Sunday, 29 December 2013

Snack time!

One of the best parts about visiting a new country is the plethora of indigenous junk food and snacks you learn about while there. Here is a list of my favorite foods here which is more or less the reason for the 8 Kilos I have put on while here. 

My favorite Colombian food: 

Helado 2 X 1 Martes: The city that I live in has this cool promotional deal every Tuesdays or Martes called 2X1 where you pay for one Ice creams and get two!! This is a ritual I have been having almost every week without a miss. There are also places where we have a different kind of sundae on every day of a week. Por ejemplo: a banana split on a Friday or a chocolate brownie on a Wednesday. :D I think this offer just rocks and I fail to understand why anyone would ever eat icecream on any other day of the week. I guess that explains the huge queue for the ice-cream where we wait for 20 mins every Tuesday. 

My favorite: Ensalada de frutas con Helado. Its huge and has often been my lunch or dinner by itself. I try to convince myself saying it is healthy because it has so many fruits. hehe. 

Arequepe: It is the traditional Colombian version of jam but with soft caramel instead. Not only as a bread spread but Arequipa is popularly seen as cake toppings, eaten with cookies or toast.


To know how to make it, follow this You Tube link. I had no idea this is how it was made until this video! 

Arepas mixtos @ Calienticos: While I was at this amazing Ultimate Frisbee tournament in the scenic town of Pampalona, I discovered my new found love for Arepas Rellenas Mixtos at this cute restaurant called Calienticos. We loved it so much that we went there every night for all three days of the tournament. Arepas come in different forms, often flat when made at home but Arepa Rellena comes with many fillings and Mixtos is my favorite which has every kind of meat and egg.The best part for me, with all kinds of Colombian food, is the spread of salsa sauces that it comes with. Calienticos had an amazingly delicious variety of salsas from Tarta, Pina, Mayonisa to Guacamoly, Rosado etc; and was so affordable that we didn't mind the 2 and a half kilometer walk  every night to get there for dinner. I have also become the biggest fan of Avacado ever since I have come here!   


Las salsas con comida



Oblea: It is sweet wafer street snack with a spread of jams to choose from. Almost every street has a cart and every cart has a different variety of colorful fruit flavored jams, condensed milk, Arequipe and fillers like rainbow colored tiny balls. Basically its like powerpuff girls; it hard not to like them since it has everything nice!  


Bocadillo de guayaba: Now Bocadillo in spain means a sandwich but here in Colombia the Bocadillo is a quick energy snack made of the pulp of the fruit Guava. It comes in many different forms but traditionally warped in a dried leaf and is an excellent source for instant energy while playing sports due to its high sugar content. That explains why it made it to my list of favorite foods, now doesn't it. :D 


Ayacas: The first thing I ate in colombia on my first day here as soon as I landed was this stuffed dish that looked like meat stuffed Upma wraped with a banana leaf.  (For those who don't know, Upma is a
vegetarian south Indian dish)


Platano frito: For someone who hates bananas, it came as a pleasant surprise to me that I actually liked Platano the first time I ever had it. Platano is from the same family as bananas but has a sweeter hint to its flavor. Basically it is like caramelized banana but instead of using sugar they just let it rot and then fry it and like I said it is surprisingly tasty for a rotten fruit and for someone who doesn't like bananas! 


Sun tea/nestea/fuzztea: One of the things that I've grown to like is how meals here are had with any form of liquid other than water. There is Juice, Soda, milkshake, you name it; but two of my favorites here are Augamiel and Sun tea. While Agua miel is organic sweetened water, sometimes consumed with lemon; Sun tea or Nestea is a pack of crystallized tea that you mix with water and ice and comes in different flavors like apple, lemon, peach etc. I know I know, its basically Iced tea then why the fuss?  Well its funny for me that you don’t just eat food with plain water and need to have a beverage with your food EVERYDAY and I used to love iced tea back in India also, so I am not complaining one bit and can have Suntea EVERYDAY!

Nestle should so thank me for all this free advertising! 

