Global Studies: Colombia

Trip Update: May 14, 2024

Greetings and saludos, from Guatape!

You last heard from us while at La Peña, an adventure and climbing hostel in the mountains. Here is what has happened in the past week!

After our first gratifying day of service digging holes for endangered trees, we spent another glorious morning in the clouds planting them. Our enthusiastic group went above and beyond, clearing and digging more of the unruly mountain ferns to plant even more trees than we had planned. After a delicious lunch, we put our brains to work in the afternoon to solve a complex problem: waste management at La Peña. Sebastian and Claudio gave us a tour of their current system and its challenges – including the fact that all of the non-compostable or recyclable waste has to be transported down the steep hill to town via donkey. We split into three teams to tackle this issue from all sides and ended up with some impressive innovations, running the gamut from the more ambitious trash slide to more practical solutions to make the waste containers more intuitive. In our free time between activities, the kids enjoyed bouldering, getting to know the many friendly volunteers at the hostel, and lounging outside with a beautiful view of the Andes. One of the highlights from our stay at La Peña was the many adorable dogs that call the hostel their home. We showered them with affection, laughed at their antics, and even considered smuggling our favorites onto the plane back to Colorado!

The following day at La Peña began with the traditional breakfast we had come to expect – fresh fruit (including papaya, which we don’t often get in Colorado!) and granola accompanied by eggs and an arepa. We split into two groups for the two portions of the day – adventure and service. For the adventure portion, we took a short hike to the start of a via ferrata. This climbing/hiking hybrid was a first for some, but all conquered it skillfully and were rewarded with a beautiful view at the top. As if that weren’t enough, we then walked to a zip line high above the lush, green valley which carried us to la Casa en el Aire. This quaint hostel in the clouds served delicious brownies and ice cream as well as artisan coffee, and we all enjoyed treats and shopping before the short hike back to our own abodes. We balanced out this adrenaline-filled half of the day out with a thoughtful, productive service project. Building on the ideas we had brainstormed the previous day, we got to work on making them come to life. Projects included creating signs with innovative slogans to spread our eco-friendly message, redesigning waste containers, and creating informational resources about composting and recycling. It was so rewarding to be able to see all our ideas come to fruition, and our friends at the hostel were so proud and supportive of our efforts. We spent the evening playing cards, lounging on the deck, and preparing for our much-awaited climbing day.

Our last full day at La Peña arrived with much emotion and all crossed their fingers for a dry day up on the mountain. Luckily, the rain squall overnight did not interfere with our plans to bring the whole group up to the highest point we had been yet and do some climbing. After a steep hike up to the rock, our local guide David showed us the ropes (literally!), demonstrating how to safely climb on a top rope. There were climbing options for everyone, from the more timid to the daredevils, so everyone was able to get out of their comfort zone and feel the satisfaction of reaching the top of a climb. We all had a blast hanging out at the climbing rock pushing ourselves and cheering each other on. Some of the group went back early for more chill time at the hostel, while others pushed their limits even further to attempt some advanced climbs at a neighboring climbing spot. As we reflected at campfire that evening, climbers are truly “in love with living.” (Thanks Walter Bonatti for the original quote!)

The next morning, we awoke grateful for the beautiful, serene surroundings at La Peña and the engaging people (and dogs) we met there. Yet we were buoyed by our enthusiasm to reach our next and final destination on the trip – Guatape. It took a long day of travel to finally arrive due to landslides and reroutes, but when we did we were not disappointed.Our first day in Guatape was spent like a true tourist – kayaking on the giant reservoir reminiscent of Lake Powell, but in the tropical high Andes, and then climbing the big Peñol, the giant rock that overlooks the reservoir. Some students cherished the day to take a break from thinking and reflection and just move our muscles, and all enjoyed the independent exploration in the cute downtown of Guatape.

