El Peñon de Guatape

Two hours away from Medellin is an area called Guatape. This gigantic rock has 650 stairs that must be climbed in order to reach the top… or so we thought.

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From far away it did not look too bad… Once we were right next to it, that was another story. YIKES!!!

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It was a long walk up those scary looking stairs. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the top. I was so excited when I reached the step that said 325…Half way there….

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When we finally reached the top (or what we thought was the top) the views were unbelievable. As you can see….

 

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Once we reached the top, we found out that there was actually 740 stairs and we had to continue to climb… NOOOOOO!

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Finally we made it to the top and it was well worth it… I could have stayed there for hours.

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All I know is one day I will be back and I will make this trip again. The sights were amazing. Our principal and his wife spent the week in Guatape in the little houses you see on the water. I forsee that being something I would like to do as well.

When we made it to the bottom, we took one last “we made it” photo and ate some lunch. Another successful day during our October break.

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To end this post… I want to share my favorite photo from the trip. On our way down I stopped at a window and took a picture. I think it turned out awesome because the window looks like a frame for the picture. So pretty…

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Isla Cholon

Our first day adventure. Last weekend, Stacey and I went to the grocery store where we met a guy who spoke English (we were very excited). Needless to say, before leaving the store, we gave him our number and told him that if he wanted to hang out with North Americans, give us a call. He promised to cook us dinner which sounded wonderful, because Stacey and I are not doing much cooking. Monday night he had us over for dinner and made tacos. They were so yummy! Most people think that being in Colombia includes eating a lot of so called “Mexican” food like tacos, burritos, enchiladas… NOPE Colombian food is very different. It is not spicy, includes a lot of white rice, and meat. I am growing to like it. This is probably the hardest part for me…getting used to the food.  Okay, I got sidetracked…back to the story.

On Wednesday, he invited us over to his bosses house for dinner and drinks. That night we had black-eyes peas, rice, and meatballs with some KILLER spice. My mouth was on FIRE!!! I still ate it though, I didn’t want to be rude. By the time we left dinner we had a plan to take a private boat out to the islands and drink, swim, snorkel, and party all day on Saturday. YIPPEE….

I guess I should tell you more about our new friends. Scott is a site manager, from Texas, for an oil company that has come here to help build the new oil refinery. His boss Robert is from Louisiana.  They should be here for two years or more, building this refinery. This week, they have hit a minor bump in the road. All 12,000 Colombian oil workers are striking. They want more money! The unions out here are upset with the government because they are paying outside workers (from North America, Venezuela, etc.) 6 times as much money as the Colombian workers. Not cool!

Friday night Scott called and said the boat was reserved. We all had to be at his place by 8:30am. Who to invite…this was the hard part… We could only invite 10 people and our new group of teachers is 15 😦 I hate leaving people out, but I didn’t have a choice. So I called a few people, some said yes, others said no….

Saturday morning at 8:00 we headed over to Scott’s. In all 8 out of the 10 that I invited showed up. We got on the boat at 9:00am (Colombian time is a whole new thing – 8:30 really means 9 or 9:30). What a beautiful day for a boat ride. I put on sunscreen and away we went. We went snorkeling which was awesome. Lot’s of Finding Nemo fish. A guy on a little boat showed me where to go to see some awesome reefs and more fish. He was very nice, so I gave him a tip and he was shocked. We headed over to the party island which has little huts in the water where you eat and drink. So much fun! There were so many boats there, it was insane. We all just swam around, drank, bought jewelry, and hung out. Most people ordered some food and ate. Not sure what I was thinking, but I did not eat. I just wasn’t hungry because it was so HOT out. Lesson learned…when drinking in the sun, you should always eat. After everyone ate, we were about to head back when….I laid down and fell asleep for the entire ride home. Yep…beer, sun, and no food = sleep.  Good news is that I feel asleep in the shade…. Bad news I only applied sunscreen once… So by the time I feel asleep I was already a lobster. Ugg. So as I sit here and write this I am apply aloe every 10 -15 minutes and moving slower than molasses. It is going to be a rough few days of healing, but it was so worth it.

