Living in Manizales, Colombia


The first thing local people ask you when they find out you've just moved here is, "Are you happy in Manizales?" More than anything, they want you to be happy in their hometown. At first, I felt a bit like Montag when Clarisse asked him the same question at the beginning of Fahrenheit 451, a little taken aback at being asked such a question. I can't think of a time in Washington when anyone asked me if I was happy in Spokane; is happiness too personal of an issue to discuss with strangers in the United States? If so, why? What could be more important to discuss than happiness?  Telling people I'm happy is one of the first things I learned how to say in Spanish. I always answer, "Si, si...estoy muy contenta en Manizales." Manizales is tucked high in the Andes mountains of Colombia. The city is surrounded by coffee plantations and filled with steep hills. We've lived here for almost two months now, and in honor of this culture with a focus on happiness - here are some of the places in Manizales that make me happy. 

There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.
— Buddha

Waking up on Saturday mornings and walking two blocks to La Suiza for breakfast. From left to right, beautiful views of the city, cojin brevas, classic Colombian breakfast fare, and - of course - coffee with rum. The menu is in Spanish and English; studying the menu helped me learn food vocabulary. There is also a colorful mural inside the restaurant that I love...

Let your heart lead the way...

Let your heart lead the way...

I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, and you have only a rudimentary idea of how things work. Your whole life becomes a series of interesting guesses.
— Bill Bryson

Every Saturday morning we study Spanish and go to our lessons with a tutor, Paula, at Juan Valdez. She doesn't even laugh at our gringo accents like my students do! I love learning Spanish; it's such a beautiful language...I studied French for years in high school and college, but learning a language while immersed in it is so much more exhilarating. My goal is to become as fluent as possible while I'm here, and feel like this less often:

Last weekend we took a public bus to Chipre and wandered around. Chipre is where you'll find the Monumento a los Colonizadores and stunning panoramic views of the city. The monument is in honor of the founders of the city and it was built out of the iron from old keys donated by residents. 


We found hella good avocados (we actually at first didn't know what they were since they weren't the typical Hass avocados you see in the states, so it was a delightful surprise), grilled corn, hot empanadas, and fresh squeezed mandarinazo.

Go outside. Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone. Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice. Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. And that’s the point. Just walk, see, sit down if you like. And be. Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have, and realize that it is enough to be happy. There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.
— Charlotte Eriksson

Ashley Peak

Teacher & traveler seeking bright sides and adventures. I recently left my position as a Title 1 middle school teacher in Spokane, WA for a position in Manizales, Colombia teaching English and Geography at a bilingual private school. I'm passionate about education in action, the power of literature, and traveling the world. Optimism Rampage is a place for me to reflect on the adventure. “Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. see the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that . Shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.” -Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451