We then headed to Rayna and Fabian’s house to take a workshop on bioconstruction. Alejandro, a master builder in the craft of bioconstruction and sustainability, taught us about the history of building with natural materials. Archeologists have found human settlements built of earth and cob as old as 11,000 years in Jericho! We then learned about the bioconstruction methods specific to Colombia, including Tapia and Bareque. After learning about the process of making the mud mixture, as well as the natural cement made of volcanic ash and saltwater, we got to work. Zoe and Profe even jumped right and started mashing up the mud and sand with their feet – a traditional method thought to be dated as far back as the buildings themselves! Throughout the day we mounted several walls of a shed, stopping only to treat ourselves to a traditional lunch of Ajiaco that Rayna’s neighbor, Rosa, cooked for us. We went to bed with tired muscles but feeling grateful to have learned and practiced such an ancient and sustainable human building technique.

Finally, today we headed down to San Rafael for some bird watching and waterfall swimming. The weather didn’t cooperate much in the morning, so we hiked in the rain to the waterfall and all the kids jumped from the cliffs into a crystal clear pool below. We also met some locals enjoying the weekend who taught us how to dance Cumbia and Merengue in a spontaneous dance party. What a blast to see the students stepping to the music, laughing and enjoying the morning despite a crazy rainstorm!

In these past three weeks we have grown quite fond of Colombia, but we are looking forward to coming home and sharing all of our stories with friends and family. The next few days we plan to bike around and work with a local school. Perhaps we will even dance some more and have a fun fiesta to celebrate the culmination of our time here! We miss you all and are looking forward to reuniting soon!

Student Shoutouts!

Hey, it’s your girl Deliaaa! Holy homesick. I didn’t know I was able to miss something this much. I have a bunch of fun stories to bring back and a new shirt for me and Ellie. I may or may not have gotten a ton of bug bites. I also saw the BIGGEST SPIDER EVER and still went to bed, like what an accomplishment! 143 (also happy mother’s day mom!) – Deels

Happy Mothers Day Mom I love you and I will call you when I get back. Dad I love you and am excited for your birthday. 

– Kristian

Hey Mama, Papa and Ella! I hope you guys are doing great. I know I said I wouldn’t miss you guys, but I really do. If you haven’t seen photos in a bit I got a buzz cut and will explain later… But I just wanted to let you know I am doing great I am having the time of my life. And Happy Mother’s Day Mama, I love you so much xoxoxo. I love you Norman and I got all of you some stuff that I think you will love. 


Hi everybody! The trip has been going well and is almost over. We are in Guatape right now and it is so beautiful. It is so beautiful. I miss you all so much, I can’t wait to come home and see you. I love you all so much, and will talk to you in 5 days. And Happy Mother’s Day Mom! I love you so much. 


We explored comunidad 13 and learned about how art can let a place change its culture. We learned about all the graffiti and street art. La Pena is one of the best places I have ever been. Happy Mother’s Day! I love you so much. Can’t wait to see you.

Oscar D

Dear Mom, Dad, and other family, 

I’m very excited to come home! I’ve had an amazing time with many ups and downs, with all the traveling these last few wells I’m excited to be home! I miss everyone so much. I don’t miss my phone much, just my texts and music. Anyway, I can’t wait to tell you all about our adventures. Happy Mother’s day Mom, I can’t believe I’m not celebrating with you! I love you to the moon and back and can’t wait to give you a huge hug. Love you all and see you soon


Hi Mom and Dad,

We are in Guatape right now, I really really miss you! I love you all and miss you so much, I can’t wait to see you Thursday night! Happy Mother’s Day Mom! Have the best day. Love you,


I miss you guys, I hope that you miss me! Even though this is hard, I am having an amazing time and can’t wait to tell you about it. Happy Mother’s Day Mom, I love you, when I see you next I will show you how important and amazing you are! I love you so much.

Oscar L

Hey all, I have been missing you so much. We have been all over Colombia and we only have 5 days left. My favorite place I have been is La Pena. I’ll tell you about it when I get home. I’m missing you and I love you all so much. Happy Mother’s Day Mom! Tell Belgan I miss her so much. Love,


With 5 days left, I am a little homesick. I miss talking to you guys and watching the playoffs! I got some sweet souvenirs for you all. There is a lot of service work, cool but exhausting. The coffee farm was so cool. I love you guys so much, can’t wait to see you. Happy Mother’s Day, got you a special present! 


