Q: Where exactly are you going?
A: I will be living on the northern Atlantic/Caribbean coast of Colombia. Colombia is in South America and is bordered by Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Venezuela. I will spend my first three months training in Baranquilla. After that I will move to my post for the remaining two years of my service (I won’t know where exactly this will be until the end of the three month training). The three main cities in this area are Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Santa Marta.
Q: What will you be doing?
A: The program I will be working in with is called Teaching English for Livelihoods (TEL) and my title is Teacher Trainer. I will be co-planning/teaching English classes, creating and helping to implement English learning materials and methodologies, and providing professional development for teachers. In addition I will have opportunities for secondary projects within the community.
Q: What are the living conditions?
A: All of the sites are considered urban or peri-urban. I don’t know where I will be for my permanent site, but right now in Barranquilla we have electricity (which I am eternally grateful for because that means I have a fan), water, and most of us even have pretty reliable access to internet. Due to increased security measures I will live with a host family for the entire length of my service. The food consists of a lot of rice, potatoes, yucca, and fried foods and there is an abundance of fresh fruits. It is VERY hot here on the coast. Usually around 90 degrees with humidity around 70-75% (real feel is often over 100 degrees). We take busses or walk for transportation. We can buy pretty much anything we need at tiendas or mercados in our neighborhoods and there are also larger chain stores. Prices here are about equivalent to prices in the states, but US products cost much more here.
Q: How long will you be gone?
A: I left on August 27th for Miami, FL. I had a staging event (basically a brief orientation) on August 28th. The next day I departed for Colombia. I am currently completing three months of training in Baranquilla, then I will find out my site for the remaining 2 years of service. All in all I will be gone for 27 months.
Q: Isn’t Colombia dangerous?
A: The short answer is yes, but the same could be said about anywhere. Anyone who follows the news knows that in recent decades Colombia has had some pretty serious security issues. Colombia was one of the first countries the Peace Corps entered when it began in 1961. In 1981 Peace Corps withdrew from the country due to the rising conflict and safety issues. Since that time the safety and security situation in Colombia has changed drastically. Peace Corps returned to Colombia in 2010 after reassessing the situation and deciding it was safe for volunteers to be placed in certain regions. I am confident in the measures the Peace Corps has taken to ensure that we are as safe as possible. My group of volunteers is the second full term group of volunteers to enter the country since the 30 year hiatus.
Q: Why did you decide to do this?
A: Short answer…It just feels like its exactly where I am supposed to be. Here is the long answer.
Q: Can I visit/communicate with you?
A: Please do! You can send me emails until your hearts content and I should be able to respond regularly! My email is katiecmccarthy@hotmail dot com (obviously you need to change the last part…I just don’t feel like getting spammed!) Also if you want my phone number or address, email me and I will be happy to share 🙂
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