Nucita:  If you like Nutella then you can bet your bottom dollar that you will switch your loyalties after having Nucita. Its just like Nutella but along with the rich hazelnut brown chocolate, the jar also has white chocolate in a swirl. All I need now is a spoon and a jar of this at room temperature and aummm... Need I say more?  


Sunday, 17 November 2013


Ever since I was a child I have been a big fan of DIY(Do It Yourself). One of my dear friends growing up, had this pink book with interesting things to make at home like glitter gels, perfumes, key chains etc and we'd try to make it together. I'm so glad she still does cool DIY stuff. Check out her "Blog" for more on that. As a grown up I feel we are surrounded by so much commercialism, that people rather buy things than make it themselves. If you are thinking of the perfect gift, more often than not, its monetary value will have priority over something you spend time and effort on making. Time is a luxury we can no longer afford to spend like we did in our generation (I mean the 80's and before that). I know I sound like an old hag saying this but trust me, when I see the present generation and the stark contrast between the kind of childhood that we lead compared to theirs; it breaks my heart to see that an entire generation and more, will be oblivious to the simple joys of life that does not involve an expensive Xbox video game or the latest Mary Kate and Ashley vanity case.

So the new trend in my school is DIY Marble Painting art that we started, making Salesiano the trendiest school in the neighborhood. ;) Kids in my fun classroom paint every thing from their cell phone covers, pens, pencils, spectacle frames, footballs, keys, glasses, to you name it!! Using the phenomenon that oil and water do not mix we create art. Marble painting is a fun way to make students understand about Science and hygiene. This can also be demonstrated by taking a mug of water and pouring a few drops of oil and rapidly trying to mix it. It obviously does not mix. Now sprinkle some detergent and you see the oil coagulate and settle at the bottom. This is the reason why it is important to wash your hands with soap since the dirt sticks to the oils on the hand and washing it only with water does not take it away. Also practical classroom activities are a fun way of practicing present tense and present progressive tense.

Materials required:
A4 size sheets (1 bundle), Oil pastel tubes or acrylic colors (5 colors: Yellow, Blue, Red, Black, White), paint thinner, bucket/small-tub of water, Styrofoam cups

1. Take a dollop of oil paints in a cup and add paint thinner in the ratio 1:1. Take a stick or a paint brush and mix it till there are no lumps.

2. Repeat step one with every color.

3. In a bucket of water, pour a few drops of any color or a combination of colors.

4. Twirl the colors with the pointed end of a paint brush to form patterns and cut into each other.

5. Insert a sheet of paper at a right angle to the surface into the bucket of water.

7. Insert and remove the paper/object in a flow without jerks to get smooth patterns.

8. Let it dry for at least an hour.   

Girls and Glitter

I took the plunge and did it to my phone cover as well. :D

Monday, 28 October 2013

Inspire Me!

A teacher's profession is one of the most rewarding where you are making a difference in a child's life and affecting it so profoundly. But sometimes one forgets that fact. As a teacher you have to constantly think on your toes, be creative, innovative, find solutions to problems with the available resources, excel your people management skills(because I always say, managing a class of 40 kids is much more challenging than managing a team of corporate employees), inspire, motivate, change lives, grab and keep their attention. It makes you want to strive to be a better person because you set an example for so many students. 

Ah, there are days when you come back home, all exhausted, with a splitting head ache and your voice mute. That's when you need to remind yourself why you signed up to do this in the first place. My recent classroom experiences made me wanna do this post about the list of my favorite Teacher movies which never fail to make me want to take on even a Friday as if it were a Monday! So here goes. I bet you'll get goosebumps after watching these trailers whether you are a teacher or not! 

1. Dead Poets Society: I don't know how Robbin Williams does it every time! I would've liked Good Will Hunting to be on this list too but it was up against some tough ones.

2. Freedom Writers: The first time I saw this movie, I was in school. It was one of those movies which leave you speechless after watching because you are just so moved. It left me quiet and pensive for about an hour after watching it.