We have really amazing friends down here and we got to spend the day on a private boat enjoying each others company. Hopefully, we will be able to do this again. The lessons I will take with me for the next time include: Eat lots of food before, during, and after drinking; drink more water; reapply sunscreen often, and always enjoy living in the moment!

Thanks:

These next few weeks I would like to thank my friends. I shall go in the order we met:

Angie – You were my first friend when I moved to Pennsylvania. I can’t believe we have been friends for 16 years. We have been through a lot together: different colleges, marriages, divorces, different states, different countries, multiple boy troubles, and yet we can always pick up the phone and still have lots to say. I am so lucky to have you in my life and I look forward to the next 16 + years of friendship.  I love you girl! Thank you for always being there when I have needed you and for always standing up for me.

Danielle – We met the first day I moved into the dorms and you warned me not to go to the TBS meeting. I should have listened to you. We have known each other for 12 years and have also been through a lot. We have so many good memories from Bloomsburg. I still can’t believe you became a lifer there. We have had our ups and downs, but we have always remained friends. You will always have a special place in my heart Danielle and I hope that our friendship continues to stay strong. Love you 🙂 Thank you for all the years of advice and friendship you have given me.

Ginny – Our friendship started out rocky considering I did replace you and all! Neither one of us truly knows when we started to become friends, but we did  and man have we had some awesome times. I was so excited when you wanted to move to Virginia with me. We were such good roommates too, until Steve came back and stole your heart! It all worked out, I got the cat and you got the fiancé. It has been so amazing to watch you grow up, get married, have children, and buy the farm that you have always wanted. I am so happy for you and glad that I have always been apart of your family. Thank you for all the years of advice even when I didn’t want it, and for allowing me to be a part of your family. I love you!

Zumba Dancing in the Street

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This is not a picture of us dancing, but this is what it looked like when we were there. images (3)

The instructors are up in the stage and we are down below following their lead.

What an amazing night we had. Last night Stacey and I ran over to Old Centro, which is about a mile away, to La Plaza de la Trinidad. There we met up with about 50-75 people in the plaza which is like a town square to Zumba. There were 4 instructors who got up on the stage and they danced for 90 minutes. It was so much fun and so exhausting at the same time. We were drenched in sweat when we left and we still had to run/walk home. Needless to say, I think we got our work out in yesterday. I have yet to find any pictures of this incredible event, but next week I bring my camera and take some. This will be our new Sunday night workout!

Thanks: To my aunts and uncles on my mom’s side

Aunt Sharon – You have always taught us to live every day like it is our last and that no moment should go unlived. Thank you so much for always having such a positive attitude about life and showing us that life is too short to be lazy! I love you 🙂

Uncle John – Since I was a kid, I have always loved the fact that you were a DJ and that you were always so energetic and excited about music. I know we have been out of touch for a few years, but spending the week with you in Florida reminded me of being a kid and how much I look up to you. Thanks for always being so excited about your passion and life. I love you!

Uncle Bob- R.I.P. I know you are reading this from above and I just wanted to say that I love you and I am finally getting to do some of my own traveling. Instead of it being in a truck and around the U.S. I decided to take it a step further and go to another county.

Welcome to Paradise

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Outside of our apartment looking up

I have now been in Cartagena for almost a full week. In this time, I have gone grocery shopping which is an experience itself, salsa danced, fed the homeless a.k.a. feed the homies, went out to dinner, took a bus tour which lead to a horse carriage tour, and then champagne at a beautiful home in Old Centro. The house was amazing… it had a hot tub on the roof and you could see the clock tower a few feet away. I have also run/walked 8 miles in two days…not to include all the walking around from place to place. Tonight we are going to go out to dinner for our friends birthday and then walk around Old Centro (which is where all the bars and restaurants are located), it is about a 15 minute walk. I don’t want to bore everyone with multiple stories so until I get better at writing

this blog I will give you the bulleted updates!

What I love most about here:
It is so safe where we live, our door is open all day long when we are home, we have a door man who is awesome, and our apartment is across of the Caribbean Sea.

The school is amazing and the staff is so awesome. They bend over backwards to help us…picking us up from the airport, grocery shopping tours, filling out our paperwork, getting our identification cards, etc.

