I arrived in Bogotá two months and a few days ago. Here’s my life now, as it has been for the last month:
Basically all I do is teach, prepare classes, and spend time with Isabel. Well, no, of course; there’s more than that. But those activities fill much of my time, and are my main priorities these days.
Since I met Isa in late September, we’ve spent as much time together as our schedules have allowed, seeing each other usually three or four days each week (as well as enjoying two long weekends away from Bogotá). And with my teaching schedule becoming more stable at the same time, I’ve developed routines that have lasted for the last few weeks, allowing me to settle into a rhythm I didn’t have in my first month here (nor which I expected to have nearly this quickly).
Work and a relationship can’t—well, better not—fill a whole life. So luckily I do other things. I think the following list covers almost every minute of my days. From the things I spend (roughly) the most to the least time on, I: teach, commute, prepare for classes, spend time with Isabel, take care of daily chores and other obligations, eat, study Spanish, and socialize some with other people. I guess that means I don’t have much more these days outside my work and current romance, but at least I’ve got some things.
And the saving grace about that schedule is that my work is so much more than a job. I realize I still haven’t written almost anything about my teaching here. That’s a big problem, since it’s such an important part of my life now. It’s a source of tremendous fulfillment and happiness. I love teaching, I love teaching English, and I love my classes. Before too long I’ll share more about why and how this career has become so valuable to me, as well as the details of my young professional life. For now, some details about my schedule.
I wake up at 5:30 every weekday morning to teach at 7 far from my apartment. Class and commutes usually take me through the rest of the morning, then I have free afternoons to use as I want or need to.
I usually fill the time from lunch to dinner by preparing for the next day’s classes, answering emails, and taking care of general responsibilities. I recently spent a chunk of an afternoon getting my visa renewed. I’m always trying to news to find new students, so I contact people, try to advertise myself, and occasionally meet with people interested in taking English lessons. I buy things I need, most recently a radio, a new belt, and some basic furniture. I spend as much time as I can communicating with friends from home, by email constantly, of course, and on Skype as often as we can find times that work for phone calls. I get together with friends here when I have time, and of course I also hang out around the apartment with my roommates, though much less now than I used to, since it seems everyone is very busy, and two of the guys I lived with for a couple months recently moved out.
In the evenings, I usually teach or see Isabel. On the two nights a week I have class, I make myself dinner and then head out. I commute and teach from about 6 to 10, arriving home already too late to get a full night’s sleep. On the other nights, I often meet Isa when she gets off work. We have dinner, or meet up with friends, or go somewhere, though unfortunately there’s not too much you want to or should do out and about in Bogotá after dark on weeknights.
Regardless of what I do, I end up going to sleep later than I should, and I’m always tired. Isa teases me about this, and she has reason to. Friday night two weeks ago we met a couple of her friends at a club. By the end of each week I’m totally exhausted, so I wasn’t in great shape when we were out at midnight, then 12:30, then 1. Maybe mostly jokingly, the others suggested I move over to a nearby couch and close my eyes to take a rest if I wanted—in a loud, active club, remember. I declined their offer at first, they pushed it, and I hesitantly but very happily accepted. I was so tired. Within literally 30 seconds (literally literally, not Joe Biden literally) I was asleep, dead to the world. The next thing I knew, Isa was tapping me to wake me up, saying we were leaving. I looked at the time. It was 2:30. The music was still blaring. Around us people were dancing. I had slept for an hour and a half in the middle of a hopping club on a Friday night. I’m a really cool guy, you can see. (This Saturday I repeated a similarly cool feat: After a delicious and huge home-made Mexican dinner at Isa’s dad’s country house, where a group of us spent the weekend, I filled my stomach so disastrously that within minutes of finishing the meal, I had to move to a hammock, where I quickly fell into a food coma. Isa joined me in resting for a little while, then left, then came back to suggest I move to a bed. I went to a bedroom, fell into a bed, and within seconds, again, was deeply asleep, completely beyond communication until the morning.)
When I’m not falling asleep, which is fortunately or unfortunately most of the time, I’m constantly moving, or at least I feel like I am. In that way, my life now feels very much like my life in college. Over the course of a day, I’ll have a dozen or more different tasks I should complete, only a couple of which are my main occupation (class, both then and now). My to-do list has daily deadlines, things I always feel I should do and am always behind on (like write here), and things I like to do when I can make time—exactly the same as my to-do list in college. Spanish study unfortunately falls into the last category. I bought some grammar books and a Spanish-English dictionary, and I’ve been reasonably responsible about studying on my own. But I always wish I could (make myself) study more. I’m learning, but slowly. Teaching English is the worst way to learn another language. So I need to force myself to talk, think, and read in Spanish more often. As I said, I’m doing it some, but I wish I could do it more.
In almost every other way, my daily life now is radically different from the daily life I had just a few months ago. Part of the change was expectable: I live in a new city, country, culture, etc. And I’m no longer a student; instead I’m now a working “adult.” But many parts of this new life have been surprises—almost all delightful. (Digression: I think delightful is one of the most underused words in American English of 2010. When I’m delighted, I’m going to say it, dammit.)
Three months ago, I couldn’t predict what I’d be doing now. So everything that has come has been at least a small surprise. I’ve been very grateful for the unexpected happinesses of my life here, since so many of them involve me getting supremely lucky (like by finding my apartment, making the friends I’ve made, making the professional connections I’ve made, meeting Isa, and somehow getting her to like me as much as I like her). But I’ve also been proud. I realized recently that I put myself here, and not just physically in Bogotá. I prepared myself for what I’m doing now, despite not knowing I’d be doing it. I’ve prepared myself for the job I have, for the way I’m living each day, and for maintaining my many important relationships, which more than anything else make my life as happy as it is. I haven’t been blindsided by good or bad developments, nor have I shied away from much out of fears that I’d be unprepared. I’ve taken chances and been rewarded with a lot of luck. Enjoying a combination of great fortune and self-driven success is the happiest place to be.
Things could start getting worse tomorrow. They always can. I expect they will, in big or small ways I can’t anticipate, before too long. So I’ll enjoy my happiness while it lasts. And when it begins to fade or slip away, well, I know I’ve gotten myself here; hopefully I can find my way back.