Moving in, in Ibague

My new neighborhood, barrio Cadiz, is built almost on a cliff. The edge has great views of the mountains that almost completely surround Ibague.

2/6/2018 Tuesday

This has been a busy day and I plan to get some extra sleep tonight to deal with it.

I love street food, and this is one that defines Colombian food: Arepas. These thick tortillas are made from corn. They can be served with cheese or butter, or split and filled for sandwiches. Can’t wait to try them. This was mid-morning, so perhaps it’s going to be an easy, street breakfast.

This morning I had an appointment at 10am with Astrid, the manager of the Ibague language center, Native Tongue. My taxi driver took me straight there, too, so I was quite early. Astrid didn’t seem the least bit impressed with me. I’d say she’s done this orientation many times and had too many native English speakers leave after a short stay. I can’t blame her. I’m sure she has a tough job scheduling around all the changes. She doesn’t really do the recruiting, either. That seems to be done in the Canadian office. While it’s nice to have someone else go through the hassle of recruiting, it means she doesn’t get to choose her teachers. She gets the results of the recruiting sent to her. I’m sure things don’t always work out. Let’s hope this works out well for both of us.

Here’s my new school again. This neighborhood has many English schools and a few other languages are taught as well, like French and German.
Inside the school.

Astrid did an initial orientation with me, concerning the benefits and the process to get a work visa. Honestly, the work visa system seems fairly straightforward compared to most countries. It takes about 20 days. There are more benefits than I expected, including decent health care, a bonus for staying the year and some vacation days. The pay isn’t fabulous, but costs are reasonably low here, so I think it will be enough to cover expenses in country. The school has about 500 students, and 15 teachers. Most of the upper levels are taught by native English speakers. There are 15 classroom levels, plus 5 more that stress conversation and preparation for big English exams (a total of 20 levels). Some classes are intensive (four hours a day), some not (4 hours each Saturday). There are also children’s classes, mostly on Fridays. I’ll have Sunday and Monday off. Scheduling sounds confusing and I’m sure it will take me awhile to get the hang of everything.

I’m set up with Alejandro, the trainer, for a thorough orientation in the morning at 7:30. He’ll give me my books for Saturday’s Review 3 class, which I’m teaching. There’s also a teacher’s meeting at noon on Thursday. So I’ll have some time to prepare. Not sure what my week day classes will look like, but everyone works on Saturday mornings.

Next, I met with the school’s real estate agent, Hector. He has a few properties, where he rents shared rooms to teachers. Unfortunately, he has nothing available at the moment. So, he offered me his guestroom in his penthouse until a place opens up! It’s lovely, as the photos show. The 6th floor apartment is only 5 blocks from the school and overlooks Carrera 5 (similar to Fifth Avenue) and the mountains that surround Ibague. The apartment is ringed with balconies. I’ve got a private bath (but still no hot water!), access to a kitchen and laundry, private bedroom with large closet, and a doorman. The best part—there’s an elevator that opens into the living room! No climbing the stairs with my books every day as in Peru! It’s too pricey for a long-term stay, but I’ll enjoy it while I’m here.

This is from one of the balconies of Hector’s home, where I’m renting a room until something opens up. What a nice view. AND a nice breeze too. There’s little air conditioning in Ibague, none in this penthouse. It gets a bit warm for my tastes, but I’ll have to adjust. Maybe that’s what the cold showers are for?
Farther along the balcony
The living room. This man can decorate.

Lots of windows and lovely lighting and flooring.

He took me in his car to the hostel where I quickly packed up my things a day a head of schedule. After a nice lunch, with a lovely young couple who seemed to need his assistance in some way I couldn’t determine, I moved in. Phew! That’s a lot before 1pm.

AND I’ll be forced to learn a lot of Spanish. Though Hector is a US citizen and lived 30 years in the DC area, he speaks very little English. He understands almost everything, but he’ll force me to speak in Spanish. I’m sure it’s what I need. He does EVERYTHING quickly–especially speaking. This won’t be easy.

The photos were all taken today.

This is Carrera 5, much like Fifth Avenue. It’s a wide boulevard, and a main road for traffic. It’s a bit loud at times, particularly with all the windows open, but at least I’m above everything. Don’t you love the mountains? There has been rain in the mountains since I arrived, but only a little here inside the city.
This is the view from my window. Notice the blue roof at the bottom of the photo…..
….On the roof is a child’s doll. You just know there’s a story there. Probably not a good one, either.
Hector has lovely art. He seems to like Picasso, Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe. He moved several items from the room he rented to me, and it’s all piled on the couch for the moment. This evening, he’s hired a couple women to help him organize everything. It will be perfect before I got to sleep.
I don’t even know what this painting is about, but I like it.

Here’s the building from the outside. You can just see the top floor, where Hector lives. And there’s also a small market on the ground floor for basic items. I may end up eating on the street a lot here, as I did in Mexico. I could probably live on fresh fruit and arepas.
This is the side street, that takes me to the school.
Why is there always a KFC? It must be the most popular American fast food chain in the world. I see more of them than McDonald’s.
I thought I’d seen some Mennonites at the airport. This looks like a Mennonite Church. It’s right across the street.