The view… not sure I mentioned this, but our view is amazing. We are about 3 blocks away from the beach where you can swim, we can see the fortress which is located in Old Centro from our window, and with all the windows open the breeze is amazing we don’t even need air conditioning until we go to bed at night.

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Things I am adjusting to:
Speaking Spanish which is hard, but I will get there

Having to throw your toilet paper away instead of in the toilet… yea it’s gross, but their system out here can’t handle a million people throwing toilet paper away.

Going grocery shopping and trying to buy things that look familiar and good to eat.

Relaxing and moving at a slower pace. Everything is so laid back out here. No one is in a hurry and everyone is so relaxed.

Things I don’t like:
There is only 1 thing I don’t like at all and that is that my friends and family are not here with me to share in this amazing adventure with me.

Fun stories:

The first night we went out as a staff we were given a tour around the city in a tour bus. Once we got into Old Centro they took us on a horse carriage ride through the old city. It was beautiful, so colorful and bright. Then we stopped at a former parents house (one of their many homes) and they had snacks, champagne, and beer. There were so many rooms, vaulted ceilings, a pool inside, and on the roof was a hot tub. The view from the roof alone was AMAZING! That was a pretty cool experience.

The weather is pretty crazy down here in terms of rain and storms. On our first day of orientation Stacey and I left all the windows open in the apartment (we are on the 7th floor no one can get in). It was so nice in Bocagrande (where we live) and in Norte Zone (where our school is) about 30 minutes away they were having torrential down pours and intense thunderstorms. At the time Stacey and I were turning white and freaking out about our apartment. We were sure it was going to flood. As luck would have it….those 30 minutes make a difference, not even a drop at our apartment. Lesson we learned: Always close the windows before going to work…

Thanks:

This week, I would like to thank my aunts and uncle on my dad’s side

Aunt Peggy – I have learned so much from you over the years. You have taught me to seize the day and live with no regrets.  Thank you for supporting my decision to come here and for the Columbia book and all the knowledge you have learned and shared with me about Columbia. Love you

Aunt Florence – You have always been so adventures and I have admired that about you. I feel like you have finally brought out my adventurous side. Thank you for all of your ideas and advice in coming here and for being such a great aunt. Love you

Uncle Jack- The man of little words. Thanks for always being there for our family and for teaching me all about the value of life and work ethic. Even though you are retired you still work long days maintaining the farm and I have enjoyed watching every minute of it ( that I am in Wisconsin). Love you

When one door closes another one opens

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I had my final goodbye party (number 3, I believe) in Allentown, PA. It was so amazing to see my family and friends one more time before heading out of the country. It was awesome to realize that I moved to Allentown 16 years ago from Wisconsin…CRAZY. I had friends who came to visit who I have known for 11 – 16 years. I never thought I would every be so blessed to have so many friends and for this many years. It is amazing thing when you find friends for life and I am so lucky to have so many. Here is to many more years and many more friendships. I was also lucky enough to go to Ocean City, New Jersey, get my first(and probably only) tattoo, go shopping, and spend time with my family. Goodbye are always bittersweet, especially when you have to do it twice.

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My flight was supposed to leave on Monday, July 29 at 6:00am out of the Philadelphia airport. The night before my mom and I drove in the pouring rain to a hotel near the airport. That day Philly had 8 inches of rain dumped on them, needless to say…lots of rain. The next morning we woke up at 2:30am and got ready to leave. I had four suitcases that together weighed over 200 lbs. We loaded them into the shuttle, drove to the airport, and my terminal was PITCH BLACK!!!! Go figure, the terminal for my airline was struck by lightning the night before and it was completely shut down. 😦
I was so upset to say the least, but my mom and I drove back to Allentown and I was able to spend one more day with my family. After two very long phone calls, I was able to book a flight to Cartagena on Tuesday morning out of Newark, New Jersey.
I arrived in my new home Tuesday night @ 4:15pm. My principal and a driver came and picked me up. Saying goodbye to all of my family and friends was very difficult, but this is something I have wanted to do for a long time and I am so lucky to be able to do it. I hope everyone who is interested in visiting is able to because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and let me tell you the views take your breath away or maybe that is the humidity… J/K it is the views. I hope you enjoy the pictures I am sending and also check out the video of my apartment on Facebook. If anyone knows how to put it on my blog….please share.

