Monthly Archives: March 2013

Back to the Backpack and Botero

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A month of unpacked clothes, an apartment and a little routine faired well. But now its back to exploring.

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We walked up about a million stairs to get to Monzerate, a church that sits a top a mountain here in Bogotá, surrounded by Canadian pine trees and clouds. Some people go up on their hands and knees as a pilgrimage..

Bogota.

Botero is a very famous artist here who is still kicking at 80! I tend to think that you have to die in order for your art to be appreciated- not this guy, he’s got a whole museum! He makes all his paintings fat. I think travelling is like becoming a Botero model..

Botero.. more like but-tero. or bootay-ero.

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We are teachers now!

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March 22, Bogotá, Colombia

It was with this amazing group I braved a serious month of intensive teacher training. Throughout CELTA we saw many tears, a few breakdowns, sickness, drop outs, kick outs, stress outs, all-nighters, long dayers, hilarious input sessions, amazing teaching prac students and a whooolle lot of learning from our course tutors. But we got through and can now peruse the globe to teach English with a solid University of Cambridge Certificate in our back pockets!

Malambo

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Take five girls between the ages of 5-9,  one 6 year old boy,  four 16 year-old girls, a bus driver (oh and his sister),  la señora  (and her daughter), a nun and me, and put them all in a half renovated house with one working tap inside and what do you get?

My incredible experience at with Malambo Children’s Home.

16 of us visited Agua Dulce on the Coast of Panama, to my great surprise the housing situation worked out! We took the girls to the river everyday to swim. I’ll always remember climbing the Tamarindo tree and throwing down fruit to a bunch of grinning girls with their arms stretched to the sky. We played guitar and danced and tried to learn some english. At times it seems like English is the answer to everything, but what they needed more than that was a little love. And, as Jaz lead me to realise, just as much as they needed some love, it was learning how to love  that was missing (and if I’m being honest, a few good manners).

We made it back to Panama City eventually, and our 5 girls became 13. During my time with the kids at Malambo, I met four very incredible teenagers. The four 16 year old girls needed just as much as the little ones did. They are basically all mothers of 13 girls and they are only 16 themselves. They cook for the girls, clean the house, shower them, do their hair and supervised them 24/7.

I came to know Malambo as the place where nothing is yours. The girls would always be part of a mass, but needed individual recognition and love. I learned that your time becomes your time with them, your arms an extension of constant hugs, your seat always made for two, your food, drink, your sunglasses your towel, everything is for sharing. I couldn’t have shared it with a more amazing bunch.

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Yessenia, Tatiana, Ernestina, Arasellis

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Thank god I met Nina. She was my first ever couch surfing host and I couldn’t have hoped for a better experience, she introduced me to the amazing kiddies of Malambo.

Nina volunteers at Malambo, which is a kids home 40 minutes of out Panama City. So I went along with her and asked the head nun if they needed a hand. It was the 5-9 year old girls who needed help with their English. So two days later I was back at Malambo amongst kids who are tougher that I ever have been. Their circumstances ranged from having a sick parent and a working parent, to having nobody at all.

It is no doubt the people you meet who make your travel. The ones that blow you away, who you may never see again, and the ones that you know you will have to meet again somewhere along the way. Either way, people can change your thinking, open your eyes, hang on to your heart. More often than not on a travellers road, you know these people for such a brief amount of time, but the magic of the road means they can make the difference of a lifetime.

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Nina and I with Elizabeth, Anna, Elena, Dariana, Chelsea, Coco, Ashleigh, Nicole and Tatiana.

300 Elephants

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Not only is it the only thing that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but the lock gates of the Panama Canal weigh equivalent to about 300 elephants!

It felt like I was a part of the Titanic set, amidst something grand, as I stood upon the railing like a little girl waving down at the big ship slowly passing by.

The men on deck were smiling up at the crowd and taking photos of the waving strangers. I wondered how long it had been since they had seen people other than each other.

I never understood what an engineering marvel the canal is, until I met the head engineer of the Panama Canal Expansion project. His name is Michael and he and his wife Nina were my first ever couch surfing hosts. I hit the jackpot.

Panama City gets a bit of a bad wrap from the nomads. Its definitely the most cosmopolitan city in Central America but it still has it’s little gold mines, even if it isn’t hipster central.