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Old 04-25-2010, 02:09 PM   #101
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As far as location to learn, I do not think safety is the major consideration for a short stay at a language school. Especially if you plan to blend in. Safety is more of an issue if you are going to live somewhere, or if you are going to be spending most of your time in tourist spots.

There is no way I would learn Spanish in Argentina or Chile, especially as anything less than an advanced speaker. The accents are waaaayyyy too different. And the vocabulary is distinct.

The most popular places to learn are:

Cuernavaca, Mexico
Antigua, Guatemala
Quito, Ecuador

I can't really say any of these places are super safe (Cuernavaca was just in the news regarding narco-terrorism spreading there -- I would have previously classified it as safe).

I have a fondness for Mexican culture, and although it is more expensive to learn there, your flight will be cheaper and shorter. I went to an outstanding language school in Morelia, Mexico 4 years ago called Baden Powell. It is a colonial city of around 1 million people.

Learn Spanish in Mexico | B-P Institute Morelia

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Old 04-25-2010, 02:11 PM   #102
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Another mistake people make is taking too many hours of classes in an immersion program. You should be spending 1 to 2 hours outside of class each day studying for each hour in the classroom. 3 hours per day of class is a lot! Have a good system in place for archiving your learning (very neat vocabulary list of phrases and words, for instance).

Also, there are lots of other things you will be doing. So I stopped the 4 hours of class per day thing after learning this. Also, fewer class hours is cheaper.

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Old 04-25-2010, 07:39 PM   #103
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Nords, believe it or not, Los Angeles has gotten so safe so fast, that almost no one understands why.
Amazing. Maybe the recession really is over...
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Old 04-25-2010, 08:16 PM   #104
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Another mistake people make is taking too many hours of classes in an immersion program. You should be spending 1 to 2 hours outside of class each day studying for each hour in the classroom. 3 hours per day of class is a lot! Have a good system in place for archiving your learning (very neat vocabulary list of phrases and words, for instance).

Also, there are lots of other things you will be doing. So I stopped the 4 hours of class per day thing after learning this. Also, fewer class hours is cheaper.

Kramer
I guess there is always Belize, which is the only english speaking country in Central America.
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Old 04-25-2010, 08:23 PM   #105
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I can't really say any of these places are super safe (Cuernavaca was just in the news regarding narco-terrorism spreading there -- I would have previously classified it as safe).
I spent six weeks at Centro Bilingue in Cuernavaca as part of a university Study Abroad program 10 years ago. It was very rewarding and a good learning environment. We did spend a lot of time drinking at an expat bar every night though. Talking Spanish mostly. Staying with a spanish speaking host family did force the Spanish conversation though.

I recently read that the study abroad program canceled the 2009 trip to Cuernavaca due to safety concerns. Not sure if the 2010 trip is still on. While I was there it seemed very safe. Even Mexico city seemed to be plagued by mostly petty crime (as I experienced a few times too many).
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Old 04-25-2010, 11:09 PM   #106
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I guess there is always Belize, which is the only english speaking country in Central America.
From what I understand (I have never been), Belize is boring and underwhelming. The country only has about 300,000 people and 8000 square miles.

Even though English is the official language, according to the Wikipedia reference that I just glanced at, only 5% speak it as their primary language (although 54% speak English very well). Kriol and Spanish are much more widespread. Kriol is a mixture of English and African languages, and supposedly Kriol speakers can understand English. But the place basically seems to be a linguistic mess

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Old 04-26-2010, 01:29 AM   #107
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Even though English is the official language, according to the Wikipedia reference that I just glanced at, only 5% speak it as their primary language (although 54% speak English very well).
But the place basically seems to be a linguistic mess
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Old 04-26-2010, 02:18 AM   #108
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Kramer,

Gracias.
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Old 04-26-2010, 09:48 AM   #109
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From what I understand (I have never been), Belize is boring and underwhelming. The country only has about 300,000 people and 8000 square miles.

Even though English is the official language, according to the Wikipedia reference that I just glanced at, only 5% speak it as their primary language (although 54% speak English very well). Kriol and Spanish are much more widespread. Kriol is a mixture of English and African languages, and supposedly Kriol speakers can understand English. But the place basically seems to be a linguistic mess

Kramer
I guess you would have to make or import your own fun and be comfortable with a village or rural lifestyle/pace.

We are city folks ourselves and require American big city services to feel comfortable, hence we ended up in South Fort Myers for our second home.

A couple of weeks on an Antiguan beach in the shoulder season a decade ago killed our appetite for quiet and exotic locales.

