Thursday, 23 August 2012

2 Weeks - Bogota & Tunja

¡Hola amigos y familia!

I've been in Colombia for almost 2 weeks now and it's fair to say I'm enjoying myself......!

About a week before flying out here, I was put in contact with a fella named Ricardo (thanks Siân!), who lived in Oxford last year to learn English. Ricardo and Carlos (his brother), have welcomed me to Bogotá and I'll be renting their spare room for.......I don't know how long.

This is the apartment block we live in below:

I think Carlos had me moving in forced upon him (!), but he's been an absolute legend, showing me around when he's not at medical school & helping me with constant questions about Español. Gracias Carlos!

Ricardo's been great too, but I'm reluctant to praise a Chelsea fan at the best of times.........

So I'll be out this weekend with a group of Ricardo's friends for his birthday and he's keen for me to try the Colombian spirit 'Aguardiente', which is known as, or translates to, 'Burning water'. 

Apparently, 'It tastes like gasoline'. I'll write Sunday off now then.....

Settling in......

Luckily for me, Ricardo and Carlos both speak pretty good English, which made my arrival less troublesome, but we're now trying to do as much as possible in Spanish, to get me up to speed as quickly as possible. I don't understand much of what they're saying at the moment, bar the odd word here and there, but it's the best way to make progress. Since I've arrived, I think I've learnt a couple of hundred words, which is a decent start I'd say. Turns out studying is far easier when you're interested and motivated, which is a unique feeling for me!

I just hope Español doesn't have too many confusing aspects further down the line, like English....

As it was Ricardo's Birthday on Monday, we went to visit his parents in Tunja over the weekend to celebrate, (as mentioned above, we'll be celebrating with his amigos this weekend). Due to the high altitude, Bogotá isn't particularly hot, it's even chilly at night and Tunja is is slightly colder. The welcome from his parents, (and grandma, uncles, aunts and cousins) was extremely warm however and I was fed enough to bury an elephant.

So let's meet the Martinez-Piñeros familia!

(Carlos is next to me, Ricardo's on the right)

On Monday Ricardo's mum took us on a mini tour of Tunja, pointing out some of the old churches and more traditional buildings in general. The following day, once we'd returned to Bogotá, Tunja had an earthquake, which damaged the main historical church in the town. This church below is a different one however:

So it turns out that Ricardo's got a similar sense of humour to some of us Brits, which is perhaps why we're getting on so well.

His mum asked him how to say, 'Thank you for visiting us, please come back soon' in English, so she could repeat it to me. Safe to say she told me to 'go away' in language befitting of a sailor. The poor lady was devastated when she found out what she'd really said, ha!

Since being in Bogotá, I've had a few people warn me to be careful, as walking around with your iPhone out in South America, is generally asking for trouble. So far however (touch wood), the only thing that's disturbed me has been Ricardo wearing his Chelsea shirt in the flat.

Right, that's enough for the time being; I'm now studying like a madman for the nights out tomorrow and Saturday, in the hope I can at least make a few basic enlightened statements in Spanish. 

I'll let you know how I got on in a couple of weeks.....

Friday, 10 August 2012

Target time.......


As some of you know, I'm about to leave the country for a bit of a challenge; to become a confident Spanish speaker by my 30th Birthday!

And I've decided to make this blog which relates to that for 3 main reasons....

Uno: To put pressure on myself to achieve my target/dream.

Dos: To keep my Nan & Co. up to date with my progress! (88 years old with an iPad, I'm proud of you Nanny!)

Tres: To have a diary for me to look at in years to come. I did something similar for another trip and it's been great to look back on it all, every now and then (Around the World in 155 Days).

So it's now the 10th August 2012 and I fly out to Bogotá, in Colombia, tomorrow.

That gives me 7 months and 5 days to become confident in speaking Spanish...

My current level?

Pretty much non existent!

Gracias, Adios, Sí, Por favor, Amigo, Uno, Dos, Tres - that pretty much covers it!

How do I hope to do this? Total immersion. 7 months of trying not to speak English (bar when I'm teaching it & Skype calls back home). TV, films, books, websites, music, socialising - all in Español.

I intend to update the blog with my progress as I go along, with a video of me speaking Español (at my current level at the time), every few months.

All being well, I'll be gone for 12 months in total, starting in Colombia and ending up in Argentina. At the very least, I expect to visit Peru and Bolivia on the way down, but may try and see some other countries if I have time.

Meeting and chatting to people is the best way to practice a language, so I hope doing this helps me meet hundreds of interesting people along the way!

  • To see the salt flats in Bolivia.

  • To do the Inca trail to Machu Picchu in Peru.

  • To eat a LOT of steak in Argentina.

  • I currently live on ready meals. I don't know that South America is big on ready meals. This could be a problem. I can't cook.

OK, enough waffle, see you all soon!

Muchas gracias,


P.S. To all those who hope to visit me in South America at some point - make it happen!!!