Friday, June 26, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

La costa atlantica after 3 years

Almost three years ago to date, I left the Atlantic coast of Colombia to join the English Language Fellow program. I had no idea that I'd ever go back after a year of living in Barranquilla and teaching at Universidad del Norte. It was a tough year, partially because Barranquilla is not exactly a paradise by any means, and because I was coming out of a six-year relationship with someone. I probably would have stayed a second year if I hadn't joined the ELF program, but I'm not sure how much I would have liked Colombia had I done that.

I've been in Manizales for 10 months now, and like it a lot. The people and the place have nothing in common with the coast. I began to remember while I was sitting in BOG waiting with all the costeños for the flight to leave. And getting off the plane at BQL, with trash all over the floor. And taking the circunvular and seeing all the dust and run-down buildings and traffic. All the people without homes. The stray dogs.  The unkept streets.  The arroyos. The brown-gray color of the water where the Magdalena meets the ocean (a friend who was still teaching in B'quilla refused to let him students use blue for the Magdalena, only brown or grey). Sure, there are some things that I'd missed, like being able to sit outside, wear sandals, and eat comida arabe.  The way people speak. Music everywhere. But Manizales is much more like home for me.

May 30th, the day I left, there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  Leaving Manizales, the plane takes off and circles out over Chipre, then heads back towards Bogota.  The view was unforgettable...the nevados in the background, with Manizales down in the valley, and nothing but green as far as I can see.  Too bad most days you can't see anything! 

Here's Grandfield, looking the same, but with another whole floor on his house and eating more than bread, cheese, and fruit. Friends that I miss.

You can see the disappearing beach near Puerto Colombia (global warming??).  It used to be full of palapas.  The pier is also in the distant, but half of it collapsed into the ocean because they didn't take care of it.  Sigh.

In Cartagena I was suprised to find that some of the teachers in my workshops were guys that I'd met three years ago when a group from the University of Cincinnati came down for a course on applied linguistics.  It was great to reconnect with them, and find out that my professor is bringing down another group this month for the same course.  Maybe I'll get to use my silla ganadora from Avianca and go pay them a visit! 

One new development in Barranquilla was that my friend Kathleen's husband, Jaime, had made a couple of vallenato songs/videos which aren't half bad (although I'm the first to admit that vallenato isn't my most favorite music ever). He's calling himself Jimmy now, which I found particularly amusing!

I went back and visited Uninorte, which was looking cute after adding some new buildings and some plants.  I even had a generous job offer from another institution, but not enough to make me want to leave Manizales. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

ELF Highlights: Barranquilla and Cartagena

Highlight 18
Date: June 1-3, 2009
Title: ELF Visits Centro Cultural Colombo Americano in Barranquilla
Participants: 187
From June 1 to June 3, English Language Fellow Erin Lowry imparted a total of five workshops at the Centro Cultural Colombo Americano in Barranquilla. Three of these trainings, a total of six hours, were attended by 110 public school teachers from the city, and focused on how to teach pronunciation and vocabulary, as well as strategies for integrating technology in large classrooms with few resources. The local Secretary of Education paid a visit the first day as a part of Barranquilla Bilingue program, and diplomas were provided for teachers who attended all three workshops.  In addition, two workshops were provided for Colombo teachers. The first, titled “Motivating Underachievers,” dealt with strategies for motivating students to learn English, in particular in the bilingual assistant programs at the binational center.  The second workshop, “Ideas for Authentic Listening,” introduced teachers to new online resources for engaging students in listening activities, as well as new ways to teach using authentic songs and film.  

Public school teachers share their experiences
Highlight 19
Date: June 4 & 5, 2009
Title: ELF Visits Centro Colombo Americano in Cartagena
Participants: 100
Senior English Language Fellow Erin Lowry spent two days in Cartagena giving workshops to teachers from the Centro Colombo Americano and the public sector.  On the first day, Colombo teachers discussed the importance of syllabus and course design in the morning, and methods for teaching listening and speaking in the afternoon.  An open house workshop on teaching vocabulary was scheduled for the second day for teachers from other educational institutions in Cartagena, but was unfortunately cancelled due to rain and flooding in the city. 

Colombo Cartagena teachers discuss the relationship between course objectives and evaluation methods

Highlight 20
Date: June 3 & 5, 2009
Title: ELF Visits Escuela Superior de Administración Pública in Barranquilla and Cartagena
Participants: 61
Regional branches of the nationwide Escuela Superior de Administración Pública (ESAP) in Barranquilla and Cartagena were host to Senior English Language Fellow Erin Lowry on June 3rd and 5th, respectively. ESAP had invited teachers from both public and private sectors in each city to attend a workshop on Shaping the Way We Teach English, a teacher training program developed by the University of Oregon under request of the US Department of State’s Office of English Language Programs. Shaping is a tool designed to standardize teaching practices of English as a foreign language in countries. Participants were introduced to the materials, and worked through a portion of an example module dealing with teaching large classes.  The materials, which include a trainer’s manual, DVDs with videos of classrooms from around the world, and a set of readings, were donated to all branches of ESAP that ELF Lowry has visited in the first half of 2009.  
Public school participants in Barranquilla pose after a workshop teacher training materials

Teachers from various institutions in Cartagena discuss how they manage large classrooms of 35 to 60 students