That being said, looking ahead 20, 50, 100 years, I suspect the language advantage of Belize will be a strong developmental advantage over time, as well as the low indigenous population density.
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Old 04-26-2010, 08:02 PM   #110
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Kramer, is the cost really cheaper in Colombia than, say, in some rural town in the SE of the United States? I'm not asking to be antagonistic. I love Salsa and Colombian bubble butt as much as the next guy, but what is your average spending per month?
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Old 04-26-2010, 10:35 PM   #111
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Kramer, is the cost really cheaper in Colombia than, say, in some rural town in the SE of the United States? I'm not asking to be antagonistic. I love Salsa and Colombian bubble butt as much as the next guy, but what is your average spending per month?
This is an excellent question. First of all, I am not traveling to find low costs paradises. I find I spend more overseas (all things considered including travel costs) than in the USA but live a lot better lifestyle and it is a lot more interesting and exotic. And Colombia is not a cheap country, relative to other developing countries. Also, I have not yet lived a regular lifestyle here cooking my own food, etc. I go out to eat with my girlfriend 7 days a week and eat out my other meals, until I find a proper apartment.

I find Colombia to be expensive in a lot of ways. McDonalds is more expensive here than in the USA (I check their prices in every country I visit). The Peso is STRONG right now supposedly because so much foreign investment money is flowing in so that makes our dollar weaker (I read where the Peso is the number 1 performing currency against the dollar out of 106 currencies over the last X years, not sure what X is).

But if you look at everything, it is somewhat cheaper living here than a cheap USA location. Eating out is a bit cheaper. You can get a big lunch for $3.50-$4, there is no tip and the taxes are included (although you don't have much choice of menu for the menu del dia or menu ejecutivo). After my workout this morning, instead of a lunch, I had scrambled eggs with tomato, onions, and other stuff added. An arepa (super thick flour tortilla) with a big hunk of cheese and butter, and a yummy Milo chocolate milk cold drink for under $3 (no tips at ordinary restaurants, just fancier places). I got to sit outside in beautiful slightly overcast 76 degree weather, and they didn't mind my sweaty t-shirt I think the best (monetary) strategy is to go out for lunch and cook your other meals.

Medical, of course, is much cheaper (and private medical here actually seems to be of high quality although I am still investigating). Housing definitely costs less. A 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath apartment in a great neighborhood in Medellin (which is really quite a nice, first rate city of 3 million) with a balcony, with a full year lease would probably go for around $400/month, although there is a lot for less than that. Your overall utilities cost (water, electric, gas, internet, cable) might be about the same or a little more than the USA, but only because the weather is nicer here (no A/C or heat needed year around) and you use less energy, otherwise they would be more because internet/cable going to cost more in Colombia.

Any manufactured item costs more (even furniture and clothing), and non-local food products cost more (so your grocery bill will be higher). The retail distribution system is still immature and there is not enough competition. It costs more to transport a product from Cartagena to Bogota (400 miles) than it does to get that product from China to Cartagena. And there are high tax rates mainly due to the size of the military and police needed to combat narco-crime. I am hoping these costs will decrease, relatively, in the medium term. Colombia now ranks second (to Puerto Rico) in all of Latin America in ease of doing business, it has been skyrocketing up the list in the last few years.

Getting around is super cheap, no need for a car really except outside of the city although most upper middle class or higher families end up getting a car (there are high taxes on cars, maybe 5% of the value per year?) but no such tax on motorbikes. Taxi fare of $5 would get you half way across the city, most of my taxi rides are $2-$3, there are taxis everywhere and they are safe and the drivers are honest, believe it or not. There is a great metro system, also, for about 80 cents per ride and buses cost about 70 cents per ride (but bus rides can be rough here). All of the neighborhoods are mixed zoning, so little stores and restaurants all over, I just love that, always something you can walk to. The neighborhood where I spend most of my time is the nicest neighborhood that I have ever lived in in my entire life, it is just gorgeous and pedestrian friendly. First run movie tickets are about $4.25.

Here are some photos in this thread of the neighborhood although they are a bit dated at 4 years old:

Laureles - Medellín - SkyscraperCity

Algunas fotos de Laureles (Medellín) - SkyscraperCity


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Old 04-26-2010, 11:03 PM   #112
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Here is a great streaming radio station from Medellin.
la Z 91.9 Medellin Colombia on USTREAM: la z la estacion de la salsa en Medellin. Radio Go over now they are playing Grupo Niche one of my absolute favorites, Colombian salsa is much more romantic and melodic than Cuban.

Re doctors- years ago I worked in a microbiology and parasitology lab at Universidad de Antioquia. I met many GI doctors and parasitologists, almost all of whom had trained in the US for at least some part of their specialty training.

I thought that they were first class. Also, I got very ill very quickly one night- I passed out cold in a Chinese restaurant. Luckily I was with some girls from the lab. I woke up several days later in the hospital, being very well cared for. It was some sort of salmonella that had gotten into my blood. I lost a lot of weight, but recovered completely.

