Tag Archives: Colombia

As Bogota Transforms, Holistic Planning is Needed – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

As Bogota Transforms, Holistic Planning is Needed – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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This week, Hyperallegic, an art and culture digital platform, published an article talking about the street murals of my hometown, Bogota. While it was an interesting read regarding Colombian culture and history, I personally found it lacked key facts that shift the key elements of the story.

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Eat the World – Food in Europe versus America – by Ana María Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Eat the World – Food in Europe versus America – by Ana María Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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Most of us have fond memories of our childhood. Growing up, few things sticks to us as strong as food did. Whether it was your mom’s homemade key lime pie, or a gross mixture you did not even know what was in it, food has always been key to transporting and evolving our senses in time. Growing up in Colombia I was exposed to, of course, the typical Colombian food. It was later on when I started trying different foods. Clearly, it has been a process of getting to know what you like and what you do not. Nevertheless, what I think is the most amazing thing about food is all that it implies.

I personally think food itself is a whole culture onto itself.

Everything revolves around food. It is amazing to see how food reflects a whole geographical, historical and cultural background. Latin American food, for instance, is characterized by the use of corn. There are multiple maize-based dishes all over the region, such as tortillas, tamales, tacos, pupusas, arepas, and elote asado. Precisely, this is the reflection of the historical and geographical background of the region. In this case, Latin American indigenous groups thought of corn as the greatest gift from the Gods. It was the most valued good, even more than gold.

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After traveling outside my country, I have noticed how the culture around food changes dramatically depending on the region. Even in the same country, food is significantly different depending on the geography. In Colombia, for instance, breakfast is an important meal. However, there’s plenty of options to choose from. In the central zone, the traditional breakfast is called “changua”. This is basically a milk soup with eggs. I know, it sounds interesting. This dish comes from one of Colombia’s indigenous groups: the Muisca people. In this region you can also find tamales, which are usually eaten for breakfast on Sundays; and “almojábana” with hot chocolate. Here, it is important to clarify that Latin American hot chocolate is completely different to American hot chocolate, which was one of my biggest food-frustrations when I first moved to the U.S. If you go to the “Eje Cafetero” you will find different breakfasts. One of them is the typical “calentao”, which literally means “heated”. This is usually the night before’s leftovers, reheated and mixed. There’s also the “arepa paisa”, which is a flatbread made of cooked corn flour, and commonly is served with toppings such as butter, cheese, scrambled eggs or meat. In the Colombian coast, clearly, the food is different. The Caribbean region breakfasts include “arepa de huevo”, which is a deep fried arepa made from yellow corn dough with an egg inside that is cooked by the frying process. It is also common for people to have fried plantain with cheese for breakfast. The list could go on, but I think I’ve proven my point.

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This is how, during my European adventure, I decided to look deeper into its food culture.

Firstly, breakfast is smaller. From what I was able to experience in London, Paris, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Munich, Santorini and Athens, it is more customary to eat smaller meals for breakfast. It was interesting to see that probably the biggest breakfast I found was in London, which was pretty similar to the typical American breakfast. Once again, I was able to make the connection to the historical background and relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States. Other than that, most people tend to have either a biscuit, croissant or toast, accompanied by coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

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Putting this in perspective, I was able to confirm that American portions are indeed bigger than average. When I came to the United States, the only thing I could compare them with was with Latin American portions, which are indeed bigger than European, but way smaller than American.

Secondly, ingredients are different. Yes, this seems like a logical statement. Nonetheless, it is impressive to see the actual difference between the ingredients used in every place. The freshness and the way food is prepared absolutely changes the way people enjoy food. Pizza is the perfect example for this. European pizza is, in general, served individually, characterized by its thin crust, simple ingredients, sauces made from scratch and a not as cheesy/greasy consistency. On the other hand, American pizza is, in general, thick -even stuffed- crust, extra cheesy, and made from frozen dough. Both of them are delicious, but they are not the same in any way. It is not a surprise for anyone that American pizza is considered to be fast food. European pizza is not. Again, this reflects the culture.

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Thirdly, it caught my attention the way in which meals are distributed. For instance, in Latin America, breakfast tends to be significant, lunch tends to be the biggest meal in the day, and dinner tends to be lighter. This is not the case in the U.S.. From my experience, I have seen that breakfast is usually significant, lunch lighter, and dinner tends to be the biggest meal of the day. Along this, there is a lot of snacking in the United States. Snacks are a huge part of the market and of every day’s routine. This is not the case in Europe. Farmer’s markets are much more common in Europe and Latin America than in the U.S.. Clearly, this makes a difference at the time of analyzing the different food cultures.