Hey Parents, I’m doing well. I’m excited to come home, the trip is cool. 


Hi everyone, Happy Mother’s Day! I am excited to come home but also I will be sad to leave. I love you all so much. Love, 


Hey whats up Mom and Dad. The coffee farm was the best. Happy Mother’s Day Mom, I love you so much. 


Dear Mom and Dad, A lot has happened since the last note! We have done so much and also spent many hours on the bus. I have enjoyed the time away but I really miss you guys and am excited to see you. Today we did a bio-construction which is actually really cool and I got to plant trees! I can’t wait to see you soon. Happy Mothers Day, tell Mazee I love her. Love, 


I hope you had a great birthday Dad! I hope all of you guys are doing good. I’ll call you when I get back. I love you guys. Happy Mothers Day, I love you so much mom. 


Trip Update: May 6, 2024

Greetings, saludos, from La Peña, a mountainous eden in the central chain of Colombia’s central Andes. We left off at the end of our trek, sun-kissed but exhausted from exploring to the depths of the Sierra Santa Marta.

Following our trek, we had a much awaited beach day in Santa Marta! We spent a good part of the day at a beautiful beach in the Tayrona National Natural Park. Our local guide for the day, Marco, let us swim out and jump off his sailboat that was moored just off the beach, and we had a delicious fresh ceviche for us for lunch. Later that evening, Marco helped lead a fruitful discussion about the indigenous people of that area to help us debrief everything we learned and experienced on the trek. It was extra special given that Marco is part indigenous himself.

The following day was another good rest day, as we flew from Santa Marta to Medellín to start our big city adventure! We departed from the unique airport midday (the runway is a stone’s throw from the beach itself) and arrived at Medellín with just enough time to drop our bags and head to a traditional Paisa meal. Our local Antioquia guide, David, encouraged us to try the mondongo – a delicious soup made of cow skin and intestine served with fresh avocado and banana.

While in Medellín we spent two full days in the city exploring a fascinating neighborhood rich with history – Comuna 13. What was once one of the more dangerous spots in the city has transformed into a thriving tourist attraction, full of dynamic street performances, brightly colored graffiti, and that signature Colombian energy of resilience. As we toured the neighborhood, our guide, JH, highlighted the various forms of artistic expression that are on such vivid display. His organization, Casa Kolacho, was founded as a hip hop school to help youth get away from the violence in Comuna 13. We were lucky enough to spend both days with this inspiring educator, who pushed the students to think deeply about themselves, the challenges they have faced, their passions, and their dreams. We also had the opportunity to hear from a professional rapper, Jeihhco, and at the end of the experience the kids (and teachers!) participated in a rap battle of our own. It was great to see the kids come out of their shells some more and be inspired by the power of art to resist oppression. On our last night in Medellin, we discussed how we would carry the lessons we learned through to the end of the trip – and back to Steamboat.

Our next adventure took us to La Peña, several hours outside of Medellín in a beautiful lush mountain range of the Andes. La Peña is an organic coffee finca and sustainable climbing destination renowned around Colombia. It sits on the mountainside beneath the giant peak of La Peña. It was abandoned in the midst of the heaviest period of violence in Colombia as the guerrillas fought the army and paramilitaries in the countryside, ravaging towns and separating families from each other and their livelihoods. Our hosts, Doña Maira, Ricardo and Carlos refurbished the hacienda, established over one hundred routes on the rock and began growing and selling organic coffee to help supplement the income from the climbing tourism. Our first full day on the farm was dedicated to community service and learning more about the coffee growing and roasting process. We spent the morning up on the hillside clearing brush, then digging holes where we will soon plant our own trees, complete with a quote or phrase of our choice. The kids agreed that this service was uniquely fulfilling and fun, and we are eager to be able to contribute to such a beautiful and precious ecosystem and leave our mark that will hopefully be here for decades to come. We were rewarded for our efforts with delicious sandwiches for lunch, which many of the kids declared their favorite meal so far. In the afternoon, Ricardo gave us a fantastic and interactive tour of the coffee making process, from the arduous task of picking only the most perfect of the coffee fruits to the patience required to dry the beans in the sun. It culminated, of course, in the opportunity to try the freshly brewed coffee, which even the non-coffee drinkers could appreciate. We came away with a newfound appreciation for the kind of artisanal, small-scale coffee production that happens at La Peña.