Thanks:
This week I would like to thank my siblings:
Jen – You have been such an amazing big sister. You were always there for me when I needed you and you are such a great role model. I have watched you travel and explore the world for years and this year, I finally get to follow in your steps. You are so awesome. Thanks for everything and I love you
David/Maria – You two are my saviors, I am not sure I would have ever made it in Virginia without your love and support and stellar moving abilities 🙂 Thank you both so much for everything! Who knows I might end up back in Virginia.
Doug/Laura/Denise/Kurt – You all have been so amazing and great to me. I really appreciate all that you have done for me over the years. I look forward to seeing you guys next summer.

USA tour – okay, only 3 states tour

Only 11 more days until I am off to Columbia. I have spent this last month visiting my family in multiple states. 

Before my tour began, I had to end my time in Virginia. It was bittersweet to say the least. You know the saying, “you never know what you have until it is gone?”  Well that is so true about my friends who are like a second family to me in Virginia. So many people came out for my going away parties… you heard me right, parties. I had to have two, one for my run club family and one for my school family. They were both so much fun. I have never felt so loved. It is amazing listening to everyone say how much they liked me, are going to miss me, what they have learned from me, and how they want to be a great friend just like me. Not to sound conceded, but GO ME!! Just kidding, I was so touched by everyone’s comments that it brought me to tears multiple times. I am not sure I had the chance to respond in the same way. So to all of my Virginia family… you are all amazing in your own unique ways, you have all taught me how to be better friend, how to forgive, how to let go and have fun, and most of all how to love. I would like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart and I look forward to sharing the next two years of my adventures with you.SAMSUNG

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I started my US tour at the end of June in Florida with my mother’s side of the family. Nine people in a two bedroom condo… tight fit, but we all came out of it alive and still loving each other. We went to the flea markets, Universal Studios, dinner, pool, botanical gardens, had a family photo shoot, and we even managed to go to the piano bar. If anyone plans on going to Orlando, you MUST go to Jellyrolls on the Disney boardwalk. It is the BEST piano bar I have ever been to. They were so great, my aunt even asked the two guys to play “Hear me roar, I am women” and they did. Hysterical let me tell you. On our second day, we got together as a family and took some pictures which turned out pretty awesome, I must say.  DSC03821DSC03899DSC03794DSC03893DSC03831

After Florida, I hoped on a plane to Wisconsin to see my father’s side of the family. I went from city living to country working. I love going home to the farm and spending some quality time with my dad and Darlene. I started out going to my cousin’s 90th birthday party. I now know two people in my family who have made it to 90 years old… I feel a long life ahead of me 🙂 Then it was off to the farm. We had a blast… went to see the fourth of July fireworks, cut some hay, played with the cats, took another family photo shoot (those pictures will come at a later date, they are not finished), went to a rodeo, unloaded hay, had another going away party (number three!!!) did some serious bargain shopping with my aunt, went to a concert in the park, boat tour around Milwaukee, and hung out at Mr. Ed’s bar where they make a killer Red Stag and Coke (thank you Mary and Darlene). For my going away gift my aunt make me a pillow and had my family sign it. This way when I am sad and miss home, I can hug my family and they will all be close. What a brilliant idea!

I am now in Pennsylvania where I will spend my last 11 days. I will share my pictures from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in my next post.

I have so many people in my life that I would like to thank and it would be a very long blog to do so. Instead I would like to thank a person each time I write a blog. Trust me…if you have influenced me in my life, you will be on one of these posts.

This week’s thanks goes to (drum roll please) my parents. You two are the ones who have molded and helped me grow into the women I have become today. You both have provided me with opportunities and experiences that have helped me become a better person. You have showed me which road to take and even allowed me to make mistakes along the way. I know that you are both very proud of me, but to be honest, I am the one that is proud…because I am the one who was blessed with such awesome parents. I would also like to thank David (my step father) for always being there to help me out when needed, loving me like a daughter, and loving my mother. My final thank you goes to Darlene (my dad’s girlfriend), we are so lucky to have you as part of our family. You have not only made my dad very happy, but you are always willing to help get me around when I am home. Thanks for always helping and getting my dad into the 21st century.Thank you all…. Love you