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Day (make that two weeks) 161-173 Medellin, Colombia: The best excuse.

Hmmmmm. Two freaking weeks behind. What can I say. I didnít get kidnapped by Guerrillas, I didnít fall into a drug induced coma, I didnít get injured or damaged in any way, I didnít fall in love, I didnít lose my laptop, I didnít climb Everest, I didnít get lost, I didnít get scared and ran home, I didnít well…..do anything.

It’s actually been so long that even I, the guy who forgets nothing, canít recollect everything that I had done in the last two weeks. To kind of fill in the pieces, maybe a shotgun effect would be most effective or at least the easiest.

My last entry was Sunday and the weekend had just ended. My original plan was to hit the road. The long week in Medellin was half because I really do think Medellin is the best city that I have ever been to, and it still held that spot this second time that I visited it. The other half was that I had walked into a great group of people that offered me something that I had sacrificed by working and traveling so much. It was a full week of hanging out, learning about other peoples lives, and basically fucking around to the nth degree. Well, that Monday was a holiday so we had one more day of hanging out. Kris decided to delay one more day to hang out so I remember doing a going away party at out private little salsa bar. Beyond that Monday is a lost cause. I am sure it involved the basics of shooting pool, eating, and watching movies.

Okay, now to the best excuse. I am still here in Medellin because of school. Thatís right, Steve is back in College. Mark the firefighter had come to Colombia to enroll in the University here in Medellin so that he could improve his Spanish. I had toyed with the idea but with my slow progress, I figured I would do it later on, possibly in Ecuador. I checked out the website www.eafit.edu.co, and later decided that it would be a perfect opportunity. I really enjoy Medellin and if I get started on learning Spanish here, it would be more beneficial than if I started later. My next four or so months will be in Spanish speaking areas so I could definitely use it. So on Tuesday, I dropped off Kris at the terminal and then headed down to the University to check out the program.

Eafit University is a high end private University that is located in the affluent Poblada area, the same area where the Hostel is located. It is a Colombian University but they have a premiere Extranjero language program. My orientation was a quick talk with a counselor and a bastard of a test. They offer nine levels of Spanish with level six being conversational. Because my verbal tourist Spanish is okay with non-existent structure and zero writing skills, I was placed in a level two course. I met another American girl who was also at the same level so they set us up in a class. With that, I was going to start the next day. The course is offered for $225US and includes 40 hours of classes, free options for other courses, and a conversation partner. The campus is extremely modern and packed full of the most amazing model like women. Now honestly, learning Spanish is the priority, but having a college full of models was like adding whip cream to a sundae.

Wednesday was my first day of class, so I headed down and did all the registeration stuff. Photocopies of my passport and entry stamp (a slight problem since I only had four days left.), fill out a quick form, and then a credit card payment. With that I was sitting in a classroom with Chanel and my first teacher Sebastian.

Chanel was from North Carolina, a fairly, make that an extremely spoiled rich kid. Her role model was Jessica Simpson and she lived the same lifestyle. She moved to Colombia to study Spanish and to start working in the family business.

Sebastian was my twenty something spanish Professor. Born and raised in Colombia, but had taught and studied in the States.

Ivan was my other twenty something professor who also taught French. He also did some time in the states teaching/studying.

Jane was added to the class a few days in. She was from England but was married to a Scotish bloke who now worked in Colombia. They had just moved and had a new baby.

Claudie and sister were my conversation partners. Claudia is an International Business Major who was two semesters away from graduating. Patricia is a Psychology Major who finished school and was doing some kind of internship. We would spend pretty much most of my free time together. I think the partners were more of a dating service because the girls were all volunteers and tended to be cute and looking for extranjeros to hang out with.

Me, I was the same old unemployed, no house, no car, no responsibilities, guy, with tourist spanish.

I took the intensive class option which is two, two hour classes with a conversation partner afterwards. Basically, I have a class at ten until twelve, lunch for an hour, a class at one until three and then a couple of hours with my partner.
Wednesday started with me moving out of my first home at the Casa Kiwi and moving to the Black Sheep Hostel. The Black Sheep was the first Hostel that Kris and I tried to get into. It is definitely the more hip Hostel with tons of backpackers running through it. It is great for meeting people and activities, but it was shit for speaking Spanish and studying. I got a private room which helped, and tried to be low key for most of the time studying whenever I could. The Black Sheep was a seven minute walk from the University versus forty-five from Casa Kiwi.