This week, we will plant our trees and try our hand at all of the activities at this idyllic place – rock-climbing, a via ferrata, and a zip line. We can hardly believe that our trip is more than halfway finished, and we will be making the most of our remaining time in this vibrant country. 

Trip Update: April 29, 2024

Hola, hello, buenos días, parents of our global travelers! We write to you from the ancestral lands of the Tairona, a beautiful, lush, coastal region of Colombia spanning snow-capped peaks and verdant jungles. We are currently in Santa Marta where the kids are enjoying a well-deserved beach day after trekking to “La Ciudad Perdida” – a challenging, muddy trail to a sacred ancient mountain civilization. But more on that in a bit. Here’s the update from the first week of the trip.

We touched down in Cartagena after a long stretch of travel – full of several naps and many airport snacks – sleepy but eyes and minds open to discover the history of this colonial city. After a delicious meal at the old Spanish bull-fighting stadium that had been converted into a 360 degree mall (we Americans love our malls!), we had our orientation meeting with our guides Benny, Rayna and Fabian and then fell into a deep and much deserved sleep. The next day we awoke to a wonderful three course breakfast – fruit, granola and yogurt, and then cheesy arepas with eggs – and then set off to meet our guide, Gerardo, for a bike tour of the colonial city of Cartagena. Now, Gerardo was no ordinary bike guide. A fifth generation Cartagenero, Gerardo lives with his wife in the neighborhood between the bay and the beach. His grandfather was one of the first members of the navy, his great-uncle the first mayor of the city, his father one of the longest running film producers, directors and film festival organizers in Colombia. So, we certainly were in good hands to learn more about the history of town. While riding from site to site, we learned about the initial conflict between the indigenous peoples and the Spanish, the gold extraction, the resistance of the first colonizers to future European invasion, as well as the more modern story of architecture and Will Smith films produced in the city. Jett crushed the pop quiz that Gerardo gave the kids. Covered in sweat and flushed from the sun, we rode and then settled in for a delicious seafood lunch and limonada de coco, possibly the most delicious drink on the planet. It was so hot and humid that Ezra decided to get a haircut at the local salon, leaving with a modern mullet. Kristian also later shaved his head to cool down. The rest of the students opted for a long ocean bath, as we passed the afternoon cooling down at the beach right across from our Airbnb.

The following morning we embarked for Santa Marta. The kids marveled as they looked upon the passing countryside and dry forest littered with tin houses and plastic waste. Perhaps they began to regret their recent purchases at the gas station – soda bottles, candies and chips bags that quite possibly would end up among the amalgam of litter that graced the roadside. And yet again, perhaps not, as new combinations of junk food with exotic names are fun to try. We arrived at our hotel – the aptly named Orange House – and the kids quickly located the swimming pool on the deck. (We have discovered that we have a group of water bugs on this trip!) We met our friendly guides for the upcoming trek, who filled us in on the details of the journey and gave their packing recommendations. The kids enjoyed dinner at the restaurant of their choice in Santa Marta – a vibrant coastal city, but not quite as bustling as Cartagena. They went straight to the pool after dinner, and we concluded the night with a Campfire full of thoughtful reflections on what we observed in Colombia and how it compares to our home back in Steamboat. Benji was especially fascinated by the pink lakes on the drive, and Henry noted how all the cement houses differed so much from the big mansions in Steamboat. We slept well, eager to see how the mountains would receive us the next day. 

