doing it.  Last week I had the pleasure of traveling to a small town outside Cartagena to be a judge in one such English Song Festival in Pasacaballo.

The Judges Table!

The Judges and MC

Although most students really enjoy any reason not to wear their uniforms, some of the competitors really got into it by buying matching outfits! (not an easy feat considering the economics of the communities where we work)

The participants!
The Winners!  (I swear they looked happier when they won...)

Although I had listen to Celine Dion and relive my past with every Christian song known to mankind and had a headache all afternoon that I'm pretty sure was related to the blaring music all morning, I had a great time seeing all the planning and enthusiasm that went into this event.  This was just the intraschool competition, so I'm looking forward to the interschool competition coming up in October and seeing the best of what Cartagena has to offer.  Last year the winner was from a community called LaBoquilla where a volunteer is currently working and word on the street that she is still treated like ROYALTY around those parts for winning!  I was even invited to bring some of the little tykes (4 and 5 year olds) that I'm working with to compete!

And on a closing note, I would offer a word of advice.  If you have a Volunteer fluent in English working at the school with you, maybe have them proofread all materials:

lunes, 3 de septiembre de 2012


This past week marked another milestone for me in my Peace Corps service.  I had the pleasure of traveling to Barranquilla to meet and greet the 30 new Peace Corps Volunteers who will be beginning their training and then two years of service.  This years group came a little bit early, but you know what that means?!?  It means I've almost been here a year already and am officially the one who (kinda) knows what the hell is going on!  Cool trick, huh?

After a lifetime of preparation for the Peace Corps, I remember how it felt as the plane landed here in Colombia: the mixture of excitement, anxiousness and nervousness.  Even more nerve-racking: there wasn't a full group of volunteers yet in the country to show us the ropes and help us out!  (Although we had some amazing response volunteers who helped us when they could!)

Not many of the Volunteers from Cartagena and Santa Marta were able to make it to Barranquilla to meet the Newbies.  I felt drawn towards doing so.  I was feeling nostalgic about my own arrival here in Colombia and just wanted to be a friendly, reassuring face to those getting off the plane: whether they were super excited, or scared out of their pants!  Plus Jonathan lives in Barranquilla, so any trip to Barranquilla has an extra incentive ;)

The few extra hours we waited at the airport after several delays gave us plenty of time to take some pictures and have a really fantastic, silly time together.  I would gladly have waited several more hours with this fantastic group of fellow volunteers and Peace Corps Colombia staff!

We also had plenty of time to practice a few amazing parodies that the Barranquilla volunteers wrote for the new Volunteers.  One of the songs was written to the tune of 'Call Me Maybe' by I have no idea who. Carlie something, right?  Most of the current volunteers here in Colombia were at a distinct disadvantage having gleaned from our ever decreasing ties to US pop culture that this was a popular song but not really knowing the tune!  I had only ever heard the song once (when I was back home last June).  But despite this, it was very well received!  Check out the youtube video here:  Call Me Maybe Parody by Peace Corps Colombia

And the clever lyrics.  I'll highlight my favorites for you!

We sent our apps with a wish
and said goodbye with a kiss
we were looking for this
yeah now we're here to stay
Turns out it's hotter than hell
we're here til we ring that bell
Yeah now you're here to stay

Many young minds we're moldin'
some ac and we'd be golden
wish that tasty wind was blowin
Think that class is canceled, maybe?

Hey we just met you
And this is crazy
Welcome to Peace Corps
PC Trainee
It's hard to leave home
Some call it crazy
But here's our numbers
Call us maybe?!

Most people walk at a crawl
Buses aren't built for the tall
But we're still having a ball
Just gotta find your own way

From the sun your face peels
We're all gringos and that's real
24/7 you feel
Everyone stares your way

Bridge, Chorus

And all the men will
give piroooopos
Don't give your number
But call us Maybe

Welcome to the coast we're sweating so bad
We're sweating so bad
we're sweating so so bad

Welcome to the coast
Cause we're so glad
You finally made it
We'll call you Trainee!! 

So, the new volunteers arrived on Wednesday and we were told in no uncertain terms that we were NOT allowed to take them out that night.  So we waited until Friday :) Every Friday in Barranquilla there is a fun football game organized by some of the volunteers at Shakira's school: Pies Descalzos.  Most of the new volunteers were able to make it to either play or watch!

By the time everyone got cleaned up after the game, we were ready to go out around 11pm.  Which is a pretty perfect time to start the evening on the coast!  However, due to tiredness and not wanting to rock the boat on the third day in country, we only had three of the new volunteers willing to go out with us!  We thought for their first outing we would take them to the most famous Salsa club in Barranquilla: La Troja.

La Troja

Normally I'm not a big fan of La Troja, it's just so crowded and loud...but this night was one of the most fun I've had in Colombia!  We had a really great mix of Colombians and Americans...and just enough aguardiente ;)  I'll leave you with some of the evidence of our fun in hopes it will entice you all to come down to Colombia and join in!

That really is how much you sweat here...just gotta embrace it!

In case you can't salsa, just teach the Colombians obnoxious American dance moves!  

Showin' em how its done!  Apparently I'm the only one taking this seriously!!
Miss you all so much.  Can't believe it's almost been a year.  Hope some of you can make it down here for a quick vacation <3  Love you and keep in touch!