Posted by: Linnea | March 20, 2009

Letter al mundo

Dear world,

Hey.  It’s me.  I know it’s been awhile.  Sorry.  Thanks for your patience.  I know I should write more, and I have been meaning to. really!  I know, I know, still totally lame, right?  If wishes were fishes, the path to wherever is paved with good intentions…etc…I have no excuses.  I know I have become “that girl who went off somewhere exciting, probably doing exciting things, who we never hear from”, also known as one of many iterations of “that girl”.  The deadly combination of not only borderline severe business but also nearly debilitating laziness have meant that I have been kept from posting here by an invisible brick wall of my own busy/lazy life.

But life is good, mostly!  I know, world, you actually like to know what it is I am doing, why, where, how, more.  Or at least a little more.  I hope you haven’t resorted to checking CNN to see if the FARC has abducted any young gringas from Cartagena.  No, nothing of the sort, I still feel quite safe here.  Nothing scarier than 6 and 7 year olds.  And since I am safely vegging out in my apartment, munching on yucca chips and starting to feel sore after my second day after taking up running, I decided it might be time for a little update.

Meanwhile…my life has been fairly interesting, for the most part.  Some recent highlights:

  • My aunt Karen cam to visit!  She stayed in the historic Centro area, and we had a great time together.  We ate at Crepes and Waffles a number of times…delicioso.
  • I smiled at Benicio del Toro.  He came to my favorite Cuban salsa bar, where I was out dancing for the night.  Also, I saw his new movie…in Spanish.
  • I went to Carnaval in Barranquilla!  Totally crazy, my friend had her wallet stolen but I did not.
  • Last weekend, I went with some friends to a borrowed beach house.  Lazed around there, also went snorkeling.
  • Finished all the necessary things to be scuba certified…except the last dive.  That will be coming soon.
  • I have been working a lot.

A few highlights from before Christmas…I know, for shame, Linnea!  But I still have stories.  It’s all fresh in my mind, like a new cut papaya:

  • I visited Medellin.  It was very safe.  I loved it.  I also took the overnight bus there and back.
  • I went to Parque Tayrona.  Twice actually.  Slept in a hammock one of those times.
  • Went sailing for the day with a bunch of friends, one of whom had some connection to charter a boat.  I layed on the beach or the boat and ate half a whole fish.
  • I went to Tolu, this little hick town not too far away.  Went to the islands and got sick on the boat on the way there.  Actually, more accorately, over the edge of the boat.
  • I went with a big group of teachers on a gringo chiva.  We basically drove a party bus around blasting 80s rock music.  Was awesome.
  • I did a fair amount of salsa dancing, and I am improving in my skills.  I have pretty well established Havana, my Cuban salsa bar, as “my place”.

Now let’s play a game, shall we?  Which of these stories would you like to hear more about??  I have stories, and every little tidbit has a lot more I can share about.  Comment here, or shoot me an email, and I will be good.  Promise.  More updates soon. As well as updates on the updates.  But after this weekend.  This is the first break we’ve had since Christmas break, so I am going away for the three day weekend.  Hiking and beaches and hammocks, wahoo!

Have a super weekend!

Love, Linnéa
Posted by: Linnea | November 25, 2008

Good news, bad news

Well, I have had a few adventures as of late.  The bad news about that is I have not yet written about it yet.  Buuut, I plan to!  And the good news of recent adventures (there is rarely bad news for adventures) is that I enjoyed myself and will tell you about it soon.

The bad news today is that it rained nearly the entire day, and what was formerly the street by our apartment is rapidly being annexed by the sea.  You would think that in a city that has rainy season every single year around this time, this could be a problem easily solved.  And yet my daily walk across the street to school, and across campus to my classroom has now become quite a challenge!  On Friday morning, there was literally no way to cross without submerging my feet, so I whipped out my flipflops and waded through.  Today, someone had kindly placed a board at a convenient crossing point, so I was able to step across.  The good news?  This still beats the heck out of snot-freezing cold and even the chilly temperatures in the DC area I have been hearing about!

I hope everyone is enjoying the week of Thanksgiving!  I’ll be working half a day, including a feast for the first grade classes, and then enjoying a school Thanksgiving meal.


Posted by: Linnea | November 5, 2008

Si, se puede!

I just watched the sun go down over the ocean, outside my window.  The waves are unusually high today, and the sea is urgently tumbling about, higher than usual.  The air smells especially salty today.  It feels like change is in the air.

I am so proud of my country, and so thrilled for Virginia.  I spent my evening after school glued to CNN (which we get here, yes, we have cable) and in between holograms, sweet touchscreen graphs, and this awesome Colombian tourism commercial that played here just about every commercial break, I drank some wine and watched the election results roll in.  There was much cheering and fist pumping and elation with many of the results. It is an amazing feeling.

