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This week’s guest post for the ‘Day-to-Day’ series comes from Sarah at Mapping Words who’s currently working and living in La Boquilla, Colombia. If you’re an expat and interested in sharing the day-to-day details of your city shoot me a message at thepaperplanesblog @ gmail . com.
As a Peace Corps volunteer in a Caribbean beach town outside of Cartagena, Colombia, I don’t necessarily have a daily routine. Most plans emerge from face-to-face interactions and chance encounters at the school or on the street. Although I have a schedule of classes that I co-teach with three English teachers, classes are often canceled due to an array of festivals and holidays, scheduled days without water, spontaneous sports events, and teacher strikes. A couple months ago, I illustrated this concept through a series of maps.
Life is spontaneous on the coast, which makes every day a bit more exciting. Nevertheless, there are some patterns that have emerged from my day-to-day.
Everyday, I try to take advantage of the early morning hours before the town turns into an oven and the music across the street blasts at full volume. I usually wake up around 6 AM to the sound of my host family’s pet birds chirping in the kitchen. A few days a week, I walk to the beach, where I run barefoot for a couple miles, basking in the warm breeze and energy of the sun. Sometimes my host brother joins me, and sometimes I do Tae Bo with a woman from the community who owns a nearby restaurant.
When I return to my house, I take a shower, make coffee, and read while I eat breakfast. (I’m currently on my 38th book this year.) I eat a lot of local fruit, like coconut, papaya, granadillas (passion fruit) and mangos. My friend recently gave me her oven, so lately I’ve been obsessed with baking muffins.
I also try to clean in the morning. My floors are perpetually covered in dirt, and because I begin sweating from the time I wake up, laundry is never-ending.
Monday through Friday, I wander in and out of La Boquilla’s public high school from 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM. English Teacher training, co-teaching and co-planning are all part of my main project in the Peace Corps. Because the school is so small and there are so many students, there are two sessions during the day. Sometimes I work in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, and some days I’ll be there for a few hours of each. No matter what time of day I teach, I’m always standing in front of 40 kids with a sweat ‘stache going on.
I currently have an English song club, where I teach a group of students a popular song every week. I also am in the process of starting an art club and doing a photography camp. I’ve worked on a few English video projects, as well.
I usually eat lunch with my host family around one o’clock. We eat typical, homemade “corriente” style lunches, with beef, chicken or fish, rice, soup, vegetables or salad, and other carbs such as yucca or ñame. They’re always huge, delicious and make me want to take a long siesta.
In the late afternoons and evenings I tend to spend time by myself drawing and illustrating stories, reading, talking on the phone with my boyfriend in Barranquilla, studying Spanish, and lesson planning. Sometimes I’ll find myself at a surprise birthday party or chatting with neighbors or friends in the community. Other times, I’ll meet up with friends in the center of Cartagena for dinner or drinks.
For several months, I taught an adult community English class every weeknight. I loved planning interactive activities for these classes, and learning just as much from my students as I was teaching them. Every night I would walk home with a smile on my face, bumping into students and neighbors who’d greet me by yelling my name across the street.
I still have another year to follow this spontaneous non-routine in La Boquilla, and my work in the community can be quite difficult. But for now, I’m enjoying the laid-back lifestyle, blooming relationships in the school and community, champeta (popular music in Cartagena), fresh fruit, and of course, the warm ocean waves.