My first week of school went fairly smooth with taking a step backwards and learning the basics of Spanish. Structured grammer was what I severly needed but the classes were kind of scattered with it starting out sort of structured but then going off in tangents as we disusses other subjects. I offset that by using a website that was given to me by a Israeli girl at the hostel. LearnSpanish.com had a great free course that really helped with my structure. Kelvin, the owner of the Black Sheep also had a work book that he used when he first started learning Spanish. I borrowed the book and it also was a great tool. In all, I was spending about ten hours a day cramming as much Spanish in as possible.

Weekends were and are still about the same with new groups of people coming in, going out to the Parque and either hanging out at a bar or going to a club until 3 or 4am. The only real difference was that Sunday I got a chance to go to a Medellin futbol match. Soccer in American English. It was an actual professional game with rain, a packed stadium, and rioting fans. It was a great experience. I don’t get much out of watching other people play, but the energy of the crowd made it a great experience.

For the following week, I can honestly say, with the backing from the other people at the Hostel that I pretty much studied from sun up to sleep time. I rated about a .5 on the fun scale. Even my language partners got pissed at me because all I wanted to do was practice. After I finally explained to everyone that I was giving up making it to Carnival in Rio so that I could take this course, as well as all the money and time, people sort of laid off of trying to get me to go out and such.

Activities outside of studying, movies, the mall, a Rugby match, visiting another campus, checking out the Central Plaza, seeing a lot of Boteros artwork, riding the Metro all over, meeting some new people, barbecues, renewing my Visa at the DAS office, visiting El Penol “the Rock”, and missing naps would pretty much wrap up the free time that I had.

So with that, I am caught up on the blog as of Sunday, November 20. It wasn’t the most exciting weeks of my travels, but it was the most constructive of anything that I have done in the last seven months, with the exception of traveling and learning about the world. But hell, how important is that.

In the short future, I have three days left of class. I can either take off as soon as class is done so that I can spend some extra days in the Cafe region and Cali, or I can move closer to the city center where there is a little bit more of a rough edge to it than the United States of Poblado area. I am getting the urge to hit the road so I am leaning on getting the hell out of dodge. One of the guys that I have been hanging out with is a German who is looking to do some long term studying in Medellin so I went and helped him to check out apartments and rooms. The costs here are extremely reasonable. If I had reached Medellin in the end of my travels, I would definitely did the same and grabbed an apartment and stayed a while.
So, in general, I am safe and happy. Actually, I am getting even smarter than I already am. Soon, I will be able to ask where the bathroom is and not have to repeat myself three times and making toilet gestures.



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5 responses to “Day (make that two weeks) 161-173 Medellin, Colombia: The best excuse.”

  1. Eric says:

    Steve,

    Coincidentally, I’ve been checking out EAFIT. It seems like your enrollment was relatively quick and easy. You just registered and flashed your plastic? Did they want proof of health insurance?

  2. steve says:

    Eric: All you need is two copies of your passport and entry stamp, fill out the basic form, and a credit card for payment. I have helped a few people get started and they have all gotten classes the next day. The website gives start up dates, but they start a class whenever they have a student. The only thing that is different is that in three weeks classes are closed for the holdidays. Rosario is the lady who runs things for all the extranjeros. If you have any questions, let me know.

    Steve

  3. Eric says:

    So, basically, you can just show up with a passport and money, and you’re good? No need to fax the registration form and wire money first?
    Steve, do you have any leads on aparta hoteles? The EAFIT website says they run $400-500. I checked one out called Estadio Real, it costs about a grand for a month.
    Thanks for any info. Gracias

  4. steve says:

    Eric: Just show up and take the placement test. I wouldn’t worry about the other stuff especially wiring money. No need for the added cost. You can even sit in on a couple of classes to get the jist of how they teach and what level will suit you the best.

    I helped a guy to check out some apartments. For a shared apartment you can pay around $300-400,000P or $150-200US per month. A basic studio furnished right across the street from the University goes for $700,000. per month. That was for only a month, you might get a better deal if you did some sort of lease. For a standard one-two bedroom apartment in Poblado (the most expensive area in Medellin), the $400-500 sounds about right. A lot of the college places also offer free meals and laundry. It all depends on what you want. A grand will get you a house in Poblado.

    If you plan on renting, you do need a student visa as well. Once you get here you will also need a cedula or ID from DAS. Its a good day of running around and paperwork. I’m staying at the Black Sheep Hostel which is only a 10 minute walk from the campus. Its a nice hostel but too many distractions if you like to party. Its a good place to get started because a lot of students stay here. You don’t need to use a hotel (which none are very close.)

  5. Eric says:

    Steve,

    Thanks for the help.

    I thought a grand was a little steep for a studio for a month.

    What I’m considering is the 4 week course, Jan-Feb.

    I’ve been in Bogota, but I’m all set with the cold. And the altitude affected me as well.