Uncover Colombia Interview: Pamela’s experience in Colombia

This week we bring you another edition of our monthly interview. This time we talked to Pamela, who lived  in Colombia for about few months teaching English in the department of Huila.

We would like to thank Pamela for taking the time to answer our questions and sharing her photos of Colombia with us and our readers.

Happy travels!

The Uncover Colombia team

–  Tell us something about yourself (Where are you from? who you are and/or what you do?)

I retired after a 40 year career as a teacher.  Having traveled extensively, I wanted to continue travel in retirement, but sought more than just seeing sights.  I wished to get to know the people of a country and felt I could accomplish this by volunteering to teach English.

–  Why did you decide to visit Colombia?

I discovered the organization, Sueños Compartidos, which seeks volunteers to teach English in various locations in Colombia.  Volunteers live with local families, usually the families of teachers.  I was offered the opportunity to teach in the small mountain town of Saladoblanco in Huila, Colombia. I arrived in Colombia in early February 2013 and departed at the end of May.

Center of  Saladoblanco with church at one end

Center of Saladoblanco with church at one end

–  What sort of things did you like? 

I love the Colombian people!  They are truly happy people with a positive attitude towards life.  Always an “Hola” or “Buenos dias” while walking past another on the street.  Very friendly and appreciative!  Fortunately, the residents of the town were very patient with my poor Spanish speaking skills.

–  What didn’t you like? 

It was a great surprise to learn that many homes do not have hot water heaters.  Shower water temperature is whatever comes out of the tap!  Being in the mountains the water was cool, so I learned to take quick showers.  Wifi is still new in small towns.  My host, a teacher, did not have internet access.  Instead I used a small plug-in type modem to access the internet during my four months stay.  Once or twice a month, I’d take the hour-long bus trip to the nearest city, Pitalito, where I was able to access Wifi at a delightful restaurant, Restaurante Tres Lunas.

–  What was your favourite experience? 

My most memorable experiences are those get-togethers, often impromptu, with Colombians.

However, in the way of sightseeing, Desierto de la Tatacoa, about 45 minutes from Neiva, is a harsh, dry landscape of cliffs and towers formed through erosion. It’s a harsh contrast to the lush, green landscapes of most of Huila.  Unique!  Beware there are no scheduled buses to the desert.  One would need to arrange for a taxi to get there.  I was fortunate to go with several Colombians who owned motorcycles, a very popular means of transport in Colombia.  We rode “motos” to Villavieja and then into the desert.

Desierto de la Tatacoa - Huila, Colombia

Desierto de la Tatacoa – Huila, Colombia

Desierto de la Tatacoa - Huila, Colombia

Desierto de la Tatacoa – Huila, Colombia

–  Did you have any problems, finding accommodation, transport, food, etc.?   

As a volunteer, I was provided room and board at a teacher’s home in Saladoblanco.  Prior to my departure at the end of May, I spent four days in Bogota where I easily found accommodations at a small, family owned hotel in La Candelaria, the historical center of Bogota.  There were a variety of restaurants  all within walking distance of my hotel.

–  Which other countries did you visit besides Colombia and how does Colombia compare with these countries? 

Prior to my departure I knew that I did not want to travel extensively within Colombia.  My goal was to meet and befriend Colombian people and live as a local in the small town of Saladoblanco.  By choice, my travel within Colombia was limited to the departments of Huila and Caqueta often traveling with Colombian teachers.

San Agustin Archeological Site

San Agustin Archeological Site

–  Which image did you have about Colombia before going there? 

The images of the atrocities of the drug cartels and FARC from decades ago remain, unfortunately, in the minds of many Americans.  However, through contact with my sponsoring organization, Sueños Compartidos, research and reading, and frequent email contact with my host, I felt comfortable traveling alone to Colombia.  For me, all the warnings were unwarranted.

–  Did this image change after your trip? 

My four months in Colombia were fabulous!

–  Would you like to come back? 

Definitely.  I intend to return soon to further explore the country and, of course, to visit the many friends I made in Huila.  Colombia exceeded my expectations

–  What would you recommend to someone considering Colombia as a destination? 

Most definitely!  Colombians are courteous and most gracious to visitors.

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