Country info and advice - Colombia
The following comments are from teachers who have taught, or are currently teaching, in Colombia. If you are a teacher and have some advice to share, please add it here.
Colombia is divided into
various different cultural regions. We have the coastal region. We have the Eje
Cafetero (the coffee axis), the bogota area (capital), the Llanos area (the
prairie) and the santanderes area (venezuelan border). There is also the Narino
area which is near Ecuador (mainly american natives). The coastal area is very,
very nice. Think Caribbean islands. The people there are, like the rest of
colombia, very nice and warm. They want you to try new food and insist on it.
They like to treat you everytime you go out. They are, mostly, heavy drinkers
and stop working if there is a carnival. The whole city would stop working! The
banks do not open between 12 to 2 pm on a regular basis.
There is work for ESL teachers in this area. There are some very nice bilingual high schools mainly for rich kids. Everything is very cheap if you are getting paid in dollars. But if they pay you in pesos, then things are a little bit more expensive. It is, however, difficult to find a school that would agree to pay teachers in dollars.
The water is good but there is a problem with common colds. So if you travel to this area you need to get all of your shots.
So if you are game for good scuba diving, palm trees, salsa music and hot weather... The Colombian coast is for you. I would say Cartagena is great, Santa Marta is nice and Barranquilla is OK.
The Coffee axis is beautiful. No ocean there though. But gorgeous mountains and beautiful people. Most of the main cities have cold climates. But I mean the coldest say... a spring day in Washington DC.
Medellin is the best. Great bilingual schools, very warm people. The "paisas" (say: pie-sads, not an insult) are famous for being entrepenours, smart and driven. No problems there except the usual problems you find in a big cosmopolitan.
Bogota is cold. I mean that. Big big city. Lots and lots of money. A lot of opportunities but it rains most of the year and the people are not as warm. And it is HUGE. 7 million people give or take another million. Nice if you like big cities. The foreigner community is very big. From all over the world. There are some seriously fine schools there. I mean, private schools that charge 1500 dollars a month tuitions to the students. Teachers get good money there. CARS CARS CARS, BUSES BUSES BUSES. You know the deal. But it is well organized and it is cool. Not my thing but that's just me.
Santander is nice. It is like the south of the USA. Take away the chewing tobacco and there you have it. No racism though. They don't know of that sort of thing. Colombia is a race meltin pot where nobody knows differences of color. Bucaramanga, where I live, is nice. Perfect size so that you still can find anything you might need but without the hassle of a big city. It is not too far from the caribbean coast which is a plus. River rafting, parapente and cave exploration is the thing here.
Narino is OK if you like the "machu pitchu" deal with american indians and all that. The guerillas are reduced to these areas so, I would inquire a bit before taking a job in that area.
Things are much better now but, please, PLEASE, do not tell anyone how much money you dad makes or your rich aunt or anything like that, the communist guerrillas are reduced to almost nothing now but there are still some around. Play low and enjoy one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I mean it.
Colombia has many cities, like Bogota, Medellin, Cali. The whole year we have nice warm weather in Medellin, Cali, Pereira, Armenia. People are very friendly, we have nice restaurants, hotels, museums, especially in Bogota which is a big city with 7 million people. Our level of universities is good and we have some very good ones. The political and economical situation of the country is much better than some years ago. We still have security problems, especially in some rural areas and towns but if you take care of yourself and don't go by certain roads you can manage the situation. You can find private schools that are very interested in EFL teachers but you need a TESOL or EFL certificate and a bachelor degree to get a good salary and benefits. We have a beautiful country with mountains, two coasts and around the year very good climate, we are very friendly and we have a good hospitality.
As a Canadian I cannot thank enough the fellow members of the world community for the welcome and trust the people of Colombia have shown me. I have taken the best from fellow teachers and students combine them into a recipe for long life, great friends and most of all a rewarding experience to live my life by. If anyone is seeking an experience, look south to a country that has recived a bad rap, great people, good friends but most of all, a special place to share life. Respectfully, to all who came before.
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