Hola from Colombia! We have been here since Wednesday and the time has flown by, but at the same time it seems like I left home a million years ago. So much has happened in the last four days (considered the ‘arrival retreat’), so I will just give you the highlights!
Wednesday we got to the airport around 10am for a 3pm flight (better safe than sorry?). Our flight ended up being delayed so we had a solid 6 hours at the airport. Our flight in to Barranquilla was about 2.5 hours and we got a meal on the plane (pasta or beef). When we arrived the PC country director and program director were waiting for us in the airport terminal and gave a quick welcome. We then made our way (all 30 of us toting around 100lbs of luggage) through customs and immigration. When we walked outside there were a bunch of current volunteers waiting with signs cheering as we exited the airport. It was quite the welcome! We took some group pictures, loaded our luggage into a truck, and got into 16 passenger vans to head to the hotel. It was about a 25 minute drive (I could be wrong there…I’m just guessing) to the hotel and we were able to see some nightlife along the way but we couldn’t see much scenery as it was already dark.
When we arrived at the hotel we all gathered around for some quick speeches from the PC staff followed by some awesome songs written and performed by some of the current volunteers (they rewrote the lyrics to “Call Me Maybe” and Smashmouth’s “Allstar”). That’s about as good as a welcome can get if you ask me! Everyone was pretty tired that night so we had a quick dinner at the hotel and headed upstairs (we had to carry our luggage up four flights of stairs….which was the first time I started to question whether or not I really needed to bring 100lbs of stuff!).
The next two days were filled with sessions at the hotel on everything from living with a host family, Peace Corps history, an overview of the Teaching English for Livelihoods (TEL) program, and about a million other things. We had a medical interview where we got shots, a language interview to see what level Spanish class we would be in, and a host family interview to see who we will be living with. I placed into the beginning level of Spanish which is what I expected. It has been three years since my last Spanish class and even then my Spanish was conversational at best. I am really excited to get started with language classes because I will feel much more comfortable when I can communicate! All of our meals were provided at the hotel and were very good. Breakfast was eggs with onion and tomato usually with slices of white bread and another starch (pancake, crepe, arrepa, etc.)
I didn’t have much of a chance to see Barranquilla while we were here because our days were pretty full. The first night we were here we got in so late everyone just went to bed after dinner. The following night we went out to a bar in the neighborhood that the current volunteers lead us to where beers were about $2.500 (to put it into perspective…I paid $2.600 for a big bottle of water…so the beer was pretty reasonable. I haven’t quite mastered the conversion yet but I think that’s about $1.50 US). We get about $5 US per day during training to cover our expenses (bus fares, food, etc.)
Today we had a few last sessions in the morning to go over logistics of the upcoming three months of training. We had lunch and time to pack and now it is time for our host families to come pick us up at the hotel! Next time I update I will be able to share about my new family (provided I can get internet access!) My host family will be here for me at 2:30….wish me luck!
Until next time… paz y amor.
P.S. I haven’t had a chance to upload pictures yet…I promise the next post will have pictures 🙂