3. Dangerous minds: This reminds me so much of my classrooms here. Its exactly the same. The students are rebellious. Don't listen. Hold hands in my class! always try and act funny.

4. Tare Zameen Par: This one just had to be on the list! An excellent example of the education system in India. But more than that it sensitizes people on the topic of inclusive education and the real role of a teacher in a classroom.

5. To sir with love: This movie is another one of my favorites and got tied with Mr.Hollands Opus. The only reason the other one didn't make it was because its too long, but a recommended watch. 

A special mention to The School of Rock \m/ and The Ron Clark Story(This one is a little cheesy for my taste but Mathew Perry is just so darn cute! =D ) Please feel free to comment below with your favorite teacher movies. 

Rich School, Poor School

When you move to a new country you are bound to have a culture shock; even if you always thought of yourself as the most open and broad minded person in the world. Coming from India and being placed in one of more affluent schools here in Colombia, took me a while to wrap my hands around the culture here. It was not that difficult an adjustment because I imagine the opposite being more difficult to adjust to i.e. if someone had to come work in India with Affordable Private Schools.

To start with, I had never worked with a rich school before and with my background of working mostly in the development sector prior to this, pure capitalism came as a pleasant surprise to me. Air conditioned teacher lounges with WiFi, class rooms with projectors, four basketball courts and a mini football field give me little reason to complain. I always felt like for me changing the world for the good, could be achieved through a non profit organisation wearing a Khadi Kurta and a Desi Jhola, until my tryst with Social Enterprise. And now working with a for-profit has left me feeling differently. Whats next? Working with a Multi National? :O

Living the stark contrast of struggling to make ends meet with limited resources back in India to having multimedia tools at your disposal, adds so much perspective to things. And if like me, you think all these resources make teaching extremely easy, you are sadly mistaken. The biggest challenge is not cash flow but lack of discipline and rebellious teenagers.

The challenge in India was to make the students (specially the girls) overcome their shyness, open up and take part in the activities to make them more confident. Here it is the exact opposite. The students won't take part in the activities because they are too "cool" for it. Students in India need to be told exactly what to do and feel lost without constant instructions. Here, each and every one of them has bags of personality and they openly flaunt it. Fourteen year old's have tattoos and make the choice of having something that permanent on their body forever. Teenage boys are extremely into gym-ing and hold up the colombian reputation of Latin men as smooth takers. On one of my first few days at school, an overly confident teenager gave me a cheek kiss after our first conversation, leaving me dumb struck, as it is tradition here.

They constantly use cell phones in classroom and don't even get me started about the teenage couples holding hands and making out in the middle of the ground and the corridors, pairing up and sitting extremely close in classrooms making it awkward for me while I'm trying to teach. No wonder teenage pregnancy is one of the biggest concerns in the country. They sure do not have a problem with PDA. While in India the students fear and dread the teachers; students and teachers are friends here. Students are comfortable to openly show their sexuality and other students are more accepting of the homosexual ones, which is great to see. They do have their share of bullies through. If the students crossed a teacher's path in my school they'd just fold their hands, put their head down and walk away; here they high five and first bump the teacher and hang around to catch up on which level they finished on their favorite Xbox game.

Sports is given so much importance along with musical instrument practices. It was a delight to see an all women football tournament and to see women equality. The kids are also spoiled with an average pocket money of about 30.000 pesos a month because they are always sipping on soda pops even in the middle of class. So their attitudes in class reminds me of movies like dangerous minds and freedom writers, and I totally feel like their lead protagonist with the big challenge of keeping their attention in class!

