It is hard to believe I have only been gone for 12 days….it feels like an eternity! So much has changed, I have learned so much already, and I am having a great time in Colombia! I have been living with my host family now for 8 days and they have already become my second family. I live in a traditional family with a mom, dad, and two sisters. My mom (Escilda) is a nurse at a local hospital and works long hours… usually she gets up around 5am, works at 7am, and comes home around 8:30pm! My dad (Erik) sells bags of water and seems to make his own schedule. Then there are my two sisters. Carolina is 18 and is studying architecture. Andrea is 15 and is in high school. My family dynamic is very different than most other families here on the Colombian coast in that my dad does a lot of the cooking and other household chores since my mom is at work all day. My host family cooks breakfast and dinner for me every day and it has been fun trying all the different local foods (arrepas, bollo, empenadas, and lucky for me lots of new fruits!). I have my own room here with a bed, desk, fan, shelves, and a toilet/shower space. My host sister has a pet turtle (I believe she found him) who lives on the patio and I can watch him from my window. My family does have WiFi which I have to admit I am really loving…hopefully I have it at my permanent site since I am getting spoiled now! After dinner every night I spend time talking with my family and watching their favorite show “Protagonistas”. I have a very difficult time communicating with my family since my Spanish still has a long way to go, but they are very patient with me. Andrea and Carolina were shy at first but have really warmed up to me and are very helpful in explaining what’s going on.
Training has been very informative and Spanish classes have been very helpful. We train at two places in Barranquilla….the Peace Corps office and Colombo Americano. The PC office is about 15 blocks from my house so I am able to walk with two other volunteers which takes about 25 minutes and saves $1.500 each way! The Colombo is much farther away and requires a bus ride. Both buildings are air conditioned which is a nice break from the heat (in fact…they are both freezing!). Lunch is provided for us during training and has been delicious every day (chicken, beef, fish, rice, lentils, yucca, salad, etc.) We have sessions as a big group on policy, teaching methods, culture, etc. and then we have Spanish classes in small leveled groups. We train Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm. Then on Saturday’s we have Spanish class in the morning at a different volunteer’s house each week. Sunday’s are free time with your host family.
This weekend was a welcome break from what was a pretty packed first week of training. Friday was a big game between Colombia and Uruguay. It was ‘un dia civico’ which means almost everyone got to leave work and school at noon to go watch the game. The streets were a sea of yellow jerseys and almost every building was flying the Colombian flag and decked out in red, blue, and yellow decor. We all split into groups and went to watch the game at various places in Barranquilla. I went with a group of girls to a little tienda where we could sit outside, have a few Aguilas, and watch the game. Colombia won 4-0 and there was a city-wide fiesta the rest of the night to celebrate. After, we went to the house of another volunteer, Lindsey, for a surprise birthday party her host mom had for her. Saturday we had Spanish class at Kait’s house and then I spent the afternoon/evening hanging with my host sisters.
I am very happy and am loving my time so far here in Colombia. My host family is going out of their way to make sure I am happy, I love all of the other trainees, the PC staff is awesome, and I am finally surrounded by the Latin American culture I love so much. It is very hot (think 93 degrees, 75% humidity, real feel 113…on an unairconditioned bus squished between a bunch of people) and we all sweat a lot but it is slowly becoming an inevitable part of our lives! Things seem overwhelming at times when we have a lot going on, when I am in a room with what seems like millions of Colombian family members talking faster than I ever though possible, when I think of home and how comfortable I was there or how many people I loved and left behind, when I can’t do normal everyday things like buy shampoo here because my Spanish is so basic or my host family doesn’t think it’s safe to walk to the store alone… but the feelings pass quickly. My highs far outnumber my lows. When I spend time talking to my sisters, cook Colombian foods with my mom, go for a walk through my barrio and see the streets alive with culture, sit on the patio with the turtle and enjoy the tropical breeze blowing through the trees, or spend an evening with my friends watching our first Colombian futbol game…I realize I am exactly where I am supposed to be and couldn’t be happier. I think this week we are doing our first classroom visit which I am really looking forward to. I miss being in the classroom and am looking forward to seeing how the education system works here so I can start thinking about my work in my future site!
Until next time….paz y amor.