By random chance we ended up staying at the beautiful town of Villa de Leyva for three weeks. A place we had no intention of ever going to visit. However, since the start of our trip we have been looking for a Workaway, I, in particular really wanted to do teaching. My main reason was that I have always toyed with the idea of teaching and would love to do it, yet, I didn’t know if it would be suited for me. I thought the best way to find out was to volunteer, especially with small classes and see how it went.
In summary; it went great.
I loved it and could’ve easily stayed for a much longer time. In all honestly I could have actually spent the rest of my life in this little town. It bustled with energy. Slightly touristy, so amazing restaurants and small souvenir shops. And an incredible feeling of community surrounded you as you walked down the streets and were greeted by locals. My favourite part of the town was the Saturday Market. For our time here we did all our shopping here; vegetable, fruit, beans, lentils, books, anything. It was absolutely packed full of different stalls selling different things.
The teaching was an amazing experience, I thought I would be nervous or scared talking in front a group of people, even if they were children. However, it was great and I was not scared at all. I felt like I really thrived. I enjoyed standing up and talking about something I knew and understood well, I loved organising each class, getting to know my students and seeing how I could plan classes to fit their needs and abilities. I can definitely see me teaching English as a Foreign Language in the future, I truly loved it.
We spent a lot of time eating in this incredibly cheap town. Every restaurant did a ‘menu del dia’ which is a cheap menu for around $4 CAD and we spent a lot of time trying to find the best vegan ones. We found a lot of people who could cater for us; in styles of rice, beans, platanos, salad, and on good days even soup. After most of our meals we would visit ‘Museo de Chocolate‘ where we got a small bar of chocolate to have afterwards and it was HEAVENLY. This is how I want to spend my retired life.
On our weekends we took trips to the town of Raquira. A town nearby that sold amazing souvenirs, and we decided on one weekend to treat ourselves to some new things after we spent a week saving all our money. We also found an incredible restaurant who catered to our vegan needs and made us feel like we were at home. It was lovely. We also hiked to ‘El Santo,’ a surprisingly difficult hike that took you to a great view of the city. We spent the sunny days in the park, playing chess, drinking beers and the rainy days inside, watching Netflix and learning Spanish.
“Tambien, nosotros coninuado aprender Espanol. Esta muy dificl pero nosotros aprendimos mucha palabras y ahora yo tengo mas confianza con hablar. Puedo escribir y leer en Espanol, no me gusta hablo asi yo nunca hablo pero este es muy malo y yo debería hablar mas en Espanol.”
The institute that we stayed at was run by incredibly inspiring women and it was a pleasure to share these last few weeks with them. We also met some great people, students and teachers a like. I could not recommend teaching and learning in this place more. We got to spend a lot of time together; going out for drinks, meals, our hosts Mum made us dinner a couple of times and we got to see a lot of Villa De Leyva threw the eyes of a local. We were also invited to our host’s uncles birthday, an incredibly fun weekend full of food, drinking and dancing!
This experience was one of the best I have had on my trip so far. To be able to take this ‘mini break’ from backpacking and staying in hostels was an amazing privilege. We got to have our own room for a few weeks, a fully functioning kitchen that had a blender and a working fridge?! But the experience itself, of actually meeting local Colombian’s, getting to teach English and be taught Spanish, I will never forgot. I will never forget the generosity of my host and how perfect she made our time here. And, I will never forget the special town of Villa de Leyva, bustling with the most incredible people.
Thank you so much for reading this blog post! As previously mentioned, this was an incredible experience and I could not recommend volunteering whilst backpacking enough. You get a true insight into the life of other people. and you get to help those around you. Something we should all try and do more. If you wish to read my previous posts I have written about my time in Minca and Cartagena, in Colombia.