Friday, Feb 8, 2019

Spanish Immersion

I saw my sister and brother-in-law off on Monday after a great visit. I went to the airport with them because I was flying to Medellin, Colombia to participate in a month long Spanish Immersion language program. But before I get into that, I want to tell you about the earthquake we had while having lunch in the airport terminal.

As we were eating I felt a shaking sensation which I thought was a plane landing. However when I felt the floor roll underneath me, I knew it was another earthquake. The three of us stood up waiting to for the shaking to stop or for it to get worse. Fortunately the shaking subsided and we could continue eating our lunch. Turns out it was a 5.7M quake.

About 5 minutes later security came by and was making everyone leave the terminal. I was not finished with my lunch, and I was annoyed we had to go. We began to leave with security when the waitress insisted we pay before we exited out onto the tarmac. Honestly, this pissed me off.

I wasn’t finished eating, we were being escorted out of the building by security, and if it was important enough to do that, shouldn’t time be of the essence? Why is there time to pay for an unfinished meal when you are being evacuated?

I again protested that security was making us leave, I haven’t finished my meal, and I wasn’t paying. So what do they do? After some back and forth between the manager and waitress, they go in the back and come out with to-go containers. Our food was scooped up into them; then they took the credit card and ran it, and then we exited. Wow.

We were out on the tarmac for less than ten minutes, when we were allowed to enter the terminal again. I went back to the table we were eating at, dumped my food  from the clear plastic to-go container back onto my plate, took a drink of my unfinished juice, and proceeded to eat my pre-paid meal.

Personally I think this pretty good shake was a great experience for my sister and brother-in-law to have as they said farewell to Ecuador. 😉


Medellin is a unique city in that it sits at the bottom of a large “hole” surrounded by mountains. It has it’s own weather. It is warmer in Medellin than at the airport which is at the top on the mountain plain.

I guess because car emissions can get trapped if there is no wind, on some days people are not allowed to drive their cars. The public transportation system here is phenomenal. It is a connection of trains, buses, a Tranvia, and cable cars that run up the steep mountain sides. It is very easy to get around.

Exploring Medellin

Our school did an outing around Medellin to see some of the barrios on the mountainside and the graffiti in the city.

Up In The Barrio

Graffiti in Medellin


I am staying in Envigado, which is connected to Medellin. I am told that Envigado is considered the safest place in Colombia. I love the neighborhood I am in here. I feel completely safe to walk the streets at any time day or night. The people are friendly, and this area has a terrific authentic Latin American vibe.

My host Alicia and fellow student John

My Place in Envigado

I arrived at my host’s home at 11:30 pm at night. She was nice enough to stay up and wait for me to arrive. Her name is Alicia, she lives in a building owned and occupied by her family…sisters, brother, nieces, and mother. Each family has their own unit.

In Alicia’s place I am also living with another student from the school, John. He is from Hawaii, about my son Easton’s age, and has taken a year long break from his career to learn Spanish and explore South America. My mornings this week consisted running at the track with John, and then having Spanish conversation at the kitchen table over breakfast with Alicia and John.

Colombia Immersion

I am taking my classes from Colombia Immersion. My first week at this school has been an incredible experience for me. It is a combination of learning grammar, then immediately using it in organic conversation with the instructor and other students in the class.

Colombia Immersion School

There are only three of us plus the instructor in my class, at least for this week. I have been maximally stretched speaking Spanish four hours each day plus an hour of private coaching. 98% of every word spoken this week, including instructions and feedback, is in Spanish.

It has been an intensive use of past tenses, Indefindo Perfecto and Imperfecto. I have come to learn and realize context is everything when using Spanish past tense verbs. The crazy thing is, as hard as it is for me, it is a blast. The learning environment is casual, practical, and supportive. So far, I can’t say enough good things about the instruction here.

Taking a Break at Class

In addition to the 5 hours a day of instruction/coaching, there are activities, field trips, and social gatherings between students from both campuses of Colombia Immersion, and with the locals in the area. These events create great opportunities to continue speaking Spanish in relevant, real-time conversations.

The other part of what is happening is that I am exhausted! One, because my brain has been on a learning marathon, and two, the students here are most, but not all, 20-30 years younger than me. These guys just keep going. I’m not trying to keep up, but my normal 8 pm bedtime has been pushed to 10:30 pm. God, I’m old! 😉