I Was Not Kidnapped

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Buenas tardes. Yo me llamo Phyl y soy de los Estados Unidos. Mucho gusto y bienvenido a la conferencia de Live and Invest Overseas en Medellin...

Now I'll speak to you in my first language.

I am a survivor. I survived four weeks of homestay, living with the most wonderful paisa family and attending an immersion Spanish school in Envigado, outside Medellin. I can honestly say it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I would encourage every one of you who want to learn Spanish—do it.

I knew absolutely nothing about the school before I got to Medellin. There was a flyer in the desk of the hotel where I was staying. I contacted the owner, Lucas, and he said, "I'm coming to fetch you to show you the school."

Before I came to Medellin, my family warned me. They said, "You can be kidnapped. There are drug cartels. Be careful. Pablo Escobar is there. You could be murdered."

I promised not to take any chances, but I got into Lucas' car. When he started out, I became aware that he drives like an Italian race car driver. I had no idea where I was going, and I began to wonder if my family was right after all. Possibly we were on our way to the Venezuelan border.

Once I saw the school, though, and Lucas explained the method of teaching, I made a spur-of-the-moment decision. That was Friday. By Monday, I was having second thoughts. Stay with strangers I'd never met in an area I'd never visited just outside Medellin, Colombia? I wondered if I had lost my mind. Early dementia.

On the contrary, thanks to my decision I gained a new family who took me in to their home and their hearts, shared their lives with me, made me welcome, and assimilated me into the culture.

The whole experience was so interesting, never boring. I learned Spanish, but I also learned about Colombian customs, the festivals, the gastronomy. We sang and translated songs by Ricky Martin and Shakira; we watched the "X-Factor" in Spanish. Not at all what I had expected.

I had a lesson on how to use the metro from Juan Pablo, the 15-year-old son of my family. I was taken to the aquarium, the Botero Museum, the outdoor sculptures. We visited Jardin. Jardin is four hours from Medellin; it took Lucas two hours to get there. That's his driving.

Jardin is a colorful colonial town with brightly painted houses and hanging flower baskets built around a central square. We did a tour of a coffee farm, visited a handmade chocolate store, and saw chivas (the old hand-painted buses) carrying sacks of coffee and boxes of plantains on their roofs.

We visited a trout farm, saw an authentic old flower finca, attended a tango evening, saw the beginning of the Christmas lights (which are phenomenal)...

This was my experience learning Spanish.

CIE Spanish School gave me an incredible experience and a remarkable introduction to the wonderful people and culture of Medellin. I am so glad I had the opportunity.

Phyl Doppelt

More in this category: « Testimonial from Blaine Harrison

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