Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bienvenidos a Bogota!!

Hey everyone! I'm writing from the apartment in the basement of the Episcopal church in Bogota right now! After about a month at my homestay, I'll be living here!
I had a great, safe trip here and love my host parents, Oscar and Miriam! They are awesome! We only speak spanish and watch spanish soap operas together at night. I've been learning a lot with them and really appreciate their hospitality.
I left Baltimore (picture is at BWI with all of my luggage and my Dad) last Monday and flew to Newark. I had about a 2 hour layover before my direct flight to Bogota took off. That's when it all kind of hit me. I was calling and texting everyone for the last time on my US cell phone and saying goodbye to the states for a year. Almost everyone on the flight spoke spanish fluently and was from Colombia. I was a little nervous, but even more excited to start this new adventure...and it really started when I landed.
Getting off the plane around 9pm on Monday night was a little crazy. There were people in uniforms everywhere and they were checking passports and bags very carefully. When I left the baggage claim area, it was like walking the red carpet. There were tons of Colombiansyelling for their family members and crowding the exit area. It was alittle overwhelming and then I heard "KATE!!"...Audra, her boyfriend Oscar (lots of Oscars here), and Laura-Catherine were there to get me!
I am so excited to be here and the weather has been pretty nice this week. Like I expected, it's about 60 degrees everyday with occasional rain. It is about a 10-15 minute walk from my homestay to the office and my host mom showed me the way the first two mornings. I walked alone today and didn't have any problems getting to the office. The first day, I met the bishop and he is really nice! He knows that I am interested in medicine and said he will work with me to find a good placement. I am working on getting my Colombian ID and then I will start working in the missions next week. Audra and Laura Catherine have been so helpful and I am starting to understand the bus system and how to get around. Also, Audra took me rock climbing was awesome and I think I'm going start going as much as I can!
The food here has been really good so far. The first morning we had hot chocolate, lulo (a colombian fruit) juice, bread, and cheese. It was a nice breakfast and Oscar said a great grace before we ate. Later that day, I went out to lunch with Audra and Pilar, the bishop's secretary. I had ajiaco, a Colombian potato soup and it was really good!! I've had lots of different fruits (passion fruit, lulo, guanabana) and even ate tofu yesterday for lunch. Also, I had my first cup of coffee EVER at Juan Valdez Cafe in downtown Bogota. It was actually really good.
Lastly, I have good news: my boyfriend Sam is coming to visit me on October 9 for his fall break!!! I can't wait! I can't wait for people to visit me so I can share this experience with them. I have been skyping with friends and family at the office and can sometimes pick up a little bit of a signal at my homestay. So if you have skype, find me! See pictures below! Love, Kate

ps. If you want to send letters or packages (UPS--(or fedex/dhl i guess)-my dad's a UPS pilot haha) please send them to:
Kate Schaeffler

Iglesia Episcopal
Carrera 6 #49-85
Bogota, Colombia THANKS!!

my bed at the homestay w the Boston lobster
Sam gave me and their blue octopus haha

the view from my room in the homestay

Friday, August 21, 2009


This past Monday, I was on my way home from picking up my Colombian visa (yes!!) and saw some of the neighborhood kids running a lemonade stand. I stopped by to get some of their delicious, homemade lemonade and they were accepting 'donations only' in return. Then they told me that they had raised over 100 dollars...and all of it was going to my mission fund!

The girl on the far left, Geneva, attends my church with her sister Sarah (the other girl in the pink), and they woke up that morning with the idea. It was even Geneva's birthday! So many people have gone above and beyond in helping me prepare for my trip, and this is just one of the many touching moments I have experienced.

I take off on Monday (3 days!) and can't wait to get started. I have been talking with Audra and Laura-Catherine, the two YASCers that are there now, and they have been very helpful. It will be so nice to have them there when I first arrive to show me the ropes. On Monday, I will go straight from the Bogota airport to my homestay and will live there for the first month or so of my year in Colombia, while visiting the different missions and helping in the office. Living with a Colombian family should really help my spanish come back quickly!

I have spent the past few days saying goodbye to family and friends. Below is a picture of 8 of my 14 cousins and my boyfriend Sam (in the light blue) around me at my goodbye party. This is right after the family all sang 'hasta la vista to you'. haha It was a great send-off and I'm going to miss all of them a ton. I'll be looking forward to getting visitors throughout my year in Colombia!

3 more days until the big journey begins. I'm so excited! Thanks again to everyone who has made it possible. Love, Kate

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Flight is booked!

On August 24, 2009 around 1pm I will leave Maryland for Colombia (with a quick layover in Newark). My new life in Bogota will become a reality in less than 3 weeks and I'm so excited! This has been a great summer and I have been able to spend lots of time with my wonderful family and friends. I have a few more things to take care of, but am just about ready to go.

Thanks to the generous support of so many people, I am very close to reaching my fundraising goal. There will be a send-off concert on August 22 at All Saints Episcopal Church in Sunderland, MD (corner of rt2 and rt 4) from 4-7pm. All proceeds will be used to support my trip. Everyone is welcome and I'd love to see you there!

In general, I have received lots of positive, encouraging responses about my placement, but some have expressed their concerns about going to such a 'dangerous' country. Colombia definitely has a reputation and is struggling to overcome it's past. As I have researched more and more about the country, and have met with people from Bogota, I am so excited about my placement. To be honest, at first I shared some of those same reservations and was nervous about spending a year in a war torn country. After learning so much about Colombia, I am more determined than ever to do what I can to help in this country's efforts to turn itself around and move on from it's violent past. Colombia is still plagued by paramilitary and rebel groups displacing families and drug trafficking, but it has so much to offer and the few people I have met from there have been so amazing. I can't wait to get started!
Love, kate