The next morning, the group boarded the 4WD vehicles for the three hour journey to El Mamey, the starting point of the Ciudad Perdida Trek. As we entered the Sierra Nevada, we marveled at the lush nature and mountains that surrounded us. We fueled for the hike ahead with a delicious lunch, the first of many generously portioned, mouthwatering meals served by the cooking staff. After a quick group photo, we set off for Camp 1, a 5.3 mile hike climbing nearly 2,000 feet. The steep, sunny path was grueling at times, but we relished the ability to stretch our legs and immerse ourselves in nature. Our guides kept our spirits high with regular stops for photos and deliciously fresh watermelon, pineapple, and oranges. Oscar L began to stock up on freshly made honey, drinking it straight from the bottle in low moments! At Camp 1, we were rewarded with a refreshing natural pool and waterfall. The kids gleefully cannonballed into the cold water and splashed about, utterly content. Eliza was wary of jumping in the water at first, but with Eve’s encouragement, she took the leap and felt proud of herself for conquering her fear. Eve was the steady rock that anchored our group throughout the trip. Stella loved bathing under the waterfall, her laughter ringing out over the pool. Dinner was characteristically delicious, and we spent the night cozy in beds with mosquito nets, tired but refreshed.

The following day’s hike took the difficulty up a notch, rounding out at 9 miles and 3400 feet of elevation gain. Leo wasn’t daunted by even the steepest, muddiest climbs and led the pack with his characteristic vigor. Our guides were incredibly helpful and accommodating, helping us across river crossings and muddier sections. The Sierra Nevada has just begun their rainy season, which meant some slipping and sliding, but the weather was kind to us, providing a mix of clouds and blue sky and pleasant temperatures. Benny, our guide through Human Nature Expeditions, helped the kids identify the many birds serenading us throughout our hike. Zoe in particular was psyched to add many new birds and their calls to her list. The guides named Oscar D “rescuito” for a local plant that sprouts quickly – perhaps a shoutout to his never ending energy! Along with our usual pit stops for fresh fruit, we took a long break when we reached the bank of the Buritaca River to visit a Kogui indigenous village called Mutanishi. There, we were lucky enough to hear from an indigenous man about the fascinating traditions and practices of his community, such as their ingenious way of making bags from the fibers of certain leaves and coloring them with plants. We also learned about the coca leaves and their powerful symbolism and significance within his culture. To have such close contact with indigenous communities was an honor, and the kids were endlessly fascinated with their wisdom. After some more hiking, we finally reached our next camp, complete with another swimming hole. We went to bed early in preparation for rising at 4:45 am the next morning to reach our main destination – the Lost City.

Despite the early hour, the kids rallied for the big day. At 5:45 am, we began our journey, a steep 1,200-stair climb constructed by the ancient Tayrona people to reach the beautiful Lost City. This climb required some grit, but the kids pushed through and reached the summit, where we were lucky enough to be the only group on this sacred ground. Delia led the charge up the steps, ella es muy fuerte! Despite having sore knees, Morgan persevered up the steps – nothing would stop her! Our guides shared with us the fascinating history behind this magical place, including the unbelievable fact that it is one of over 1,000 ruins of ancient civilizations present in the Sierra Nevada – most of which are even bigger and more spiritual than the sprawling, expansive Ciudad Perdida. We did an indigenous ritual, walking around one of the rings of stones before entering the city to symbolize the release of negative energy. As we explored the city, we reflected on its vast history and magic. We also received a blessing from the Saga – the most powerful woman shaman of the Komi culture who still is guardian of the ancient city. Finally, we made the less taxing journey down the many stairs to lunch at our previous campsite, before rallying again to make it back to Camp 2, rounding off a 10 mile day with swimming, a delicious dinner, and a much-needed early bed time after such a full day.

Our final day of the trek was the longest in terms of distance at about 12 miles, but it was mostly downhill, allowing the kids to get into a flow and letting the miles fly by. As we walked down the paths we had trudged up only a few days prior, we reflected on all that we had learned and marveled at the biodiversity of the Sierra Nevada ecosystem. Our group name was the Toucans, and we heard many such birds calling to each other on the trek! Our guides, almost all of whom are natives to the area, were friendly, steadfast, and incredibly helpful through to the end. Most of them spoke only Spanish, and while we had no shortage of translators on this trip, several of the kids were pleased with their ability to understand the quick Spanish of native speakers. Julien entertained the group with his dry humor to pass the time. The sun greeted us for the final portion of our hike, and we were all sweaty, tired, and feeling very accomplished by the time we touched down at El Mamey for a well-deserved lunch. 

