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Journal of My Colombian Experience

Journal of My Colombian Experience
Ashley Parma in Columbia
Ashley Parmer in Colombia

Photos by Ashely Parmer

By Ashley Parmer,
Editor in Chief

From Sept. 27- Oct.5, students from a variety of Spanish classes in the Language, Literature and Philosophy Department and students from the Music Department traveled to Cartangena, Colombia for an immersion experience. The music group performed at the Mompox Jazz Festival, and the Spanish group attended classes at the Institución Universitaria Bellas Artes de Cartagena (UNIBAC) while learning the Colombian culture. In a journal, I describe my experience.

Day 1 Today was my first day in Colombia. It was frightening, but exciting.  This was my first time traveling internationally. After a long plane ride, which included three different planes and many hours in layovers, I was ready to see all that Cartagena, Colombia had to offer. But what I wanted more was a shower. I was greeted with a warm embrace from the heat.

After walking around the narrow streets filled with the playfulness of the school children, the joy of the Cartageneros, and the crazy cars, I was ready to settle into my room. When we finally got into our hotel rooms, we had about an hour before we were to be ready for the next event. The last event of tonight was a presentation of trucks to the armed forces by the Governor of Bolivar.

After dinner of rice, chicken, salad, and fries, I am ready for bed. I am exhausted.

Day 2  I don’t think I had enough sleep to be prepared for today. After my first Colombian breakfast of ham mixed in eggs with a basket of bread and jelly, I was off to a day of sightseeing. We visited the Castillo de San Felipe. This fortress, built in 1657, was known as the greatest fort built by any Spaniard. It was a beautiful place with an amazing view of the city. After the fort, we went to La Popa. This was a convent on a hill many years ago. Like most buildings in Cartagena, La Popa has an open roof in the center of the building. This is a popular architectural design here.  We ended our tour in an Emerald Museum. Emeralds are very popular in Colombia as well.  I was able to see how they were made. It takes much focus and precision to make the jewelry we see in stores.

During our ride back, my roommate, Miranda and I took the opportunity to teach our guide, Carolina, how to speak English. I truly enjoyed sharing my language while learning hers. I am happy that I am getting comfortable with the language. Yesterday, I didn’t want to speak because I knew I wouldn’t understand the response. Now, I am not so afraid to at least try.

In the evening, we watched the orchestra at the UNIBAC. They were rehearsing for the Mompox Jazz Festival. Those students are very talented. They sound like true professionals.

We left the rehearsal to go to dinner. We enjoyed the same meal as yesterday. I am going to bed. We have class tomorrow.

Day 3 Today, I had eggs for breakfast again, but this time I tried a dish with anis in it. Anis tastes like licorice. I didn’t enjoy it completely, but it was nice trying something new.

Our class today was the music class. We were able to watch as students play their instruments and sing. The class was fun and lively. I wanted to get up and salsa dance. TSU also got a chance represent. My roommate, a music major, was invited to the front to play instruments. She played the guitar, piano, and the drums. She was awesome!

After class, we got a chance to socialize with the students. It was difficult holding a smooth conversation. But it was a learning experience. Some students wanted to use their English, so we took turns talking in the two languages.

I got my first taste of Colombian ice cream from the mall. It was delicious.The mall seemed like any other mall, but as a female, I couldn’t pass the opportunity to visit it.

I have to get up super early tomorrow because we are finally going to the beach.

Day 4 I fell and broke my phone today. And I never made it to the beach. This incident and the rain was a gloomy start to this day. But I was able to swallow all this, and actually have a great day. I met many friends today. They are so nice and amazing. Someone gave me a bracelet and a picture that he drew. They were so interested in us as much as we were interested in them.  They went with us to the souvenir market inside the wall that encloses old Cartagena. They were so helpful in informing me about what was considered expensive.  I had to leave them for a nap and relief from the heat.

After my nap, it was time for an interview for the school. As a mass communication major, I knew the process of conducting interviewing, but it seems when I was placed in front of the camera, and became the interviewee instead of the interviewer things changed, especially when I had to use Spanish. However, every one of us did a great job!

The plan for the rest of this evening was to go bike riding. After my fall this morning, I decided that I didn’t want to risk falling again. I passed on the bike rides, but I’m glad my group had fun.

Day 5 We don’t have many days left in Colombia. Time has gone by fast. Today we went to a theatrical dance class to observe. The students showed so much passion in their monologues. I couldn’t understand what they were saying but I could see their hard work. After class, I met a very passionate young lady who knew English. She had a wonderful attitude about life and was amazingly ambitious. I cannot forget her.

Day 6 One more day left in Cartagena. I think today was my favorite day. We had a dance class, and I got a chance to participate. We learned two dances that are traditional dances in Cartagena. One of them was called the cumbia. I have always wanted to learn those kinds of dances. They were somewhat difficult to move my hips that fast, but I had a great time.

Today was also Carolina’s Birthday, or as we say in Spanish- cumpleaños.  We went for ice cream after our final lunch with her. I am glad to have met her. I would definitely come back to visit her.

The TSU Jazz Band plays tonight at the jazz festival in Mompox. I wanted to go and support, but we couldn’t. Luckily, the show is televised. We are able to watch it. I can’t believe it is our last night in Cartagena.

Day 7

I was able to see the jazz band play as well as the UNIBAC orchestra. I am proud of both schools. To be able to perform at such a big event is an honor.

On another note, today was our last day in Cartagena, and it ended great! I finally made it to the beach. It was the most relaxing experience.  Although we only stayed for about an hour, every minute was refreshing.

One thing I noticed while at the beach is that Cartageneros are persistent. There were women who offered massages and men who sold a variety of items from drinks to sunglasses. Even though you turn down the offer, they continue to ask. I realized that many of Cartageneros around the city make their living by having a hustle. Many people sale water, jewelry, hats, etc. They do what they have to do to support themselves and their family.

The group of us shared a final meal to discuss our thoughts about the trip. I didn’t want to leave such a beautiful country, but I knew it was time to come home.

Now it’s time for this long plane ride home. Chow Cartagena!

If given the opportunity, I think everyone should travel abroad. I was very nervous before I came to Colombia. I didn’t know what to expect, and that scared me most. But I survived.

When you get to see another country and their culture, you begin to view your own country in a different way. Either you appreciate it more or you see the flaws. But through it all, you learn that there is a lot to explore in life. Take a chance !

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