Sunday, December 30, 2012

Back to posting with a personal review of 2012!

First of all, an apology.  This blog has fallen somewhat by the wayside over the last 18 months.  For this I blame a combination of more time consuming work and obviously becoming lazier in the free time I do have, but who would have thought that at 1am on New Year’s Eve 2012 the writing inspiration would grace my fingertips and keyboard once again!  That, and the steady stream of tweets and emails I receive on a weekly basis regarding  teaching, travelling, Colombia and anything else to do with my life, have put my mind to work on my life review for 2012.  I do read all the emails that you send me, and do my best to get back to you all, even if there maybe a delay, which I sincerely apologise for.  Anyway, hopefully this review should be a bit more entertaining than a standard ‘Round Robin’ Christmas card letter!

Starting on a professional level, 2012 treated me with a change of jobs.  I’ve now gone from working in one of Cali’s prestigious bilingual schools, teaching 8th and 9th grade English and History, to another top school, but just with 8th grade English to keep me busy now.  Less planning, a bit more grading and more academic freedom is the general mantra of the new job.   I’m finding out 8th graders are the same, regardless of the school – that means they like to touch each other, often inappropriately, hate authority and have little control over their hormones and emotions.  But it’s these observations of their growing up and (slow) maturing that make them ever so slightly endearing, at times.

Free time in Cali is being increasingly taken up by the growing cricket schedule - we have had 2 competitive games this year!  Us Cali folk ventured up to the capital in June for our first away fixture and then Bogotá returned the favour in November.  Unfortunately they trounced us on both occasions but all the meetings are turning out to be very memorable occasions, whether that is due to being invited to the British Ambassador’s residence in Bogotá, having inebriated team members vomit out of buses (no names), or some absolutely marvellous cricket in the meantime, I’ll let you decide.

The expanding cricket team, forming a sort of core for the British community in Cali, is definitely one of the highlights of living abroad now.  The cricket is taken fairly seriously, but the bonds amongst a rag bag bunch of people, developing into a team, and the people that surround it, make these match weekends ever more enjoyable.  Around that we have also had occasions such as the Diamond Jubilee to bring us together for a rendition of 'God Save the Queen', and even Cali’s first ever pub quiz, hosted by myself and good friend, Luke Whelan.   The role of being a Quizmaster can be a bit stressful, but having 50 people wait on your every word and then getting to see their look of general confusion with questions such as, “Which company sponsor Novak Djokovic’s tennis clothing?” is very good fun.

My holidays this year have followed a similar, adventurous theme, as with previous years (with the exception of the recent excessive Christmas drinking!).  I have just come back from the French Alps, after a week’s skiing in luxurious Courchevel, and the summer’s main expedition was a cycle trip from the south of England to the wonderful Spanish city of Barcelona, via the ferry to Northern France at the start of course.  University friend, James Birchall, and American cycle companion, Andy Kenny, provided the company this time as we ventured through western France, before arriving at the Pyrenees.  Regular readers of this blog will be aware that planning of our cycle trips doesn’t really come high on the agenda and just heading for a destination is the accepted norm.  Well, the same was true this year, except that the Tour de France decided to cross our path!  Obviously the Tour goes much faster than we do, but our ascent of the highest pass in the Pyrenees, the Col du Tourmalet at 2115m, was just 2 days before Wiggins, Froome, Contador and co were making their way up it.  Consequently, our 4 hours of climbing was accompanied by all the Tour fans setting up to watch the race later in the week,  all of a sudden giving us thousands of adoring fans shouting “Allez Allez”, to which I responded with my support for Wiggo!  There was also lots of past support for Lance Armstrong still painted on the road, I wonder if that will still be there in 2013.  Bearing in mind that 2013 is the 100th Tour de France, I think I might plan to cross paths with it this time, maybe for the Alp d’Huez Alpine finish?

I always think it’s a good idea to ‘tick’ a metaphorical box every year, whether that be visit a place, see a person, or do a personal milestone, such as a marathon.  Well, the marathon box thrust itself upon my friend and colleague, Jim Watts, and I in September by way of the Medellin marathon.  ‘Thrust’ being the verb of choice mainly as we only entered 10 days before, and completed one training run in the process.  We were raising money for a local charity in Cali and our lack of training, whilst being very brave, was also rather short sighted in some respects.  Just having a good aerobic fitness is not enough for a marathon I found out, rather painfully, at the halfway point of 21km when my right knee seized up.  Still, Jim and I both finished, arm in arm, towards the end, in a time of over 6 hours, and when the finish clock had already been packed away!  It was immensely difficult in the scorching heat and with the pounding pain in my knee, but the solidarity and determination in finishing, together with the immense pride in completing 42km with my mate in Colombia’s first ever international marathon, was well worth the effort, and just about the 2 weeks of pain and hobbling that followed.

I suppose that brings me on to a nice end with the London Olympics.  A blog by an Englishman wouldn’t be complete without a mention of such a momentous occasion for my country.  I was lucky enough to witness Bradley Wiggins storm to Gold in the Cycling Time Trial and also three football matches at Old Trafford, including seeing the impressive but eventually disappointing Brazil team.   The tangible optimism and positivity in London, and around the whole country, was contagious and the venues, both old and new, looked spectacular.   However, the pride of watching both opening and closing ceremonies, with the images of James Bond, the Queen and Mr. Bean beaming around the world, accompanied by the music of the Spice Girls, Take That, The Who and everyone else, couldn’t have made me feel more proud to be British and will definitely stay with me forever .  What an occasion, what a year, and I wonder what 2013 will hold for me back in Colombia?!  That just leaves me to thank all my colleagues, students, friends and family for all being magnificent - Happy New Year!

*More pictures to be added in the coming days!*