I had been to Peru the year before with the BCTF (British Columbia Teachers’ Federation) on a similar project but under the auspices of the union. I enjoy working with teachers as it broadens my teaching experiences, as well as reminds me of the similarities we all face when teaching and the ways in which each situation is different. I was able to go to Colombia in June because I had a leave from my school district.
I had never been to Colombia before, but I speak Spanish and previously visited two other South American countries. I had a sense from reading the Sueños Compartidos website what the situation would be like and knew that I wanted to give it a try. I contacted teachers who had been on the Peru Project with me about sharing their teaching packages, and like most teachers everywhere, they happily shared their electronic files. I wasn’t quite sure who would be in the classes, their level of English, their teaching strengths, or the kinds of materials I would need. So I took a look at some examples of student work, lesson plans, games, songs and art. All of it was useful and the Colombian teachers, of course, taught me a great deal too.
When I have taught in other countries, I have stayed in union accommodation, bed and breakfasts or hotels. This was the first time that I lived with a fellow teacher and her family in their own home. Early one morning, before school, we got on the motorbike and went to the indigenous market to buy all the foodstuffs that were needed for lunch.
Another day we went to a relative’s farm and had guarapo, a drink made from fresh sugar cane juice and a dash of lemon juice. I went on a family camping trip one weekend with the extended family of my host, and was asked to judge a beauty contest of men in drag. I will never forget a different family reunion, where a 160-pound pig was slaughtered, the bristle boiled off, butchered and roasted in my host family’s backyard. This is apparently a Colombian tradition when the extended family gets together and it was a first for me.