Learning the Hard Way

This week has found me reflecting a lot. I feel that at times I have many unfilled hours in which I find myself thinking about my time here and how it has affected my perspective on the important things in life. It’s both a good thing and a bad thing- sometimes the mind can wonder and the imagination can take hold: whether it’s about what the next year holds and future adventures or about what I would do if I were to be robbed walking down the street.
Ultimately I find myself reflecting about how much I have taken for granted in my life so far. And it always comes back to two aspects- education and safety. I already know how amazing my family and friends are and how lucky I am to have them, but these two points I had never really considered before. Education in England is of a really high standard and we often take it as a given. Yes, my Mum and Aunty (who are both teachers) will moan about the amount of paperwork and changes being made by Ministers who essentially are not in touch with the system. But at the end of the day, the kids in state schools learn, and the teachers teach. They plan, they evaluate and they put in hours of work because they know that at some point they will be gruellingly inspected and have to give evidence of progress. Yes, OFSTED inspections truly sound like the worst thing that could be implemented. But imagine a system where that level of inspection and regulation didn’t exist. In Colombian state schools that kind of paperwork and pressure seems non-existent, so there is less need to put in such effort unless the teacher desires to. Much like at home, teachers here are underpaid, but more so. Many of them have a second job to supplement their income in order to support their family and pay the bills. On top of this, the students are lucky to have a full week of classes. As a kid I would have longed for four day weeks and three day weekends, but it pains me to see this reality for my students. With everything my students already face, they lack the stability and guaranteed routine of school. Days of classes are continually cancelled due to meetings, on the part of the school or the Ministry of Education itself, demonstrations and strikes. Classes have been cut short due to a lack of water in the school and the threat of the water and electricity being permanently cut is ever looming, due to unpaid bills on the part of the Secretary of Education. Sometimes I feel that the public school system here offers little hope to the kids that come through the gates of the school every day.
Not forgetting that it is highly un-recommended that I arrive and leave the school on my own. As for getting my phone out on the street to check a message, maps or receive a call? Ha, forget it. I won’t “dar papaya” for anyone. Every time I leave the house I think about how much money I have. Do I have 5-10 thousand pesos to hand to quickly give someone if I get robbed? Do I really need to take my phone and is it visible if I tuck it into the top of my trousers? I’m fully embracing the bra as a replacement for a bag! When night falls you won’t catch me walking far on my own. Going in search of drunk food after a night out- you can forget it Ramsey! It’s these kinds of things I never really thought twice about at home. I have always had paranoia for pick-pockets since living in Barcelona, but ultimately it didn’t stop me taking my things with me when I went out. Feeling safe is something I massively took for granted back home and I think in Europe in general, and it is something I really miss now I am not there. I’m not saying bad things don’t happen back home, but it’s highly unlikely your students will actually ask you “have you been robbed yet?”!

Other differences between our cultures I can look passed, but for me it has been the difference in these two aspects that has hit me the most since being in Cali. I don’t want to judge or impose a westernised ideological perspective upon life in another part of the world, but simply reflect and compare the areas I have found most difficult to adjust to so far. 

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