Swearing In Ceremony:
Monday morning was a very important event for the 29 trainees in CII-4. Many of us had been dreaming of this day for many years. Monday morning we stood and took the oath to become official United States Peace Corps Volunteers. We arrived at Universidad Del Norte with our host families and after being greeted by current volunteers and Peace Corps staff, everyone was seated in the auditorium. We spent the time leading up to the ceremony taking pictures and exchanging congratulations. At 10:00am the ceremony began. We heard speeches from George Baldino (Country Director), Oscar Mejia (training manager), Olga Gualteros (TEL program manager), and numerous representatives of the US embassy, Colombia, and Universidad del Norte. We rose as a group and sang the Colombian National Anthem that we have been practicing for so many weeks (nailed it!) and then sang the United States National Anthem. Normally I am not a super patriotic individual but there was something very special about standing with our hands on our hearts singing our nation’s national anthem as we begin our journey as ambassadors to the United States in Colombia. Next we took two oaths (one in English and one in Spanish). Then a microphone was passed and we individually introduced ourselves by stating our name, where we are from in the US, and our sites in Colombia (we did this in Spanish…nailed it again!) Nate and Allison were elected by our group to give the speech at the ceremony. The speech was in Spanish and they did a beautiful job. Finally there were closing remarks and then we watched two videos that talked about the Peace Corps history and current work in Colombia. It was so inspiring and really helped remind us why we are here and set us on the right foot as we head off to sites this weekend. After the ceremony we went outside where there was food, drinks, and three huge cakes! We took pictures, ate, talked to host families, and thanked the staff for all they have done for us. My host Mom had so many kind words and was so proud of me. It was so touching to share this moment that I will remember for the rest of my life with her. When all the food was gone, all the pictures had been taken, and we were all sufficiently drenched in sweat….it was over. We sent our host families home and a group of us headed to an overpriced Mexican food restaurant for lunch, margaritas, and beer that was NOT aguila light! We left with full hearts and smiles on our faces as we let the feeling sink in that we have finally made it….we are officially Peace Corps Volunteers. Congratulations CII-4…….here’s to the next two years!
Thursday was Thanksgiving and to celebrate we were invited to the houses of three Peace Corps staff members. I went to Jason’s house with about 15 other volunteers from our group and the group before ours as well as some staff members. While nothing can compare to Thanksgiving back home, it was really wonderful to be able to spend the day with my Colombian/Peace Corps family. We got to Jason’s around noon and people played football, chatted, and enjoyed the sun. We had a delicious meal including turkey and gravy, stuffing, rosemary potatoes, green bean casserole, salad, cranberries, and lots of delicious desserts. Everyone ate until they were stuffed (and then ate some more) and sat around talking for a few hours. At my table we took turns saying what we were thankful for and everyone was thankful for the amazing opportunity we have here in Colombia and to be spending the day together. When I got home I Skyped with my family and it was great to talk to them all together. This was my first Thanksgiving I have ever been away from my family and while I missed them a lot, I had a really wonderful Colombian Thanksgiving!
On Friday, Kait’s and her host sister Vanessa decided to have a party to celebrate the end of training and see everyone one more time before we all head out to our sites. The theme was ‘patriotic’ so you could wear anything that represents your country or Colombia! We had a great time and I was glad to be all together one more time before we spread out. We have spent literally almost every waking moment all together for the last three months…I am really going to miss seeing everyone!
Today I am spending the day packing (I seem to have accumulated a LOT of stuff since coming to Colombia!). My host mom works tomorrow so I will have to say goodbye to her tonight and give my family the little gift I put together for them. They have really become my family and it’s going to be hard to say goodbye and start all over again…but I have a good feeling about my future in Bayunca. Tomorrow afternoon I am heading out in a Puerta-a-Puerta with the other 5 volunteers going to Cartagena. I am really excited to unpack everything and really settle in as I will be staying put for the next two years! There is no internet in my house in Bayunca so I will be MIA for a little while. I am hoping to get internet set up if it is possible, I am just not sure how quickly I will be able to get that done. Wish me luck!
Until next time…..paz y amor.