75 days!

Posted by: Linnea | November 3, 2008


As I am sure you are aware, tomorrow is a big day.  I would like to take this opportunity to offer a friendly reminder to every eligible American I know to VOTE tomorrow.  I will be anxiously watching results and returns from here tomorrow after school.  I’m sure if you have ever had a political conversation with me, you know how I voted my absentee ballot.  But the important thing here is to participate and to vote!  You know what you need to do.

PARTICIPATE.  VOTE.  Make us proud.

Posted by: Linnea | November 3, 2008

The past week or so of life

I have been busy down here in Colombia!

Last weekend I went scuba diving for the first time!  I loved it, it was an amazing experience.  I went with three friends, and two of us are working on getting our diving certification.  Actually, the first part wasn’t so great.  After a bumpy boat ride and trying to figure out snorkeling, I upchucked my breakfast of papaya and bread.  So I floated on my back for awhile, to calm my stomach.  Float, float.  I floated right away from our boat, toward the beach.  My friends got started on the diving with one of the instructors, and the other instructor very patiently waited with me.  We ended up chatting for awhile (in Spanish- my Spanish is definitely improving!) as we waited.  Eventually my stomach calmed down, though it was pretty clear that I wouldn’t be able to do this dive.

I was pretty bummed that I hadn’t been able to go diving.  My friends came back and we ate sandwiches from the diving school on the beach.  After awhile, they told us that we would do a second dive!  My friends went with one of the instructors, and I went diving with the one who had patiently been waiting with and helping me.  I was so glad that it worked to dive!  Once we got underneath the water, I really started to enjoy myself.  After awhile, I was able to calm down, slow my breath, and that was when I really started to look around me.  I was hyper aware of my breath at first, being that you are moving further underneath water, and I could audibly hear my breath, as well as see the bubbles as I exhaled.  If you go diving for the first time or get certified in most places in the States, you start in the pool.  My first time diving was in the Caribbean.  We swam past beautiful coral reefs in all kinds of colors.  I remember seeing purple and yellow and red.  I reached out to brush my fingers over the coral and I was surprised by how rough it felt.  Fish of bright blue and yellow swam past.  After seeing some of the underwater wildlife, we visited a boat wreck!  The boat had been overgrown with coral and seaweed and such things, and we poked around there for awhile.

I was really happy to have been able to dive!  For the certification course, we have two more dives, and a few more dry-land classroom sessions.  We are planning to do that over Thanksgiving weekend.  I can’t wait!

Halloween was last Friday.  As expected in a first grade classroom, it was pretty crazy.  A few nuggets from that day:

  • Once i started mentioning Halloween earlier in the week (to remind the kids to wear something appropriate- no extra stuff like ninja swords or masks) they got super excited just thinking about it.
  • I dressed as a gypsy fortune teller.  That was pretty much the only thing I could figure out from the things I already had in my closet.  I borrowed a crystal ball from another teacher (who just happened to have one) and read fortunes like “I can see our class.  And…what’s that?  They are silent and listening?”
  • Every kid in my class dressed up, and they looked adorable.  Some of the kids went all out, and had really creative or elaborate costumes!  A few did not follow directions, and still brought their knight’s sword or ninja mask, but nothing too major.
  • We had an assembly in the morning, and each of the Elementary classes performed a dance they had been practicing.  My first graders did an amazing job!  Some of those kids can really shoulder shimmy!
  • There were some pretty scandalous costumes, mostly concentrated in the middle and high school grades.  My favorite were the sexy nuns.
  • It was a short day, which was pretty wise of the school, as it would have been quite difficult to keep the kids focused all day amongst Halloween fever.
  • We went to a haunted house, put on by the student government organization.  Most kids really enjoyed it, but there were a number who came out really spooked, in tears.  This group included the student who is my most difficult behavior challenge, and a student who earlier in the year, was bullying a fourth grader.

It was a good day, and I was proud of my kids for doing pretty well during the assembly.  Hope everyone had a great Halloween!


Posted by: Linnea | October 26, 2008

Cartagena in the News

Cartagena has been been coming up more in the news.

For Foodies, Cartagena Is Now on the Map

This is a New York Times article about the fabulous food available here, published just today.  I am actually not familiar with all of the places on their list, so I have some new places I need to check out.  The first place they mention has been recommended by one of the administrators at school, who used to be a chef.  That is a place that I have been meaning to try.  I can’t help that notice that Crepes y Waffles is conspicuously absent from this list.  When some friends and I went for a late breakfast this morning, the manager greeted us and asked where we had been yesterday.  Crepes and Waffles has become an important part of my weekend.

