Settling In in Villavicencio

Whoa, I was pretty lost for real there for a while! I took a break from writing to focus on a few other things in my life, and since I’ve returned to Colombia it’s been a bit tough getting settled in to my new city. But things are coming together finally so I thought it’d be the perfect moment to continue adding some entries, starting with one about my new city: Villavicencio!

Villavicencio?

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More fondly called “Villavo,” (‘vi-ja-vo’ for the non-Spanish speakers) by the locals, Villavicencio was a city I never thought twice about let alone a place I thought I’d be living in. But here I am! I was back in Toronto wondering what to do and where to go when I got a message saying that the Teaching English in Colombia program still needed fellows. Hmm…

I had decided not to continue back in January because there had been a major change of organizations that left the program in a bit of a mess – I didn’t know anything about the new organization running the program and didn’t know if I could trust them. But after speaking with some previous fellows who had returned who said it was all normal, I decided to go for it once again!

In With the New…

I decided to choose a new city I’d never been to with some particular assets: somewhere relatively close to Bogota, and somewhere with hot weather. That led me to choose Villavicencio! It’s just a three or four hour drive from Bogota (depending on traffic and most of that is just getting out of Bogota’s gridlocks!) but it’s nice and HOT in comparison to the capital and other cities nearby. It’s in the department of Meta, and is known as “La Puerta al Llano:” the gate to Los Llanos – the Plains of Colombia.

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Overlooking the plains from a viewpoint up in the hills called “Mirador Piedra del Amor”

The city itself is nestled right at the foothills of the Andes so on one side, you can see mountains, and on the other, flatlands as far as the eye can see! The plains stretch all the way to Venezuela and are actually shared between the two countries.

“Llanero” Culture

The ‘cowboy’ culture is strong in this region of Colombia and cattle raising, horse-riding, meat-eating are all aspects of the Llanero culture. There’s also a well-known sport practiced here called “coleo” – basically a rodeo, where cowboys on horses chase cattle on a path to try and make them fall down… I personally wouldn’t want to see such a spectacle due to my love for animals and belief in animal rights but nevertheless, it’s a tradition in this region.

There’s also a famous dance here called “joropo.” This aspect of the Llanero culture is a bit more my speed! Here is a youtube video for anybody interested in seeing what it’s like:

Pretty incredible how fast the dancers can move!

I’ve yet to experience the typical Llanero culture firsthand though – I’m still pretty new here and haven’t gone out exploring too much besides roaming the streets in search of a place to live.

Home Sweet Home 

Speaking of which, I finally found one! After some shuffling around, I am finally somewhat “settled in,” living with another fellow in the teaching program, a guy from Switzerland. We found a two-bedroom apartment that is behind a family’s house and that is pretty central for both of our school placements. The family is very kind and have two daughters that are starting to feel like our little sisters! They also have the most adorable pug named Hannah who loves to snuggle.

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One of their daughters also goes to the school where I teach, but is in a lower grade so I’m not her teacher. Nevertheless, the family has been super nice with us, giving us some furniture, some food, and general advice about different things in the city; it’s nice to have our own space but also to be able to count on a ‘family’ just a few metres away.

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The new neighbourhood: “La Esmeralda”

The neighbourhood is beautiful too with lots of nature! The only thing – there seems to be some sort of a bird – a cockatoo? a parrot? that frequently “talks” with another cockatoo or parrot and together they sound like screaming children. Plus, it seems that the same family also has an actual screaming child! I’m already getting used to it though, luckily – all part of the morning wake-up call. 🙂

School Sweet School 

The new school I’m working at is amazing too – it feels like a natural park! It’s up in the hills so it’s nice and cool compared to other parts of the city where it feels like a furnace.

The buildings are also very colourful with lots of student art around, there’s lots of interesting trees and plants and flowers, and there are also interesting animals, namely, monkeys! I’ve seen them three times so far swinging up in the trees. There are two dogs  that live there as well and I love getting snuggles from them between classes. 🙂

Of course I miss my old school in Manizales a lot, but I’m so happy that my new placement is another beautiful place with friendly staff and students (and monkeys…and dogs…)!

Here are some photos:
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And that’s all for now – short and sweet! But keep an eye out for future posts about Villavicencio and other cities and towns in Colombia.

Thanks for reading!

L

Writen by Lois

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