It’s been an unforgettable week, and we can’t wait to see what Colombia has in store for us in May. Below are some notes from the students!

Student Shoutouts!

Delia: Hola Taneritos! This is the coolest trip ever. I am not that sad that I am not in Steamboat for mud season, and surprisingly not homesick. I made it through the hike with some scraps, big bites, little sleep, and a bit of a sore throat (Key words: I made it through). Please tell Sage and Scar I miss them dearly and tell Scar these numbers – 23rd, 24th, 25th and 28th. Hope Eva is doing great! 143

Oscar D: Dear Mom and Dad, 

We started in Cartagena, and went to the mall and went on a bike tour. The bike tour was hot but interesting. The Lost City Trek was hot and sweaty, but the views were awesome. I miss you guys and love you.

Kristian: Dear Mom and Dad, 

We just finished our trek today. It was really hard but an eye-opening experience. I am starting to get pretty homesick but it’s fine. I miss you a lot, but now we are back at the hostel and have a beach day tomorrow. I love you guys so much. PS, I’ve already taken so many photos Mom. Love, Kristian

Zoë: Hey parents, I’m good and I have no homesickness yet, and I was chillin on the hike. There are a lot of butterflies in Colombia and I haven’t gotten burnt or gotten malaria. See you soon! – Xoxo Zoë

Oscar L: Hi Mom and Dad, 

I miss you. I love you Dad, so much you are a role model and a great Dad. Happy Bday! Also we just finished the four day hike and it was beautiful. I miss you so much and can’t wait to see you soon. PS, Mom give Dad a big hug for me. Dad please give Mom a hug for me. Sincerely, Oscar L 

Ezra: Dear Mom and Dad, I am having lots of fun and the trek was sick. I’m eating a lot of food and it’s super good. I miss you guys a lot and can’t wait to tell you all my cool stories. Love you Ezra

Jett: I love you guys. Happy Birthday Dad. I hope you have a wonderful day! 

Henry: Yo what’s up! It’s good, one third of the way there I guess. Love, Henry

Benji: I miss you guys a lot. I saw the series score 3-1 LETS GO!! The trek was hard, but awesome and so beautiful. Me and Ezra are having so much fun. I’m getting some souvenirs for you guys. Vamos a la playa, hasta luego. 

Eve: Hey, I miss and love you all so so much!! I wish I could be with you, but I’am having a really good time so far. I’m thinking of you all, I love you so much (Mom, please pass this on to Dad and Hope.) 

Eliza: Hey Mom, Dad, and Char. I’ve had so much fun here in Colombia. We have gone on our hike to the lost city which was hard but fun. I miss y’all so much and I can’t wait to see you in a few weeks. Love, Eliza

Stella: Hey! This is my one / first letter, and I just wanted to say that I miss y’all! I am a bit homesick, but it’s gradually getting better. I love and miss y’all so much. Please tell V that the same goes for him, and I’ve been thinking about him a lot. Excited to see y’all in about 16 days! Much love, Stella

Morgan: Hey Mom, Dad, and whatever other family is reading this. I am doing very well! I am not homesick and I’m having a great time with everyone. Our hike was extremely grueling but worth it, and I can’t wait to tell you about everything! Love y’all, Morgan

Julien: Hey Mom and Dad, I miss you. I miss playing Skyblock all day during spring break. I’m having a pretty good time in Colombia. 

Leo: Hey Mama, Papa, and Ella! I just wanted to let you know that I am doing great, and having a lot of fun. I just got back from a trek to the Lost City which was very fun but hot!! I hope you guys are doing well, I love you so much. PS. Say hi to Norman or me!!

Spring Bash

May 10, 2024

All proceeds support our school’s tuition assistance program making an SMS education accessible to a variety of families. An investment in tuition assistance is an investment in our school community.


The Connection View All