From Cartagena, With Love

This is in the November, 2008 issue of Budget Travel Magazine, and it explores a few of the many aspects of visiting the city.  The author mentions the misgivings that some people have about visiting Colombia, a place where its’ reputation precedes it.  She also mentions some of the places to stay, eat, and visit around here.

Anyone wanting to come visit, take a look at these articles!  There are a handful of others about Cartagena, as it becomes more recognized in the States.  Want to come visit yet?

Posted by: Linnea | October 23, 2008

Still here!

Wow, um, I just looked at this and realized that my last post was over a month ago!  Wow, time really flies! Life has been busy, how has it been for you?

Yesterday, as we were finishing morning meeting and moving to our desks for math, suddenly, there were a bunch of kids pointing their fingers behind my chair (labeled “chair”, with a picture) and cries of “Cucaracha!  Cucaracha!”

Oh jeez, this is my favorite way to start a Wednesday.  I know this will become a big deal, and the class will continue freaking out over this bug, which is pretty big and scurrying pretty fast past the whiteboard.

So, I pulled off my sturdy Target teacher shoe from my right foot and whapped that unsuspecting cucaracha a few times. Some kids examined it.  I gave it another whap for good measure.

“Ms. Linnea killed the cucaracha!  Three cheers for Ms. Linnea!”

And I think the whole class listened just a little bit more than usual that day.  Actually, it was a pretty good day overall.

Posted by: Linnea | September 21, 2008


School on Friday was crazy because:

  • It was Dia de Amor y Amistad, or Love and Friendship Day.  This is basically the Colombian Valentine’s day.  Apparently last Friday was the official Love and Friendship Day, when we celebrated this in our classroom, but it is celebrated for about two weeks.  Some of us thought Amor y Amistad was last Monday, then no, it is for the whole week, but is celebrated Friday, but is really Monday, but actually it is observed for about two weeks.  Go figure.
  • On Friday, lots of parents and the PTA and such brought in candy for Love and Friendship Day.  We waited until the end of the day on Friday to give all that out, at which point they are kind of wild anyway.  I gave out pencils.
  • One little boy (who looks like he is about a third grader) burst into tears randomly during work time, wanting to go home.
  • Our classroom randomly started smelling (typo: spelling.  What would it be like to spell like diapers?) like diapers.  Fortunately, this was toward the end of the day.  Unfortunately, I had run out of the desmellifying spray, because my room smells funny quite often.

School on Friday went well because:

  • My class was pretty on task during math, and I think I may keep math towards the beginning of the day, when possible.  They know time pretty well, and had a great time using the clocks.
  • We read “The Grouchy Ladybug” by Eric Carle, which was a very cute book and tied in with time and clocks.  We made little books to go with this towards the end of the day.
  • They presented their animal projects, which we have bene working on for this week.  Most of the kids did a pretty good job with using the books I’d borrowed from the school library and making posters about their animals.
  • One of my students, who can be particularly challenging with his behavior, told me that I could borrow his markers whenever I wanted.

On Friday after school, we had a staff party, to celebrate Love and Friendship Day, along with the crap-ton of September birthdays.  It was held in our building, by our pool area.  They got a band and everything, and it was nice visiting with everyone.  As I drank some keg beer by the pool, the director of the school told me about his observation of me a week or two ago.  He had two main things to say:  That he was impressed by my patience, and that he was embarassed that his son was being so distracting.  This was really nice to hear, and the director told me that even though I was settling the class and trying to get them to focus, I didn’t raise my voice.  Now, I have raised my voice with my class, though I try to avoid it, but this was a big reminder that I need to stay calm and not let the chattiness get to me.  I am trying some new things with my class to work on quieting and focusing, and trying to follow through, help my students to practice, and to stay firm and consistent.  My mother tells me that the same things that work with dogs will work with kids.  The director also told me that he was glad I was his son’s teacher, and that he and his wife (one of the teachers at school) were behind me 100%.  It’s good to have that kind of support.

This Saturday, I finally went to get my haircut.  It had been going in the direction of it’s awkward stage, but it looks nice now.  Saturday evening, we went to a dinner party for one of the teacher’s birthdays.  It was prepared by a professional chef.  And it was insanely good.  I also am making the transition to mostly-whenever-possible-vegeterianism.  Most of the time here, I am able to find something non-meaty I can eat, but it can be difficult sometimes.  So, I had a few bites of meat at this dinner party, which had a Japenese menu, cute namecards, and delicious flan.  The texture of meat sort of throws me off, but it was tasty.

This morning, I went to this amazing buffet in Centro, along with my elementary principal and a few folks from school.  It was delicious and a massive amount of food.  I just realized how much I have written about food!  There is some really excellent food here, and I love going out and trying out places around here.

Happy Fall!  Hope you are enjoying some cooler weather!  Still hot here!

