Just 15 minutes from Belén de Umbría is Taparcal. It’s a tiny little village set beautifully on a small mountain ridge with incredible views in every direction. It’s located within the UNESCO World Heritage listed Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia.
I teach at the high school in Taparcal every Thursday with an English teacher named Alberto. He runs his classes with a very different atmosphere than my school in Belén – much more relaxed and informal. Some days, I play football with the students or they sing songs. Other days, the classes look at my travel pictures and talk about them. Alberto lived in Santa Barbara, California, for a few years in the 1980s and speaks English like a native speaker with almost no accent.
The school has a dramatic setting among coffee plantations and plantain trees. I see the color green in every direction I look.
My favorite thing about the school is the gazebo. We often have class under the gazebo, sitting in a circle and talking. It’s a lot of fun and the students always feel relaxed.
For lunch, I eat at the house of a woman named Luciela. It’s a short walk from the school. She makes incredible food with the freshest ingredients possible. She has her own farm in her backyard. Luciela serves me the freshest plantains and avocados, huge meals with beef or fish, salad, rice and beans, and soup. She makes mazamorra with milk directly from her cow. I always look forward to Thursdays because I know I will have the best meal of my week at Luciela’s house.
In the afternoons after school is finished, I teach an English lesson to the teachers who want to learn English. They are very dedicated and improve quickly. Sometimes, the best English students in the school join the class and help the teachers. It’s a great learning environment for everyone.
Placita El Alto
A short walk from the school is a small plaza with a garden where I like to sit and sometimes wait for the bus back to Belén. It’s a peaceful little place with good views of the landscape and town.
It’s possible to get to Taparcal using a local Cootransbel bus from the bus terminal in Belén. The ride costs COP$1,600 (as of April 2015).