There is no doubt that depending on the country, city, or even region, food will be different. Most importantly, food will reflect the differences between the cultures. After traveling around different cities, different countries and different continents, one of the biggest lessons I learned is to simply go out there and eat the world!

Ana Maria serves as an editor for The North Star Reports.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Global Friendship, Love Across Borders – by Shivani Singh. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Global Friendship, Love Across Borders – by Shivani Singh. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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Welcome! Witaj! Enkua Dena Metachu! Mauya! Swagat Hai! Bienvenido! Laskavo Prosymo! And more warm greetings from new faces and cultures. A year ago when I first came to the United States, just like many of my fellow International students, there was a lot to process. It took a while to let this new culture and atmosphere sink in, but eventually we all got along. It’s crazy how unfamiliar faces become family, how strangers become support systems, how the discomfort of feeling out of place comes together to form a place of its own, and how International students become the ‘International squad’ in a matter of just a couple days.

I remember the first few days during orientation with students from Colombia, Canada, Ethiopia, India, Poland, Slovakia, Zimbabwe, and many other countries cramped up in a single room. The Director of International Programs – Alison Champeaux guided us through the basics and realities of living in a completely alien country (at least for most of us) and making the best out of it. I still remember how a year ago, there was uncertainty lingering in the back of our minds when all of us were trying to befriend and start a conversation with each other. Trying to figure out what was appropriate and what was bothersome, to not hurt anyone’s feelings but also try to woo them. It was all brand new. How we involuntarily hung out, planned things, took classes together and helped out each other. And within no time, between shady puns and lame jokes…a family emerged.

Today, when I sit with my roommates Yabi (Ethiopia), Basia (Poland), and Laura (Colombia) to look back and think about those times, a nostalgic smirk appears on all of our faces. How instantly our individual discomfort was creating a sense of comfort for us collectively, how our issues and queries were closely related and most of them were even similar. We all came in with distinct schedules, meal times, gestures, and understanding of relationships. For instance, back home for most of us, a professor-student relationship is extremely formal and doesn’t normally extend outside the classroom. One could hardly built a friendly and more than just an innate classroom connection with the professor. But here, in the USA, you can talk quite openly to your teachers and in addition to that you can (sometimes are even expected to) be on first name basis with most of your teachers and other elderly. A lot of social stigmas were different as compared to where we came from. The concept of ‘tipping’ was absolutely new to us all (me, Basia, Yabi, and Laura). The first time we went to eat dinner at Green Mill, and the check was put on our table, we were a little startled. But after a year of culturing ourselves in this new atmosphere, we have been able to embrace the differences with wide-open arms.

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I, personally think that all International students go through a similar phase where they figure out what to inculcate and what to neglect, what to keep and what to push away. While we are trying to do this, we built ourselves in an all-around perspective. Meeting new people, making connections, soaking in the culture, and keeping each other company through thick and thin. Since the first time we (me and my roommates) made a connection as International students, we had each other’s back. We had a supernatural feeling about trusting each other; it was strange but significantly a grand feeling. What still blows my mind is that, how the four of us being from distinct countries, even continents (Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America) got along. We were used to a certain flavor of life, our liking for food and flavor, our habits, our sleep schedules, our customs, our rituals, our religions, our sense of styling, our definitions of beauty, every little thing was distinct. Somehow, this distinction acted like glue and we were stuck together! We got accustomed to each other, shared our beliefs, (being girls) we even shared our secrets. Introduced each other to our families over Skype, and our families to each other. It was quite overwhelming at first, to accept that the four of us connected in such short span and quick enough became so close that we could not go a day without talking, hanging out, or even humiliating one another. We even participated in each other’s cultural gatherings. I, as an Indian celebrated the festival of lights “Diwali” and was accompanied by lovely girls from around the world. We all dressed in Indian attires. I explained them the meaning and significance of this festival. And we ate mouth-watering Indian food. This was the situation when none of us even lived together. We would hang out in the lounge just to be within our comfort zone, which indeed we sought with each other. Recently, this year, the four of us we moved in together and it had been an absolute blast. We have cuisine from four different continents under one roof. We take turns cooking delicacies from our respective tastes. Not only do we share food and common beliefs, and sometimes end up disagreeing with one another, but also that doesn’t stop us from being goofy just the next second. It has almost been two months since we have been living together and all we have done is nothing but, alleviate each other and help improve in all possible ways. We are sisters, friends, companions, partners, sometimes; even therapists, tutors, cuddlers and so much more.