My school here has a reputation of not being too academically oriented. Every day is such a fiesta! Especially now since we are closer to the end of the year. No two days are similar and there is always something fun and new happening around here. Variety IS the spice of life! :) 

Friday, 11 October 2013


Ten things you instantly notice about Colombia as an Indian :

1. They just love their dogs here. Walking on the streets here is like walking the sets of Beverly Hills Chihuahuas. There are so many dogs, it feels like everyone has a dog and its even true. When I asked my class how many of them had pets with the show of hands, about 80% of them raised their hands and many had 2-4 of them. I live in a house with two dogs and two cats myself. Even the airports are filled with dogs. When I first arrived I was waiting for my baggage and people were waiting for their dogs because they fly with their dogs. The main street in the town by the river, more like a stream that flows through the town, has people skateboarding, roller blading and biking with their dogs all sundays. For me, coming for India where walking your dog is all about keeping your dog away from other dogs, the most surprising part was how some of them walk their dogs without a leash and all dogs play together in a  "dog park"! I can't stress enough on the number of dogs here. Also, they clean up after their dogs which is an alien concept in India.

2. People here never get old. They are so young at heart and so full of life. Like my host family grandma was chugging Aguardiante(the national alcoholic drink of colombia) on her 93rd birthday!  Maybe that's why they were voted one of the happiest people in the world. 7 out of the top 10 happiest countries in the world are from Latin america and you see why as soon as set foot here. People have the most cheerful smile on from the time they start their day till the end.

3.Greeting and Air kisses: The best part for me is how everyone greets everyone. While it happens in a lot of other countries it doesn't really happen in India. There is such cheer in the air when you hear a peppy shout of "Hola" from the door man to the receptionist to the security guy and respond with the same intensity.
Back in India I found people who gave air kisses really pretentious. Its just not an Indian thing. So you have got to imagine how startled I was when a student of mine gave me an cheek kiss on my first day at work! Everyone air kisses you when you first meet them, girls and boys alike. I blush red every time my host brother's friends do that to me, with nothing to say in return.

4. Hot pants and belly button showing sheer shirts, is the dress code. I feel like the most covered person walking to work in my kurtas. But when I do step out in my shorties, its a relief to be able to wear anything and walk on the street and not get stares or be eve teased like in India. There is an occasional cat calling but it is harmless by Indian standards, and is rare.

5. The tropical climate: Although the climate vastly varies from city to city, the town I am living in has weather much like in India. As a result the flora and fauna is very similar as well. Like Neem and Jungle Jeelabi are very common trees here. People find it funny when I tell them you can brush your teeth with the Neem branches and state all its other medicinal properties like crushing its leaves for pimples etc.

6. Football is a Religion: In Latin America saying football is like religion, is an understatement. I heard people say it a lot of times but my first hand experience it from day one made me realize the gravity if it. Its like Cricket in India.

7. Expressions are universal: I just realized my Spanish speaking skills are limited to very basic phrases which makes it difficult to communicate certain things I want to say without using Google translate. But the most fun  times are when I frantically move my hands around to express an action or make a face when I don't like something I put in my mouth  and it makes my host family crack up and we laugh louder than we would otherwise. Its like to blurt out all these pent up feelings trapped inside due to lack of communication and expressions become the common medium of communication. Making connections with an awkward smile while crossing paths, a wave of hand while saying goodbye while leaving for work or making a polite offer to wash the dishes feels like you are understood.

8. Food though bland is the best part of my day. I am on a high protein diet since I eat so much meat every day! Its so interesting to taste different flavors from another country and so difficult to explain flavors in words. Like, how do you explain to a Chinese person what Indian Chinese tastes like? Something else I found really interesting is that food is always served with juice, tea, lemonade or any other beverage and never water like in India.

9. Spanish: They say immersion is the best way to learn a language. well its clearly not working in my case. Between a hectic work and a social schedule I hardly find time to study Spanish or practice it. And being surrounded by English speaking people is not helping either. From teachers at school to my host brothers I do not even bother trying, or try but fail. But I still feel like if I listen to it for long enough, I will magically start understanding everything after a while.

10. You first on the road: Everyone always follows the driving rules on the roads and allows the other to pass. Its not the aggressive me first Indian attitude. But if you are an Indian, most of all, make sure you close the car door softly because no matter how gently you close the door they will still feel like you are slamming it. Weird. I love the fact that women ride mo-bikes here.