Settling in Colombia’s Coffee Region

There I was in Salento, easily lazing about while viewing the ever-changing landscape of lush grey/black clouds gathering to engulf the green Andean foothills.

Another beautiful sunset

Another beautiful sunset

A little afternoon delight Salento style!

A little afternoon delight Salento style!

As one friend imagined, I spent my days walking around asking ‘hey you, want to learn English?’  Didn’t matter who it was, if they stopped to talk, they got asked.  Of course everyone was enthusiastic in their reply – ‘of course’!!!  People here know how important it is to be able to communicate to a changing clientele of gringos hopping off the bus to enjoy this little beauty of a town.

Street musicians on a Sunday afternoon

Street musicians on a Sunday afternoon

But we all know how these things go:  enthusiasm becomes a cold shoulder (well as cold as Colombians can get – they are a very welcoming people) and classes are cancelled after my 30 minute stroll into town.  Hey, people are busy and things happen.  But how could I complain when I sipped my morning coffee in the middle of paradise?

Sirani and Stephania, my students in Jesus Martin Cafe

Sirani and Stephania, my students in Jesus Martin Cafe

I didn’t have to complain, but I was told about a volunteer gig, not far away, working in schools supporting English teachers and encouraging students to speak and practice their English.  So suddenly my morning coffee was spiked with a decision:  should I spend 3 weeks in a small pueblo/town hanging in a school or stay parked in my bunk-bed resort?  How could I refuse a chance to get my feet in the door of a school and talk with kids the same way I’d been talking to everyone in Salento?  (Though I’m hoping to go to Salento on weekends to continue with my students)

This region of Columbia was settled by exiled Spanish Jews and Basques in the early 1500's.  As for the story behind these Stars of David, well, I'll imagine that they were purposeful decorations!  Just one more question in the story of Jews in Colombia

This region of Columbia was settled by exiled Spanish Jews and Basques in the early 1500’s. As for the story behind these Stars of David, well, I’ll imagine that they were purposeful decorations! Just one more question in the story of Jews in Colombia

So here I am, still in the coffee region, where ironically no coffee is grown – but the fields are alive with sugar cane – in a little town called La Virginia (g sounds like ‘h’).  I’m volunteering with a non-profit called Nukanti.  It’s an international organization, though Colombia now has its own management with a focus on education and youth development.

Just to give you an idea of what it’s like:  there’s only one coffee cafe, lots of billiard halls, one street light, no street signs or buildings taller than 2 stories.  I went for a walk this morning with the other new volunteer (there are now 3 of us here) and we wandered around horribly lost and of course had no idea of the address of the place we had to return to.  Imagine two gringos wandering the street of a town barely able to ask directions – IF we knew where we were going.  Just call me ‘Gilligan’….  After 45 minutes we found our way back.  The good news is my school is just out-of-town on a tree-lined road just outside the place I am staying which means it’s possible I actually know where I am going now.

The market in La Virginia is filled with herb.  These were labeled and I'm still not quite sure (yet) what they are.

The market in La Virginia is filled with herb. These were labeled and I’m still not quite sure (yet) what they are.

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2 responses to “Settling in Colombia’s Coffee Region

  1. I would love to know more about those herbs! And well, those cows, they do the same in Michigan! You have sold me on your Salento ad would love to see where you are volunteering.

    • Yea, I want to know about those herbs too…. I need to take pics of the names and then go ask questions. I saw Mate cups so wonder if some of it is Mate – hope so. The cows are totally different here – I’ll post those pics next and you can tell me if they are also Michigan cousins. And wait for where i am now – not quite paradise – but equally if not more interesting.

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