There is nothing more I could have wished for. Finding friends who would push you toward excellence, always encourage you, support every right thing you do, and even slap and drag you on to right track if you wander off. ‘Love is rare, but true friendship is even rarer’, and I am more than privileged to have this attachment with three beautiful girls. It is not just a second home anymore; it’s rather my newfound home. We solicit repose, contentment, ease, warmth, tenderness, and endearment with each other. The feeling of solidarity, belongingness and the level comfort we seek with each other is beyond the imaginable. I found my family among these fools.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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Peace in Colombia – Saying yes to the end of a half-century of war – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

Peace in Colombia – Saying yes to the end of a half-century of war – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

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Twenty years ago, it seemed absurd to imagine a peaceful environment in Colombia. Twenty years from now, it will probably seem absurd to imagine the country in a constant and endless war.

It is internationally known that Colombia has had to fight three political, social and economic enemies: guerrillas, paramilitaries, and narcotraffic. Back in the 1920s, the country started to experience what would be the core of the oldest and longest civil conflict in the Americas. The fundamental conflict revolved around the land distribution in the rural areas of the country. This leads us to the fact that the agrarian conflict has been the determining factor to the emergence of Colombia’s war. Nonetheless, it has not been the only one. The adoption of capitalism as the Colombian economic and political system led to the emergence of Marxism as the perfect ideology for the guerrilla groups. Irregularities, corruption and instability in the Colombian government were also factors that allowed the aborning of the country’s civil conflict and criminal bands all over the country. Even though there have been multiple guerrillas, including the M-19 and ELN, the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) is currently the largest and most active guerilla group in the country, internationally known as a terrorist group. Their funding comes mainly from illegal drug trade and production. The way in which the group has performed has caused damage and resentment all over the country.

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The combination of all these factors have forced Colombian society to be in an uncomfortable position. On one hand, the government is not providing the necessary support and/or action to combat and ease the struggle for political democracy in the country. The consequences of this can be seen in corruption, abandoned areas in the country, high levels of inequality and poverty. On the other hand, they are being directly affected by the consequences of the struggle for political democracy as Colombian people are the ultimate victims of the conflict. These conditions have resulted in a remarkably bloody, complicated and long-running war.

For most Colombians, there was no hope of bringing the country together again without killing each other. There had been multiple attempts to finish the conflict, from peaceful talks to armed attacks. The first set of talks was in 1984, which failed because the paramilitary groups did not follow the ceasefire with the FARC. Then, in 1992, the talks did not succeed because they were left in the air. The third attempt was in 1999-2000, with President Andrés Pastrana; this turned in another failed ceasefire by the FARC. This year something historic happened. Announced on August 24th, 2016, and after after four years of negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC in La Habana, Cuba, the Peace agreement was signed. It ends a war that began 52 years ago and has killed, displaced, kidnapped and affected Colombians in one way or another. Six points were discussed: integral policy of agricultural development, political participation, closure of the conflict, solution to the drug industry issue, determination of victims, and countersignature mechanisms after agreements. This agreement is supported by the international community as well. 47 countries have announced their support, including the United States, France, Russia, United Kingdom and China. After being signed and celebrated, the agreement will be presented to Colombians as a plebiscite. This means that the ultimate word on the effectiveness of the agreement will take place after a democratic vote from Colombian citizens, followed by the actual application and fulfillment of the conditions and subjects discussed.

This is why it is vital to understand that even though a permanent Peace accord will potentially change Colombia in great ways, the country needs more than the written agreement. If the agreement works successfully, Peace will increase Colombia’s economic annual growth. Clearly, security would improve due to the ceasefire. It would also be expected a decrease in illegal drug trade, as one of the main centres for this business has been created by the FARC. If Peace is achieved successfully, it would shift the social environment and structure in the country. Instead of having a Colombian society who still distrust everyone and everything around them, the country would start working together to create a culture of trust and tranquility that will traduce in a healthy and more prosperous society. It could also open the political scenario for more leftist groups, as they have been discriminated for their alliances with the guerrilla. Colombia has all the potential to create a new society. As a country, it counts with all the necessary resources to grow and gain power in the region and internationally. It is a matter of restructuring the civil society and shifting from a resentful environment to a peaceful and more tolerant country. For this, it is necessary that the Colombian government takes the Peace agreement as an opportunity to restructure policies regarding political participation, societal equality, agricultural rights, and economic opportunities. For Colombia, signing the agreement is the first big step. The fulfillment of the points agreed on should be followed by the presence and support from the national government.

