Thursday, November 10, 2005

Back in the Saddle

Karla has been encouraging me to post a couple of the photos I took of Aysha in the morning before we went to school, and I just did.  They should be right below this post.  Now don’t skip right to the bottom just to see the pictures... they’ll still be there when you’ve finished reading this.  I haven’t posted in a long time.  Karla took over for a couple weeks and I have been doing other things.  I took a bunch of photos of some of my students, first at a sports tournament and then on a team-building field trip.  I have been having fun posting them on the flickr website.  I took tons of action shots with the digital camera and a few turned out well.  The students were either very impressed with their pictures or begged me to delete them.

It’s Novembrinas in Cartagena – a week long holiday that only happens here.  The highlight of the week is the crowning of Miss Colombia.  We talked about going to Tayrona, the national park about 3 hours away to camp (or at least stay in a cabin) by the beach for a few days.  However, we looked at treadmills on the Thursday before the break began and decided to invest in a treadmill instead of spending our money travelling.  That’s what a baby does to you.  We’re staying at home, where it’s safe and comfortable.  The idea of staying on a beautiful beach, but having to battle bugs and entertain a hot, sweaty little girl is not as enticing as having a machine to walk on in our home.  

In Kuwait, we always had a gym in our apartment, but here no apartments seem to have gyms.  There are a couple of gyms that we could get memberships at, but they are expensive and inconvenient –a half an hour walk away.  So we have a big black noisy machine in between the dining room and living room, sort of almost out of the way.

One important thing I learned during the treadmill purchase is that Colombia is not a good place to change money.  Banks, for what I suspect are reasons related to preventing terrorism, have nothing to do with foreign money.  You can’t buy or sell any foreign currency at a Colombian bank, or transfer money to another country.  The only place to change money here are either through suspicious little money change shops in the streets or through black market money changers.  The shops were offering 2100 pesos to the US dollar and the guys on the street 2500.  The official rate is around 2275 pesos to the dollar.  The Lonely Planet warns against the guys on the street who are able to skim money off as they count it.  All of the little money change shops almost never had rates posted, but all quoted the exact same rate.  In fact, the two shops that I did find that had rates posted, offered a slightly worse rate.  Canadian dollars were even worse.  The shops were offering 1300 pesos when the actual rate is about 1950.

I have been listening to quite a bit of Al Franken.  For a week, I was downloading his TV show, which I believe was the first hour of his three hour radio show.  The one hour was great.  It was a fairly serious commentary on the US news.  I’ve tried to listen to the podcast of 3 hour show, but it’s too long and I always find my attention drifting off to something else.  He talks to senators and members of congress who point out things that you don’t otherwise hear.  There was a Democrat from the government that wanted to start cancelling contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq.  Iraq isn’t being rebuilt because the American companies that got the contracts though they would be welcome, but now can’t leave their hotels in the Green Zone.  The work doesn’t get done, and the Iraqis are more convinced the Americans came for their oil and not to rebuild their country.  Until the existing contracts cancelled, new contracts cannot be given to Iraqi companies who are able to do the jobs.

Well, it’s I know you’re eager to see those new photos and Karla’s getting Aysha into some clothes to head out and see the gang by the pool.  It’s only about 5 weeks until we get home for the holidays.  It still feels a long way off here, but I suspect you’ve already heard the first of this year’s Christmas carol muzak.

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