A tune-up and a smack-down: The gringa returns to Bogotá

This entry is part 7 of 48 in the series Teaching Transparently

Readers of LLU might remember a series of blog posts I did entitled “Teaching What You Thought You Knew,” in which I chronicled my struggles with the realization that I was teaching my students what I knew about Colombia, a place that  I had not visited since before, yes before, my students were born.   How was this better, I wondered, than the homogenized representation of “Culture” that appears in our students textbooks?  The fact that I was including information about a country  based upon first-hand  information from 30+ years ago made me feel like a fraud.

What is more, my job as a language teacher  is to prepare my students for the opportunity to speak Spanish in The Real World.  I have not been in said Real World for far too long.  If I were to go, would I survive? Would it all be a blur?  Would I be seen as an even bigger charlatan than I worried I already was?

Well, oh boy, I am about to find out.

Tomorrow, I fly to Bogotá, Colombia.  It will be 30 years almost to the day since the last time I went as a Rotary International Graduate Scholar to spend a year in Bogotá sto study the literature of Gabriel García Márquez.  I would attend classes at The Universidad del Los Andes  and live with the family of a friend I had met while I studied in Colombia as an undergrad.  Not two months after I arrived, GGM won the Nobel Prize for literature, and it was an incredible experience to be there while it happened.

I am only going to be away a week… but I haz goalz:

1) I want to look into Service Learning Projects for our students that can be done during our Winter Term (the month of January)  in Colombia;

2) I want to re-connect with my Colombian host family (in particular my host mother who is now in her late 80s or early 90s), and

3) I want to immerse myself in the language and feel what my students feel when they are thrust out of their comfort zone and expected to interact in a language that, up until this moment, is only spoken in school.

While there, I plan to do some ds106radio broadcasts from my trusty iPodTouch (provided I can find  open wifi).  The live stream can always be found here.  When I get it set up I will send out a tweet from the LLU twitter account (@LangLabUnleashd) If I can’t make it work (live), I will try and record some sounds from the city and from my adventures and upload them to the stream (pray I don’t crash the station…).  Or I will upload them here on LLU.

Why am I doing this technology schtuff, you might ask?  Well, I would like to try this out “from the field” and also to see how this might work as an assignment for my students in the not so distant future.  Plus, okay fine, it’s cool and it’s fun to test the limits of technology…. and yeah, I wanna see if #ds106radio can broadcast from places outside of North America…just cuz.

So yeah, I expect to be reality-slapped in a big way on this adventure.  I expect to get lost, get confused, have my head hurt from using so much Spanish.  I am excited, I am terrified…and I have not even begun to pack.  Oh dear.

Hasta pronto…


Featured Image: Bogotá Colombia in the 1980s   Foto Credit: PBouchard

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Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!

1 Comment

  1. Tune Up and a Smack down (part 2): The gringa returns to Bogotá · February 4, 2013

    […] it felt as if I had.  For the first time in 30 years, I returned to Colombia.  It dawned on me, as I mentioned in this post, that the students I am teaching now had been in a Spanish speaking county more recently than I […]

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