Being another Colombian living outside the country turns into a challenge in situations like this. Even though I am 3,098 miles away from home, thanks to social media and news I have been able to testify people having all different kind of opinions regarding the subject. It is easy to find tons of people who would vote “no” to the plebiscite based on a wide spectrum of reasons. Though understandable, it is quite outrageous to see that personal interests, resentments, and political alignments are limiting a whole country from getting a new perspective. Future generations have the right to live in a country where they have different opportunities to succeed without the fear of being killed, kidnapped or being internationally discriminated for being Colombian. Colombia is far from being perfect, just as any other country in the world. However, if there’s a historic chance for the country to eliminate one of their major sources of violence and injustice, why do not take it?

I am from Colombia, I have lived four years on my own in Minnesota, and I know my country has much more to offer than an endless bloody war. Olympic winners such as Caterine Ibargüen and Mariana Pajón, champions like Nairo Quintana and James Rodríguez, artists like Shakira and Carlos Vives, and magic realism creators like Gabriel García Márquez make Colombian people proud of their country. Pursuing their dream of being globally recognized for more than being a narco, a drug dealer, or a criminal, Colombians should give a chance to Peace. It is moment to stop waiting for a deus ex machina and start creating a new country. It is time to stop blaming others. If it is not the Spaniards, it is the priests and Catholic church; if it’s not the conservatives, it is the liberals, the communists, the military, the Americans, the elite, the corrupt, the narcos, the guerrillas, the paramilitary, the Uribistas or the Santistas. Colombian society needs more than a paper to change its path, Colombia needs a societal transformation that allows the government to be accountable for its role. It is moment to go beyond what has been done before and allow the establishment of the political democracy and social justice Colombia has always dreamed of.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In three years we have published over 250 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. The North Star Reports is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica. Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, with generous support from The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – “The Native Speaker” – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – “The Native Speaker” – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports

I will be leaving my university before the end of the Fulbright grant period.

Among other personal reasons is the main reason that I am unhappy with my university; I am more than a native English-speaking “object”. I am a teacher, and (quite strangely) nobody seems willing to allow me to teach.

While this isn´t the experience of every English teacher in Bogota, it is the experience that I have had during my time here. There is an overwhelming desire that many people have in Bogota to learn English, practice English, and speak in English. The students who are dedicated to the idea of learning English often take supplemental private classes outside of their required university courses.

There is, however, in my opinion a very positive bias towards people who are native speakers of English.

LauraNative1

I am a licensed Spanish teacher in the United States. It means that I know how to teach Spanish and, when my skills are stripped down to their fundamental level, I understand a little bit about how to teach language in general. I´m not a trained English teacher. The only claim to competence that I have is a mash up of my Spanish teaching skills and the fact that I´ve spoken English for the entirety of my twenty-two year life.

Bogota is full of people who teach English, many of whom have less of a claim to competence than I do. That´s not bad. There´s certainly a necessity for English teachers no matter how skilled in teaching they are. However, the majority of the people I’ve met in Colombia never seem to mind whether somebody is a trained English teacher or simply a native speaker–in fact, it is usually only the “native speaker of English” that seems to be important.

LauraNative2

As I visited more and more classes at my university, there seemed to be a common theme: It didn´t particularly matter if my lessons were good, if the students were engaged, or if the students even paid attention. What mattered was that I was a native speaker and that the students got to hear me speak. The students asked me all generic questions (“Where are you from?”,“Are you married?”, “Do you have a boyfriend?”, “What do you look for in a Colombian man?”), and then whether or not I taught a lesson seemed irrelevant to both the professor and the students. I was the “native-speaker” from the States who talked and looked different. The professors complained if I didn´t visit every single one of the 110 English classes because it was so important for the students to just “meet me”, and the students seemed to feel in many cases that simply having me say things at them with no structure, scaffolding, or goal, would magically increase their English skills.

Those of you that are native speakers of English, do you feel like you could teach a class on English grammar right now? Modal verbs? Auxiliary verbs? Past participles? I´ve been teaching in Bogota for six months and I still stumble over English grammar. Deep down, I don´t feel qualified and I feel like I´m a bad teacher, but nobody cares because I´m a native speaker of English.

