We are now just over a month into the school year and are beginning to settle into something of a routine. It goes like this:

  • Rise the kids at ~6:00 am. Or try. Screaming, dawdling, unauthorized play, and downright resistance to getting up are frequent events.
  • Have breakfast. Sofia usually has egg, fruit, and half an arepa (corn flat-bread with cheese baked in). Lukas drinks milk.
  • Apply sun-block, bug repellant (for the day-biting mosquitoes, sandflies, chiggers, etc.), and shoes.
  • By now we’re usually running late, so we frantically scramble to get loaded into the car before 6:50 am with a minimum of yelling and forceful cajoling.
  • Then we pray we slip the traffic on our way to school. Usually, we don’t (everyone else is trying to do the same, sigh).

Headed to school

The school is 3.5 miles away from our house. Half of the trip is along a wide four-lane road through country. The kind of road you might expect to drive at 55 or 40 mph. The other half of the trip is up narrower, paved, roads through what is sort of a suburban area. So, based on this, it should take us less than 15 minutes to travel door to door.

That would be nice.

Between the potholes that frequenly consume whole motorcycles, the concrete road dividers (the turning lane is not a concept that exists here), the absurd speed limits (30 kph — ~18 mph!), speed bumps even on four-lane roads, and the chaotic press of vehicles (many large SUVs) driven by people of questionable (read: no) driving ability, we easily spend
35 or 40 minutes on the road, much of it giving Sofia and Lukas an erudite education in how (not) to drive and a colorful vocabulary (we’ll regret this). They’re so aware of it now, they even call out awful driving behavior (left turn across three lanes from the right-hand margin? Seriously?) and yell at motorcycles that weave precariously through the cars.

Meanwhile, Sofia and her mom do math drills as something of a meditative counterpoint to the chaos swirling around us. Here is a sample:

Four times one?


Multiplication! 100 car x 30 motorcycles = too many.

Four times two?

Four times three?

What is he doing? This isn’t a parking lot. Go!

Mom, that car just ran into a bike!

Four times four?

Part of our morning fight with the traffic derives from our limited experience with it so far. Living in the small city of Davis, CA, the worst traffic jams we experienced were the press of bikes on their way to school. And now that I think about it, Colombians drive like eight-year-olds ride bikes.

Of course, there is traffic everywhere. But it can still have rules. You mind the lines on the road. Take turns. People behave more or less predictably. Not here. They weave in and out of other vehicles and pay absolutely no mind to the lines painted on the road (waste of paint). If there is open paved space, it gets used. And don’t get me started on the motorcycle plague.

We are learning to adapt. We take the extra-long country route just to avoid the traffic jams and to retain our sanity (it’s pretty, too). We pile the car with books and other entertainment. And we appreciate staying in.img_9321

Some questions came in about the weather. This morning it rained gently and it was blissfully cool. Probably around 70ºF. We are going into ‘winter’ here, which really just means it rains more. We’ll get up to 85ºF today.