Ha
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Old 04-26-2010, 11:41 PM   #113
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HaHa, yeah my dentist here in Medellin trained in the USA, is a teacher at the local university, and has a local practice. He is a friend of a friend and does work for the rich aunt/uncle in my girlfriend's family, so I knew he was legit. His office is very modern and after he cleaned my teeth I thought it was the best, most thorough cleaning job anyone had ever done on my teeth in my life. He does the cleaning himself, not an assistant. (much better quality than I got in 3 cleanings via 2 different dentists in Thailand). He does not take any Colombian insurance, either. But I was surprised that my bill was so high, $60 (it is not like he can speak English, he has forgotten almost all of it). But he did such a great job, though, that I plan to return.

I don't like to go to cheap dentists, I want to go to a dentist that I can trust to tell me the truth and one that I can trust to do more serious work than cleaning when that is required.

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Old 04-26-2010, 11:59 PM   #114
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Here's a song that I learned in Heliconia, sitting in a cantina, getting smashed on aguardiente and rum, playing guitar and singing those sad mountain songs with the local borrachos. Kramer, it's great having you reporting back, it recalls some very old and very sweet memories.

Ha
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Old 04-27-2010, 03:06 PM   #115
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there was Canadian woman who was the cook for a crook and she ended up in jail. She did not have the money or savvy to figure out the system, and in the end, her lawyer took her last 10k without providing any service.

it took the visit of a the senior cabinet minister to spring her from jail.

it was at that point that I gave up on Central America.
I remember her story and came away with the feeling that there was much more to it than was reported. I heard she was arrested in Belleville a few months back for an alcohol or drug related offence. I certainly wouldn't give up on CA over the sorted lives of white trash (even if they are Canadian).

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Old 04-28-2010, 10:51 AM   #116
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I remember her story and came away with the feeling that there was much more to it than was reported. I heard she was arrested in Belleville a few months back for an alcohol or drug related offence. I certainly wouldn't give up on CA over the sorted lives of white trash (even if they are Canadian).

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This woman was in PV where I live. She was convicted on the strength of the credibility that she could not have held a responsible position with the Ponzi operator and not known about it. She also held $10,000 in company stock. The company founder was in hiding abroad.

Because there was no direct evidence of wrongdoing, she was released to the Canadian jail system and then immediately paroled.
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Old 05-02-2010, 03:01 PM   #117
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Kramer, thanks for the info on the apartments. I had previously searched for apartments and found them to be ridiculously expensive. I thought even without the Gringo tax, the apartments still would have been too expensive to contemplate. The cheapest decent-looking ones were in the $1000+ range.

Ha, thanks for the ustream link. Good station. I now listen to it when I'm not listening to my Pandora salsa station.
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Old 05-03-2010, 01:15 AM   #118
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As a data point, I just rented a 1-bedroom apartment here in Medellin for about $460/month (smaller than a typical 1-bedroom apartment in the USA). It is completely furnished and the price includes all utilities (wireless, internet, electric, cable, etc.). There is no contract or deposit and they seem thrilled that I might stay as long as 5 months (the place is sort of like an unadvertised apartahotel). There is a main room that includes a small kitchen, kitchen table, and the other part of the room has regular padded sitting chairs, a couch, and floor to ceiling window to the outside, and a small TV. The bedroom has a full size bed and a piece of furniture that is the closet. There is also a washer and place for drying clothes (called a patio here). It has very decent natural lighting. The place would be very nice for a couple.

This is a high price (for here), but for short timers like me it does not make sense to buy furniture, mess with utility company, sign a binding contract, etc. With a long term commitment, the price would go down a lot. The location is great, precisely where I wanted to live in a great area. There really is no way you could rent it without speaking some Spanish or having a friend to help you. This was a lot better value than hotels that I looked at. I have not moved in yet as it is occupied for 3 more days. I shook hands on it, whatever that means in Colombia ;-)

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Old 05-03-2010, 01:25 PM   #119
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I have not moved in yet as it is occupied for 3 more days. I shook hands on it, whatever that means in Colombia ;-)

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Nice to have a place to call your own Kramer. Too bad we did not meet in San Diego way back when.
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Old 05-03-2010, 05:35 PM   #120
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Nice to have a place to call your own Kramer. Too bad we did not meet in San Diego way back when.
Never say never, Keith I do hope to explore Mexico next and I know you spend a good amount of time down there. And if you are back in San Diego sometime, please let me know.

The weird thing is that more of my "traveling friends," people with whom I have become good friends on the road, are Canadian than American. I think they are more eager to escape those winters . . .

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