I have traveled a lot in my life and have had many comments on my countries of choice, but I don’t think reactions could be any more varied than when I said, “I’m going to Barranquilla, Colombia to teach 6th grade Language Arts and Social Studies for a year.”
I got everything from, “Make sure to wear a bullet-proof vest,” to “I have heard so many great things about Colombia, don’t believe the bad press it gets.”
I read up and here is what I found out:
- It’s South American country with 45 million people about twice the size of Texas.
- Barranquilla has a population of 1.1 million and is an industrial port city on the Magdalena River a few miles inland from the Caribbean Sea, located between the more beautiful Cartagena and Santa Marta.
- Botero, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Juanes, and Shakira (she’s from Barranquilla) are all from Colombia.
- The FARC is considered a violent terrorist group that have been involved with the cocaine drug ring – scary.
- Coffee is its other large export.
- Butterflies, orchids, and beaches galore.
- Barranquilla is known for its Carnaval in February which UNESCO calls "masterpieces of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity."
- Although there are dangerous places in Colombia, Barranquilla (like much of the country) has seen a decrease in crime over the past 5 years.
There is more that I read and heard, but I mainly from what I gathered, there is danger but using a bit of common sense and street smarts, I should be fine. I heard the people are wonderful. I heard the beaches are beautiful. I figured there wouldn’t be very many tourists in Barranquilla so my Spanish would improve quickly. It was not easy finding a lot of information on Barranquilla, so if you have never heard of it, don’t feel bad.
I was sad to leave Portland, but I wanted to teach in a hot climate, in a Spanish speaking country near (or on) a beach, at a good school. I got what I wanted, nonetheless it was hard to say goodbye to my friends, house, garden, and especially my dog to jump into the great unknown.
Now I’m here and everyday is full of surprises and interesting little vignettes. So far after 10 days, I am happy, safe, and healthy. Please enjoy Livin' la Vida Colombiana.