6 Weeks Later in Cartagena, Colombia

I cannot believe that I have been in Colombia for six weeks already.  It shocks me to think about how quickly the time is passing by.  Many people have asked what I’m doing and what it’s like here, so here’s a brief synopsis of my typical day in Cartagena…

During the week I get up around 7:30 am to get ready for school.  I’m living with a Colombian family, so they cook my breakfast everyday before I go.  Usually eggs, patacones or arepasbollos de masorca or toast, cheese, fruit and coffee.


Breakfast – Cheese, eggs and bollos de masorca


Arepa, cheese, sausage and fruit

I start Spanish school at 9:00 am.  My class size is anywhere from 3-7 students depending on the week, as students can come and go anytime.  I’m currently in a pre-intermediate course (I think) which is one step up from beginner.  The lessons go for three and a half hours with two 15 minute breaks.  We work on listening, reading, speaking and writing with a textbook and exercises and songs and YouTube videos.  My teacher does a good job with multimedia to mix things up so we aren’t always just looking at a textbook.  I really like the school and the teachers.  I think everyone there has a genuine interest in helping the students learn as much as possible.

School is over for me at 12:30 pm. After the bell (kidding, there are no bells), I will typically stay at the school an extra hour or two to work on the homework.  After that is lunchtime.  Since I never cook, one of my favorite activities is finding new restaurants.  There are many in Cartagena.  Many serve traditional Colombia plates (typically meat or fish, rice, fried plantains, some tomatoes and a juice), but you can also find some versions of sushi, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Peruvian, etc. I have had some excellent meals here, and I am especially delighted with all of the fresh fish available.

Lunch - Fried fish, patacones, rice

Lunch – Fried fish, patacones, rice

After lunch my afternoons are free to explore the city.  This may be hopping in a cab to the beach in Bocagrande, scouring the markets for cheap clothes, looking for a pedicure spot or just wandering the streets to admire the colonial architecture (which never gets old for me).  Also, three nights a week the school plans activities for the students to practice Spanish outside the classroom.  This can be tours, games, a Colombian history or geography or culture lesson, a movie or one of my favorites, the “Amor y Amistad” party which we had in honor on the Colombian equivalent of Valentines Day in the US.  My other favorite was special performance by traditional Colombian music band.  So fun!  I like the activities because it gives me a chance to practice my Spanish in a social setting with rookies and the teachers at hand to help.

At night I often meet up with friends for dinner or drinks.  I’m usually in bed by 11:00 PM to start all over again.

The weekends are the best times where I can explore outside the city more.  I’ve taken advantage of every weekend so far with different activities like:



Motorcycle Riding

Motorcycle Riding



Watching Futbol!

Watching Futbol!

Weekend trip to Bogota

Weekend trip to Bogota

Balancing fruit on my head - yes, this hurts!

Balancing fruit on my head – yes, this hurts!

Well, that about covers the last six weeks of my life here. Lots of school and learning Spanish interrupted by weekends of fun. Speaking of which….many people have been asking me how the Spanish is coming along. I have to be honest, it is much, much, much more difficult than I thought it would be. I thought that after 6 weeks of “immersion” here in Colombia, I would be fluently gabbing my way through South America. Interestingly, this is not the case. After 6 weeks I am just starting to be able to have real conversations beyond “Can I have a beer?” and “Where are you from?”. Apparently learning a new language takes time, in additional to desire. For this reason I have decided to stay in Cartagena in the language school for another 6 weeks (at least). This city is great and the people are so friendly, it is a perfect place for me to continue to learn. So….if any friends or family have been thinking about a fall vacation, start checking flights to Cartagena and come visit me.   I know Jet Blue has direct flights from NYC!  I’m here until at least mid-November (2013).  After that, I hope to explore other parts of Colombia, like Medellin or Cali.   Until next time…..

And below is my attempt at translating my blog into Spanish for a three year old.  I actually read this to my three year old sister here in Colombia and she gave me a thumbs up, so it must be good!

No puedo creer que he estado en Colombia por seis semanas ya.  El tiempo pasa muy rápidamente.

Muchas personas han preguntado y lo que es aquí.  Esto es mi día típico en Cartagena.

Durante la semana, me levanto alrededor a las siete y media para prepararme para la escuela.  Estoy viviendo con una familia colombiana.  Cocinan mi desayuno todos los días antes de que vaya.  Usualmente, huevos, patacones, arepas, bollos de masorcas, tostada, queso, fruta y café.

Comienzo la escuela a las nueve.  Mi clase tiene de tres a siete estudiantes.  Estudiantes vienen y van en cualquiera momento.  Estoy en la clase pre intermedio ahora.  Las lecciones son tres y media horas en duración con dos pausas de quince minutos.  Trabajamos en escuchando, leyendo, hablando, y escribiendo con un libro y ejercicios y canciones y videos de YouTube.  Mi profesor es muy bueno.  Me gustan la escuela y los profesores.  Todos quieren ayudar los estudiantes.

La escuela termina a las doce y media.  Normalmente me quedo en la escuela una o dos horas para hacer la tarea.  Me voy a almorzar después.  Nunca cocino.  Me gusta buscar nuevos restaurantes.  Hay muchos restaurantes en Cartagena.  Muchos restaurants sirven comida tradicional Colombiana como carne o pescado, arroz, plátanos, tomates, y jugo.  Otros restaurantes sirven sushi, comida Tailandia, comida China, comida México o comida Perú.  He comido comida excelente aqui.  Me encanta el pescado fresco disponible aquí.

Después del almuerzo, estoy libre para explorar la cuidad.  Toma un taxi voy a la playa en Bocagrande o voy a comprar para ropa barata o voy a buscar un lugar para una pedicura o voy a andar por la calle ver la arquitectura colonial.  Me gusta ver la arquitectura.  Tres veces por semana la escuela planea actividades para que los estudiantes pueden practicar el español fuera del aula.  Algunas actividades son paseos, juegos, lecciones de historia, geografía o cultura de Colombia, películas o fiestas.  Mi actividad favorita era una fiesta para celebrar Amor y Amistad, como Valentines Day en Estados Unidos.  Otra actividad favorita era un especial concierto de un grupo tocando música Colombiana.  ¡Muy divertido!  Me gustan las actividades porque puedo practicar español en un lugar social con otros gringos y los profesores pueden ayudar.

Frecuentemente, por la noche me encuentro con amigos para comida o bebidas.  Normalmente voy a mi cama a las once.

Me encantan los fines de semana porque puedo explorar afuera la ciudad.

No hay más.  Mucho escuela y aprendiendo y diversión.  Creo que mi español es todavía malo.  Aprender español es muy muy muy muy difícil para mí.  Pensé que después de seis semanas podría hablar español, pero no.  Por ese, voy a quedarme en Cartagena durante seis semanas más.  Esta ciudad es buena y la gente es amable.  Esta es un lugar perfecto para mí aprender español.

Categories: Cartagena, Colombia | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “6 Weeks Later in Cartagena, Colombia

  1. Lisa

    Sounds like a great 6 weeks! I LOVE reading your blog!

  2. Craig


    I, and I am sure others, are truly living your experience through you, or at least fantasizing! You write your experience so well that I am forwarding it to my Spanish speaking Sister-in-Law and her daughter. She placed her kids in a charter school that teaches in Spanish & English. The kids are extremely fluent. As you know, I and my siblings don’t speak Chinese, so those kids are getting no Chinese from their Dad. Please keep writing. Really love hearing how you are doing.

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