I was confused about the whole process until a student came to my tutoring hours. When I told him that I would be returning to the United States soon, he was crestfallen and explained that he wanted the opportunity “to talk with a native speaker”. He went on to explain that he was taking English courses at another school and he thought he was learning a lot “because there are no more than six students in a class”, but he didn´t like the classes because it was taught by a Colombian, somebody who wasn´t a native speaker of English. He explained that the reason that he refused to speak English to me was that his school had never given him the opportunity to speak to a native speaker. Therefore, he wasn’t prepared despite the fact that we had communicated extensively in English through Facebook Messenger.

LauraNative3

(A lot of my university students in Colombia have taken the same English course again and again through Elementary and High School. It’s the same basic topics, similar to how many students in the United States take many years of (usually) Spanish and learn the same things. The only difference is that English classes in Colombia are influenced by the fact that the government has set a deadline for everyone in the country to be bilingual.)

To me, there seems to be a widely held perception that native English speakers can magically impart the English language unto any person that bothers to pay for private classes. In order to learn English, you must sign up for English classes, and the English classes must fulfill two components: 1) they must have as few students as possible, preferably only one, and 2) the teacher must be a native speaker. If these two components are not met, the perception is that a student must travel to the United States or England to learn the language through immersion. When students come to my tutoring hours, which are designed as times where they can bring homework or projects that they tend to never complete, they don´t bring ideas or homework to work on. They simply stare at me and tell me to teach them things like “verbs” or “United States English” and listen as I say things to them. At the end, they tell me that they feel they’ve learned a lot.

It’s a very strange experience.

At first, I felt “objectified” in a certain way by my students and by my university. I was literally being asked to simply go around and greet students and my suggestions for lessons and improvements to my schedule were pooh-poohed and deemed irrelevant. At the same time, it’s easy to understand why a native speaker is conferred so much seemingly supernatural and sometimes undeserved power and desirability. The English language is heavily propagandized in Colombia. Every single one of my students, every professor, every person that I met on the street, waiter I spoke to in a restaurant, and taxi driver that drove me to and from the airport could tell me that English was incredibly important and necessary for their career advancement. The issue is that in many cases it simply isn’t necessary, but in a country that has a massive national program for creating a Spanish/English bilingual population it’s very easy to repeat the idea that you’ve been taught since you were a small child.

LauraNative4

(When I am not there, the students at Aguadulce learn English through repetitive translation work. Unfortunately, they sometimes are taught the wrong words. For example, in this translation the word atractivo means sexy instead of attractive. I was very confused why 5th graders were using the word sexy.)

About our special correspondent and senior editor Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.

I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.

While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.

I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.

Please contact Professor Liang if you wish to write for The North Star Reports — HLIANG (at) css.edu

See also, our Facebook page with curated news articles at http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports

The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy (http://NorthStarReports.org) is a student edited and student authored open access publication centered around the themes of global and historical connections. Our abiding philosophy is that those of us who are fortunate enough to receive an education and to travel our planet are ethically bound to share our knowledge with those who cannot afford to do so. Therefore, creating virtual and actual communities of learning between college and K-12 classes are integral to our mission. In five semesters we have published 200 articles covering all habitable continents and a variety of topics ranging from history and politics, food and popular culture, to global inequities to complex identities. These articles are read by K-12 and college students. Our student editors and writers come from all parts of the campus, from Nursing to Biology, Physical Therapy to Business, and remarkably, many of our student editors and writers have long graduated from college. We also have writers and editors from other colleges and universities. In addition to our main site, we also curate a Facebook page dedicated to annotated news articles selected by our student editors (http://www.facebook.com/NorthStarReports). This is done by an all volunteer staff. We have a frugal cash budget, and we donate much of our time and talent to this project. We are sponsored by St. Scholastica’s Department of History and Politics and by the scholarly Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies (http://theMiddleGroundJournal.org).

For a brief summary, please see the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at: http://www.historians.org/perspectives/issues/2013/1305/Opening-The-Middle-Ground-Journal.cfm

Hong-Ming Liang, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, The North Star Reports; Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal; Associate Professor of History and Politics, The College of St. Scholastica.

Kathryn Marquis Hirsch, Managing Editor, The North Star Reports.

(c) 2012-present The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy http://NorthStarReports.org ISSN: 2377-908X The NSR is sponsored and published by Professor Hong-Ming Liang, NSR Student Editors and Writers, The Department of History and Politics of The College of St. Scholastica, and the scholarly Middle Ground Journal. See Masthead for our not-for-profit educational open- access policy. K-12 teachers, if you are using these reports for your classes, please contact editor-in-chief Professor Liang at HLIANG (at) css.edu

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