Arequipe can be translated as dulce de leche or caramel.

I came to know this word when I was traveling through a nearby city. I was hungry and cranky, and all I wanted was a chicken parm sandwich. Of course, there was nothing of the sort nearby. In fact, there were only vendors selling sweet things around me. Due to the lack of options, I begrudgingly walked up to a little old lady selling arequipe. She pulled our a large, paper-thin sheet of wafer cookie and smeared on a healthy portion of arequipe and whipped cream. As soon as I took the first bite of this, I was in heaven. While it didn’t fully satisfy my hunger, it did make be a bit less cranky.

See a picture of the snack here:


A la orden…

A la orden

You’ll hear this from nearly all the vendors as you walk down the street here. I think the translation would be something like “at your service.” The vendors or salespeople will say this to invite you into their store or to buy their products – from juice, to candy, to handicrafts. Salespeople and vendors will also say “a la orden” as a form of “you’re welcome.”

Independencia de Colombia


Today is July 20. Happy Colombian Independence Day! I was so thrilled to see Google dedicated its doodle to this holiday! Unlike in the U.S., Independence Day here is not as big of a celebration – although we do get the day off from work. People don’t customarily dress in the flag’s colors or blast their national anthem all day. Instead, I’ve been told that families will hang the Colombian flag from their window, but that that’s about it.

It seems to be more of a military appreciation day more than anything. There’s a military parade that I want to catch a glimpse of later.

Ironically, I will be going to a BBQ tonight with some of the other teachers from the Colombo. More than celebrating Colombia’s independence from Spain, we’ll be celebrating the day off from work. 🙂

La Crónica

Courtesy of La Cronica

Did I mention that I was featured in the local newspaper, La Crónica? Yes. It was a nice piece AIESEC set up to feature me and my fellow foreign teachers. Of course after years working in PR and setting up interviews for other people, it was interesting being on the other side of things! I think it went OK. Here’s the section about me:

Becky Steinberg, Estados Unidos

Estudiante de relaciones públicas de la universidad de Boston. Fue contactada por la organización Aiesec en enero de este año. Gracias a dicha entidad la joven líder emprendió la búsqueda del país ideal acorde a sus expectativas y capacidades.

Su preferencia por Colombia se debe principalmente a la fluidez de los nativos en el manejo del idioma español en relación a países como Argentina. 

Steinberg cuenta además con amigos que le han hablado de las bondades de tener experiencias solidarias de crecimiento profesional y humano en este país.

“Mis expectativas son aprender mucho español, pues me encanta el acento. He estudiado este idioma a lo largo de mi vida tanto en el colegio como en la universidad. Quiero establecer fuertes conexiones con la gente y aprender de mí misma a través de esta experiencia, aprovechando mi formación en relaciones públicas. Es mi tiempo para explorar algo nuevo, algo que amo que es enseñar”.


This is a behind the scenes picture I took of Aastha being interviewed.

If you want to see the whole article, click here: Thanks to the  La Crónica for a lovely article!

Yipao in Calarcá

On Sunday, July 1, my friend Diego Andres invited me and some others to go to his hometown, Calarcá, and see the town’s anniversary festivities with him and his family. Calarcá is a town just outside of Armenia. It was my first time outside the city since my arrival, and it was awesome!

  • Hanging out with Diego’s family during the celebration was probably the best part. Not only are they all lovely and welcoming people, but also just seeing them together as a family was very comforting  – even amid the hullabaloo of the celebrations.  Big thanks to Diego and his family for their hospitality! See the photo of Diego’s family below. Not pictured are Diego’s aunt, uncle, grandma and other relatives. I’m kicking myself now for not taking a picture with the whole group…

  • Driving from Armenia (where I live) to Calarcá was an experience in itself. The roads connecting Armenia and Calarcá wind through the hills. As you drive, you pass rivers, coffee crops, cows. It’s beautiful. I don’t have pictures, unfortunately, because the road was so windey that by the time I was able to peer around the bend in the road and see the view, we were already around another bend!
  • I finally had an excuse to wear my poncho! My friends showed me how to wear it in the cool way, aka, not like Juan Valdez. Instead they fold it and wear it like a scarf. See below.

  • The jeep parade was so interesting. While Jeeps are an iconic American car, they have also become a symbol of Colombian culture and history. The U.S. apparently sold a bunch of military-grade Jeeps to Colombia after WWII, and the farmers began using them to haul massive amounts of cargo – coffee bean, bananas, etc. Now, the good people of Calarcá load up Jeeps and parade them through town once a year. The parade of Jeeps is called a Yipao. They also sup up the Jeeps to be able to do wheelies. It’s crazy!

Hoja de vida…

Hoja de vida

Welcome to word of the week! Hannah suggested that I institute a word of the week to chronicle all the new Spanish words I’m learning. I thought that was great idea (thanks, Han)! Now you can learn along with me!

This week’s word is “hoja de vida.” Literally translated it means “page of life,” but it means resume or CV here in Colombia.

A Lovey Sunday

Today I frolicked around town with Jonathan. Here is our day in photos…

This is me and Jonathan having lunch at Labriegos Jardín, a restaurant that overlooks the Parque de la Vida in Armenia. This was the first yuppie place that I’ve been to in Armenia. Friends, when you come to visit, we should go to this restaurant for brunch!

Me and Jonathan having lunch at Labriegos Jardín, a restaurant that overlooks the Parque de Cafe in Armenia. This is the first time that I've felt like a yuppi in Armenia. Friends, when you come to visit, we should go to this restaurant for brunch!

I ordered fish for lunch. This type of fish is called “mojarra” and it’s very typical here. It came with french fires, rice and plantains. Jonathan had pork (fried) with beans and rice.

