Time flies. I only have 3 weeks left in Santa Marta before I leave to explore pastures new. Here is a small update to fill you in with what I’ve been up to since the beginning of March, when I returned to Santa Marta after a week in Ecuador with Mum and Dad.

“I have blue eyes”. Teaching face and body parts to José and Laura.

I am still teaching English inside Barrio Oasis but of the 12 people who have at some point or another come to my classes, only one of them, Laura, still remains. I could tell right from the start who was going to be committed to coming to the classes and who wasn’t, turning up when they felt like it. In fairness José could no longer attend the classes because he started University. Likewise, Christian and Jefferys, two real characters, found jobs. But the others just stopped turning up. Perhaps it was my style of teaching. I hope not. Mum said to me that she was really surprised that not more people in the barrio had come to my FREE English classes. The more I think about it, so am I. After all, the teachers who do offer English lessons in Santa Marta are normally out of the price range for your average samario, let alone someone who lives in one of the cities poorest barrios.

I have enjoyed preparing and giving the classes, though, and learning about my own language more. So often I just say or write something without thinking about its grammatical structure, for example. Laura was the first person to sign up to my classes back in November 2011 and it has been interesting to see her progress, albeit very slowly. She is naturally a very shy lady but when she puts her mind to it and gathers confidence, through my encouragement, she does well.

“It is bad to be good”. An easy side of learning Spanish.

I have also been working hard on my Spanish, trying to take it to another level. Learning a language is funny. On some days, I wake up and feel medio colombiano; words roll off the tip of my tongue and I speak with relative fluency. On other days, however,  I wonder if I have ever studied the language? I get annoyed with myself when I can’t think of a word straight away or if I don’t understand what someone says to me. Nodding my head, laughing, and replying with sí is often my get out of jail free card. I’ve realised though that these are problems I face speaking my own language and so it’s important that I don’t get too hard on myself; the word I can’t think of, crikey what does ‘laevoduction’ mean? and what on earth is Gaz saying to me under that strong Yorkshire accent of his?

The costeño accent is difficult to understand, that’s for sure, so it is reassuring when people from Bogotá or Medellin, for example, tell me that they don’t understand everything that a costeño says! Imagine a Colombian coming to England and speaking to a born and bred Geordie taxi driver or listening to a post match  interview from Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher!

Playing football in Valle de Gaira with the fancy, high-rise apartment blocks of Rodadero in the background.

And finally, I’ve been helping out with a new organisation called Deporte para el Desarrollo / Sports for Development.  Ed (or Jarrod) is the founder. He’s a sports fanatic Aussie. We met in November last year and I’ve been helping him out ever since. The idea of Deporte para el Desarrollo / Sports for Development is a simple one – to run sporting programs for underprivileged children through local charities and to encourage the positive attributes that playing sport brings, such as respecting rules, team mates and opponents, teamwork, hand eye coordination but most importantly, having fun, running around and playing some new sports.

“Fútbol americano, profe!” No, this is a rugby ball….. rug-by….. rug-by……

 

We have been working alongside Mariposas Amarillas and a recently founded charity called Colombia Sin Fonteras which works on the other side of Santa Marta. Afternoons are spent playing ¿uno, dos, tres, dónde está el toro? (the Colombian version of British bull-dog), stuck in the mud, relay races, basketball, kickball (my new favourite sport) and of course, football. I did play some rugby with some of the kids but the concept that the ball must always be passed backwards proved very difficult for them to grasp. And anyway, they all think a rugby ball is an American football! Come the last Saturday of every month we organise a sports day at Los Trupillos, a hotel for retired Colombian soldiers and their families, and the first two have proved a great success.

 

A team photo from our end of April sports day.

That’s all for now,

Hasta luego,

Charlie.