Love, Linnea

Posted by: Linnea | September 17, 2008

Water, water

Today was an interesting day.  When I awoke, it looked rather gray and ominous outside.  By the time my roommate and I left, water was pouring down past our 17th story apartment, and we realized that our towels were still out on the balcony.  Oops.  As we left the building, we greeted the porteros, who were trying to sweep water off of the sidewalk outside of our building.  My roommate, Maria Rene, was smart enough to bring an umbrella.  I am fortunate enough to be living with her, as I never seem to be the person who is prepared for anything.  Me and Maria Rene walked up one side of the street before we realized that there was no way of crossing it to get to school without wading through ankle-deep water, and that either the ocean had crossed the strip of land into the street, or their was so much water that the two sort of merged.  We went back the other way, found a narrower swath of water that looked possible, and jumped over the massive puddles and across the road, then around the corner and into school.

Once I got to school and started walking to my classroom, I realized that this was not going to be a usual day.  The first and second grade classrooms are on the other side of school from the rest of the campus, and the door to my classroom involves going around to the other side of the first/second building to get in.  This morning, this usual passage was a virtual lake that swept from the edge of the basketball court, past my sidewalk, and onto the playground.  Even with my holding the hems of my pants up and fervently wishing I had some rainboots, there was no way I could pass that with any sort of dignity intact.  I tried anyway, hopping from steps to spot of mud, before I realized that I would have to leap over something to get to my classroom. Whatever, this was clearly not happening.  I walked back and cut through another first grade classroom.

My class had NWEA testing this morning, which in sum is a computerized test that responds to the answers the student inputs and adjusts to their level.  Unfortunately, this was in the main part of campus, which involved that whole treacherous trip…oh my.  We cut through the 1B classroom, and made it to and through the testing without much mishap.  We had assembled our semi-line and were making our way back to our room, when I stopped the class before we passed on the sidewalk toward our side of school.  There was no possible way were passing without twenty very soaked first graders, so luckily the school nurse was there, and we spoke with the Elementary principal and then the school director.  We decided to corral the kids through the art and drama room.  At this point, they were getting pretty riled up.  This was pretty exciting for everyone.  We settled most of the kids in chairs at the big art room tables, and the of course everyone wanted to know what was happening, how much water there was, so of course everyone kept rushing to the windows to check out the progress of the slowly creeping water.  Oh my.  And the director got the maintainence department to put the kids on this little cart, foru at a time, and roll the cart through the water to the less flooded basketball court, where they were ferried through the pouring rain by the head of maintainence and two very large umbrellas.  That was quite the sight to see.  And of course, we had to head back through the 1B classroom, and finally made it back to our room.  This was all before about 9 AM.  The rest of the day, we were mostly trapped on our side of campus, and the kids were pretty excited and energized for most of the day.

Also, the water went out at the end of school, but it came back a little before 6.  I’m crossing my fingers we don’t get anymore rain this week!

Much love,


Posted by: Linnea | September 8, 2008


Last night there was a huuuuge storm, which sounded as if it were directly outside my window.  At about 3 AM, me and most of Bocagrande awoke to loud crashes of thunder and bright bolts of lightning.  The storm sounded and felt like it was just outside of my window, and of course my bed is right under the window.

This weekend was HOT.  It hasn’t been that hot since we arrived here.  I’ve adjusted, though, and I usually enjoy the feel of heat.  I enjoy the tangible feeling of heat, the sensation and weight.  I’ve already become accustomed to the heat here, and to being sweaty.  It can make me want to dive right into the sea, or stand under a cool shower at the end of the day, but it doesn’t bother me too much.

On Friday evening, I went to a classy salon to get a manicure and pedicure.  My nails were in need of some attention from someone, and they look very nice now.  Such things are not usually luxuries I bother with in the states (seriously, this was the first time I’d ever had a pedicure done, and I think I have only ever had a manicure once), but it is pretty inexpensive here and nice on occasion.  Plus, someone needed to do something about my toes.  That evening, I went out to the Hard Rock Cafe in Cartagena, which accomplishes the impressive feat of offering a $20 hamburger.  There was a cover band, which would speak in Spanish to the crowd, then launch into a cover of “Summer of 69”.  Saturday and Sunday, I walked around Centro, the Historic area, which is really fantastic, and thus the heat.

Today went pretty well at school, and I am working on figuring out what these kids are capable of, and what they enjoy/will do.  Open House is tomorrow night!  The room is looking pretty nice, I just need to make sure that everything looks spiffy.

Now, a few random pictures, in no particular order, and on no particular theme.  I will figure it out more soon!

Isla Baru - or how I spent a Sunday

The view of Bocgrande from our balcony.

The view of Bocgrande from our balcony.

The sunset out of my window one evening

The sunset out of my window one evening.

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