It wasn't until I hit the automatic doors after la aduana here in Bogotá that I was giddy with la entrada to a new country--one with montañas bellas, and every type of weather in the space of two hours. Wait...is this Denver?
At something like 8 or 10 thousand feet, I have found myself sucking air for the first time in my life. A strange experience for someone from the Mile High City.
To be honest, my first first impression of Colombia was one of annoyance. Everyone on the plane shoved into the aisles, and at baggage claim humped the conveyor. Just because our lungs aren't full of as much air doesn't mean that we take up less space...
But then, Rafael, our petit and portly chief of security, met me with my recruiter, Gary the personable Floridian, with a colorful sign bearing my name. We took one of the school's buses up the back roads to the Montessori, past houses with thier bases at forty-five degress from the hill of a street. The driver, Juan, was playing salsa, even songs I could sing along to, the whole way.
Over the crest and the roads widened a touch, the houses grew, and we turned the corner to Montessori British School--Black and white gates adorned with this:
and a couple of those Montessori Dudes that look like apprentice Nutcrackers, clean-shaven and of pleasant demeanor.
I didn't get to see the school, then, however, as there were apartments to be seen, and hotels to check into, and other new coworkers with whom to drink smoothies made from fruits I've never heard of, let alone tasted.
This morning, Gary gave the other new teachers and I a quick tour of Montessori British School before our first day of orientation. He started with the hall of administrative offices, curriculum development, and something they call "the workshop," which might be where the elves go when they feel like their skills are worth more than some holiday cookies. On display in the window were a wire model of a motorcycle, a model of a printing press, Pacman figurine, and various contraptions with moving parts.
Gary led us up through the Kindergarten and primary areas, where each room is themed, or purposed. For example, the music room, where a dozen miniscule baby grand pianos form neat rows. (Stacy, are you dying?) Or the Jacques Cousteau room where life-size sharks hang from the ceiling. In-house artists handle all the incredible, distinctly child-friendly but adult-sensible murals. In one room, the school chef demonstrates his cooking, and in another, students reinforce their learning through a game of Jeopardy...while standing at their own individual podiums. I was impressed with the puppet-theater and multi-color mini-antique couches, until we hit the secondary wing.
In secondary, the murals become more muted, more realistic. Rooms are themed by historical figures like Coretta Scott King, and Jorge Luis Borges. And who graces the wall outside the room for screening films but Stephen Spielberg. I hope to work in this wing, where the student desks are made of clear plastic, and the glass walls echo a bit, but the windows out onto the courtyard are probably as tall as I am. Of course, I still don't know what I will be teaching.
Up the stairs to the third floor (fourth?), I'm pretty sure the murals are the iPod dancers:
And here, we entered the brand new library addition. Dayna, it's like I work at Hogwarts. The desks, and floors, and walls are all rich wood paneling. The ceilings are high, vaulted, and painted like the Sistine Chapel. The study desks are long, communal affairs with bronze-accented chairs along either side. It's like I work at Hogwarts, with computer labs and track suits. And instead of learning Latin, the students manage French, Spanish, English, and, as of September, Mandarin.
I will admit.
This school leaves me speechless. Breathless, even (literally, too, after all those stairs at ten thousand feet).
It also makes me feel guilty.
I just wish that every student could study in such a beautiful place.
I mean...look at this theater.
Today in orientation, we spent some time in icebreakers. Good, because it was intimidating to have breakfast Hogwarts-style, at one of two tables running the length of the entire cafeteria, inhabited by navy and red-clad instructors.
This is the first year they have recruited directly out of the States and abroad, rather than just pulling foreign teachers who were already in Bogotá. Some sixteen of us have flown in during the last two weeks. Four of us in the last twenty-four hours.
I met French teachers, and Spanish teachers, math teachers and physics teachers, art teachers and PE teachers, and the most exciting, for me, profesores de danza. Not only do they have dance teachers in full-time employ, they have multiple dance teachers. As our inner and outer circles of teachers shuffled around the basketball court, we introduced ourselves in English and Spanish, and some of them not me in French, and some of them including me in fake Chinese.
My new life--a fluid combination of languages, in a city high in the mountains, where the sun on my back is cooled by rain, and re-warmed by the smiles of two hundred people like me, who love teaching and culture, and language.
I'm glad to have arrived.
Welcome to Bogotá.