Its been just over a month since I received my invitation to serve in Colombia, and I am still as excited as the day it arrived! Not much is new on the Peace Corps front.. I have just been working through the mountains of paperwork that needs to be submitted. It has been challenging to complete many of the items in my invitation packet because of my busy work schedule. One of the downsides to teaching is that I can’t just take a 20 minute break to run a quick errand. Two of the things I needed to complete were my Yellow Fever vaccine (this needs to be done far in advance of entering a country where Yellow Fever is endemic) and applying for my government passport. Both of the offices I need to visit to complete these items have 9-3 Monday through Friday hours which is just not possible for me! Thankfully I am on Spring Break this week and was finally able to tie up some loose ends and get the last of my paperwork copied, faxed, and mailed to all the various places it needed to go. You will definitely never hear anyone say that the Peace Corps process is a walk in the park, but I think it’s all worth it! The Yellow Fever vaccine ended up being incredibly painful and made me sick for the entire weekend (which apparently is common, but the nurse/comedian that gave it to me reminded me ever so gently that a painful shot is better than dying of Yellow Fever. Touche).
One issue that I am repeatedly running into is that many of the things I need to do are not following the regular protocol at these various offices and I am having to fight/insist/demand things from people (which if you know me is not my forte). The Peace Corps prepares you for this and many of the instructions for completing things include the phrase “If you run into any problems……”. For example, at Passport Health when trying to obtain my Yellow Fever vaccine she was concerned that I ONLY wanted the one vaccine. I explained that I would be getting all other vaccinations, immunizations, and medication necessary from the Peace Corps during staging. She is either selectively deaf or decided to ignore my protest and continue to explain to me how I will likely die from malaria, dengue, etc. if I do not let her administer multiple other vaccines. Another example is when I went to have my passport witnessed. I explained my situation and that, yes, I do have a passport in my possession, and no, it is not expired. However that is my personal passport and I need to keep it since I plan on traveling this summer and I do not want to mail away for the next 5 months. This was apparently not in the passport officer training book, so this man kept asking me, “Is it lost, stolen, or expired?” Thankfully I work with 6 year olds for a living so I have endless patience and eventually got everything taken care of and submitted.
There is really not much else for me to do for the next few months except put all of my energy into finishing off the school year strong. I am so proud of my students, they have come so far this year. Most of them are working at or above grade level and have become such strong readers. I have a few who are still falling far below grade level, but I am even more proud of those students because they have still come such a long way from where they started and have overcome such incredible odds. It is going to be so hard for me to say goodbye to these kiddos in May. Your first year of teaching is such an emotional roller coaster. I have grown so much as an educator and as a person this year. I learned a lot from my mentors, administration, and colleagues at school, but I have been changed forever by 23 little angels that I will never forget.
I have been scouring the internet looking for other invitees to Colombia and haven’t found a single one…. if you’re out there leave me a comment or send me an email at katiecmccarthy at hotmail dot com!
Until next time…. paz y amor.