I had a fish that they call "mojarra." It came with french fires, rice and plantains. Jonathan had pork (fried) with beans and rice.

Oh, you can also see my side salad in the picture below. It was shredded cabbage with corn and little piece of carrots, and was garnished with a strawberry. I wasn’t able to enjoy it however because the dressing was cilantro-based (blurg). Jonathan liked it though!

Me and my mojarra

After lunch, we walked through Parque de  la Vida.

After lunch, we went for a walk in the Parque de Cafe.

The photo below is one of the views from the park. I can’t get enough of the mountains here!

This is a view from one of the paths in the park.

Finally, we strolled home. The street pictured below is lined with these beautiful, big palm trees. Grandma, this street makes me feel like I’m in Boca Raton! 🙂

Finally, we strolled home. One of the streets near our house is lined with beautiful, big palm trees. Grandma, this street makes me feel like I'm in Boca Raton! :)

First Day of School!

On Tuesday (July 2) I taught my first class at the Colombo. I have 8 students, almost all of whom are in their early 20’s and attending college at a local university. The class is 2 hours long, but it goes by really quickly.  We have class Monday-Friday, 6:30-8:30pm. I’ll get more classes too, but I still don’t know what they are. Stay tuned.

Things that have surprised me about my teaching job:

  • I liked being addressed as “teacher.” Yesterday, a student asked me if he could call me Becky. I surprised myself when I swiftly responded, “no.” Side note: It’s common here for students to address the teacher as “teacher,” unlike in the U.S. where we call our teacher, Ms. Mr. Mrs. Smith.
  • Even though teaching a 2-hour class is like being on stage for 2 hours, it’s surprisingly not draining
  • I actually don’t like making classroom art/decoration stuff – it takes so much time!
  • I don’t have to teach grammar . All of our students have already learned grammar in school, so as a teacher at the Colombo, it’s my job to create exercises that allow students to practice using  what they already know.

Things I struggle with:

  • Spelling – I’ve never been good at it. Students often correct me when I’m writing on the board. In my defense, the words I misspelled yesterday were toughies – entrepreneur and unnoticed (it’s weird that “unnoticed” has 2 n’s!)
  • It has been a childhood dream of mine to use the teachers’ laminating machine, so you can imagine my disappointment when I found out we don’t have one at the Colombo. If we want to preserve a piece of paper or a cut-out, we have to use contact paper?! #oldschool
  • I can’t cut a piece of paper in a straight line, so making classroom artsy-stuff is actually more frustrating than it is fun


Here is a glimpse of my classroom from my first day



Me and the two other foreign teachers (they’re from India) – note our uniforms!

Cultural Differences


I’ve been in Colombia for almost 2 weeks. So far, it has been a pretty smooth transition to life here. Since I came to Colombia through an organization called AIESEC, I already have a network of people to show me around and make me feel welcome. As soon as I stepped off the plane, they have been showing a great effort to ensure that I’m having a great time.


AIESECers greeting me at the airport


My welcome party

In addition to having supportive people around me, my cultural transition has been eased by the simple fact that life here isn’t too different from what I was used to in the U.S. Still, I’m enjoying taking inventory of the little similarities and differences that I notice. Here are some:


  • American TV. Some of my favorite shows like Glee, Glee Project, Friends, etc. are common here too. I have a friend here who taught himself English largely by watching Friends!
  • Junk food. At first I thought junk food wasn’t that common here because my host family eats really well, but then my host brother and I started to going to hamburger/hot dog joints.
  • Walking. Similar to life in NYC, walking is my main form of transport here.
  • Fashion – I see most of the same beauty and fashion trends here…. except that guys are WAY more into the faux hawks here. Also, sock buns have not caught on here yet. I wore my hair in a high bun to work on Friday and my boss thought I was paying homage to my Japanese heritage. Hah! Little did she know that I was actually just copying the hairdo of every woman between the ages of 20-35 in every major metropolitan area in America.


  • There is no McDonalds here! The closest one is in Pereira, which is about an hour away. While there aren’t any golden arches in sight, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts in the local mall…
  • It’s common to see small children or babies riding with their parents on motorcycles
  • Some cars don’t have seat belts in the backseat
  • Hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches come with a (gross) pineapple sauce
  • A breakfast vendor wakes me up every morning. He comes around my neighborhood at the crack of dawn screaming “empanada de queso – café”. Even though my room doesn’t face the street, I can still hear him. I hate this man.
  • Fresh fruit juice – Fresh juice is a very big part of the daily diet here. In fact, in my kitchen there aren’t many appliances at all, but we DO have an electric juicer.
  • Different fruits – There’s all these new, interesting fruits here! I love the guanabana (below).
  • No AC. Instead of relying on AC, people cool their homes and offices just by opening the windows or their doors to their outdoor patios. The weather is so mild here that I haven’t missed having AC at all.
  • Siesta – I have 3 hours in the middle of each day to eat lunch and take a nap!
  • The mountains around Armenia (below) are so pretty
  • The “usted” form.  Colombians use the formal “usted” tense way more than I found in Spain. Not only do they use it in professional settings, but men also use it when addressing other men – whether at work or at home. For example, my host brother Jonathan uses the “usted” form when speaking with his father and male friends. Since I’m a girl, I don’t have to use the “usted” form when speaking with Jonathan’s father, but I do anyway.
  • The money – It’s definitely going to take me a little while longer to get used to the Colombian Peso
    2,000 Pesos: $1
    5,000 Pesos: $2.5
    10,000 Pesos: $5
    20,000 Pesos: $10
    50,000 Pesos: $27


Holding a guanabana – it’s heavy! 


The mountains outside of Armenia