Today was very filled with lots of information. Our embassy is sort of hidden away from the other embassies in Bogota. It's a sprawling campus that appears to be in the heart of a middle class residential apartment area. We had a long wait while our passports were evaluated before entry. No photos, no electronics, no jokes. Four different member of the consular staff presented information on their departments: safety, culture, English instruction, and consular activities. No pics of the inside or outside of the embassy, but there was a lovely flowering bougainvillea across the street.
Next, we visited one of the many SENA post-secondary schools in the nation. The campus that we visited specialized in technical and electrical training. Students may begin to go there part-time as they complete their last year of high school, but people of any age can attend. It's a free 18-month program for anyone who wants to enroll. Their students perform well when compared with those of other countries and about 4/5 get jobs in their chosen fields right after graduating. We got a tour of the facilities and had a chance to interact with a class of students learning English. The photo of the uniforms shows the different attire for the different majors.
We traveled back through the famously gridlocked Bogota traffic for an education panel at the hotel. We had two reps from the Ministry of Education, one high school teacher, and one university professor who trains teacher candidates for English instruction share their thoughts on the peace process and moving forward with educational initiatives on a national scale. After signing the peace deal, the Ministry had it's first opportunity to start talking with rural schools that had been cut off by the guerrilla conflict for the past 50 years. As you might expect there are tons of challenges not the least of which is physically getting to the more remote areas. Because all public school teachers are government employees they have the additional challenge of representing governmental power (intrusion?) to these isolated communities whose resources are extraordinarily limited when compared with those of the urban areas. Fascinating stuff.
TGC surprised us with a reception with Colombian foods after the panel. Lovely fresh squeezed juices, empanadas, pizza-like squares, and a heavenly cream desert with fruit syrup. While the music played in the background our Colombian hosts encouraged us to dance with the music as we nibbled on goodies. Let's just say that Colombians are more adept at balancing plates and drinks while swaying than Americans.