Volunteer Site Visit

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At the end of Week 2, all aspirates were sent to visit with a current volunteer from the CII-6 group. Bryce and I were paired up to visit Erick, who lives in a very small pueblo in Atlantico. We left on Sunday and returned Monday. It was a very quick visit, but it was great to have time to relax and ask Erick a million questions as they came up. We also got to meet a lot of people in his pueblo and spend some time in the school he works at. Erick is a rock star in his pueblo. It was Festival and Carnival time, so school was pretty quiet. We were able to meet the teacher Erick works with and encourage some ninth graders to ask introductory questions in English. It was a fun trip complete with bucket baths, origami frogs, and a whole lot of knowledge passed on.

Thanks for hosting Erick!

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Week Two

I was excited to go to the internet spot in town today and post an update from last week and this week, but alas it is Festival and the place is closed. So let’s rewind a bit.

Week two brought a new kitten. Tigre, the one eyed cat of the house, had kittens but it was thought they were eaten by a large cat. Then Sunday evening, Tigre and a tiny orange kitten come into the house! The kitten has been dubbed Penina by my host family. She’s gotten more confident and now runs around and plays except during the middle of the day when she stretches out and sleeps. When it’s hot, it’s hot.

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In other exciting news, I now have a library card! I’d like to thank my Mom for instilling within me an intense love for libraries. There is a small library near my house with limited hours. However, we finished class early on Monday and three of us went in search of the library. The door isn’t easy to distinguish at first, but once inside there are books, tables, and air conditioning. All great reasons to go. The children’s section is in the back of the room, which is where I find children’s books I attempt to read, and eventually after 4pm, kids who come by after school.

Tuesday was my host father’s birthday. It was mentioned there would be a surprise but no one wanted to tell me what that was…turns out it was him being woken up to birthday songs blaring at 6am for him and his wife to dance to out on the porch. While this was very sweet, I’m not sure keeping the surprise from me was necessary. After class commenced celebrations, including my host sister teaching my fellow aspirante, Angell, and myself some moves.

Wednesday mornings are practicum time in the local colegios (schools). Dylan and I were placed in the same high school classroom with a great teacher who has been teaching for over twenty years. She is very enthusiastic and loves her students. She speaks English very well, though would like support on pronunciation and brainstorming activities. We got to observe one of her classes. Unfortunately, there are no classes for the next two Wednesdays with all the festivities, so we’ll meet with our teacher and get some planning time in.

The rest of the week was filled with classes, family time, practicing Spanish, and growing excitement for Festival. Festival started on Saturday. More to come on this later.

Festival is upon us and Carnival is coming up! Get ready to bailar!

CII-8 Aspirantes

It’s official, I am part of the CII-8 aspirantes! What does that mean you may ask? Peace Corps uses all sorts of acronyms. Time for a quick lingo lesson.

The Colombia program was open for twenty years before being shut down. It was reopened in 2010. Hence, we are CII. The 8 denotes the 8th group to enter. Aspirates? That is what trainees are called in Colombia. We are aspiring volunteers. We have three months of training, which will be language, culture, safety, and health related. I need to get from a novice level of Spanish to intermediate mid. It will make a huge different in integrating with my community. Though my family and neighbors have gotten a lot of amusement from trying to teach me how to roll my “r’s.”

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Me and fellow aspirants Jackie, Monica, and Angell chilling by the river after class.

Week One

I’ve been at site for a week (longer than that but I have very limited access to internet especially now that we are in the midst of Festival and Carnival, so just imagine this was posted January 23.) Can you believe it?! Let’s pick up where we left off.

On Friday we were given information about living with host families (in Spanish…good thing my fellow trainees could fill me in!) My cohort was split into groups based on our language levels and were placed in small pueblos in Atlantico. Saturday morning we were given brief descriptions of our host families, including names, ages, occupations, pets, and any other important notes. My group packed up our things into two vans and drove to our pueblo. There are seven of us in the same village. I was the second to last to be dropped off. It was great seeing everyone else be greeted with big smiles, hugs, and family members helping unload suitcases. Turning down the paved and dirt roads to access my home, we found a house with a “Bienvienido” sign and my entire host family with balloons. Most of the neighbors were also outside their homes. What a welcoming!

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From that moment I was taken on a tour of the home and then immediately asked to sit outside for Spanish lessons by my host sister and cousin. They have been excellent, patient teachers. I have a host mother, father, sister, and cousin. There is also another sister who lives with her husband and adorable two-year-old son nearby who are over all the time. The doors of the house are left open and the neighbors can come in and out, as well as the air to cool the house. The front porch is a gathering place to sit and chat with neighbors. There are trees around so we can sit in the shade. Any way to decrease the heat is welcome because it is hot. Really hot.

Some highlights from the week include:

  • An awesome welcome from my host family who quickly learned I am at a very basic Spanish level and have been so happy and patient and talk to me constantly.
  • Spanish lessons from my host sister and cousin for me and Jacquie. At all times.
  • Delicious juice…at all times.
  • Spanish class starting with my language group, Jackie, Dylan, and our awesome profesora.
  • Meeting my host mother’s grandmother who loves to dance and showed me some moves. That’s an impressive lady.
  • Coming home Tuesday to no electricity. This meant sitting on the front porch for hours with the whole family, talking, playing a card game in Spanish that Jackie had brought, and stringing up a hammock.
  • My host family informally adopting Jackie as their second PC aspirante.
  • Meeting the mayor of the town.
  • Having multiple dance lessons with my host sister, much to the amusement of the neighbors who gather to watch.
  • Running around with my two-year-old host nephew. I can understand some of what he says and he is rarely bothered when I can’t understand. When in doubt, he just switches to run around mode.
  • Seeing my cohort for training in the end of the week. It had only been four days since seeing them, but it was great to be reunited!

It’s been a jam-packed week. I am excited to understand more Spanish and be able to communicate more easily. I am lucky to be surrounded by my family, neighbors, teacher, and fellow trainees who have been willing to slow things down and repeat things often. There is so much to learn!