I am trying to incorporate exercise in my daily routine. With that said, walking anywhere in the pueblo, with our hills and the heat, is a work out. However, my friend Leslie and I have started doing morning walks, usually starting around 5am. Ok, 5:15am, waking up can be hard. There are three large hills in particular that we have been conquering. Even though I may not be a fan of waking up, it’s worth it to get to the top of the hill…
The old and the new
Today was my first trip into Cartagena…and definitely not my last! Cartagena is the capital of Bolivar, my department (state). My friend and fellow volunteer Sam was finally getting his bike and I tagged along for the ride.
Selfies in the city
We spent most of our time in the Walled City, which is a major attraction. It is beautiful with lots of small, winding streets, bright buildings with terraces and plants, cafes, delicious restaurants and gelato, shops, and more. We even found a little cafe/bookstore that had amazing limonada de coco. So many wins!
Part of the wall
I will be going back to explore more and maybe even learn some legit history. Stay tuned.
This is a trabalengua (tongue twister) in Spanish one of the English teachers had a student write for me to practice. Trabalenguas are really helpful for practicing pronunciation and generally having fun playing with language.
Now who can say it as quickly as possible?!
Official PCV life has begun!
The first two weeks have been all about exploring, meeting people, getting to know my school, visiting other schools, telling people all about Cuerpo de Paz (Peace Corps), giving English lessons formally and informally, aguaceros (downpours), and ultimately, to use one of PCs favorite word, “integrating.”
To demonstrate my dedication to this process, I went to one of the high schools to meet the English teachers. It had rained the day before and it was still early in the day and very wet. The roads around the school are mostly dirt roads and I tried to carefully tiptoe around the drier spots. Very close to the school I stepped into what was not a drier part of land, but a giant pile of mud. Off came my shoe and after a quick rescue, I went to the school with mud covering the bottom and inside of my shoes. And it wasn’t coming off as it was still so fresh. I wish this picture truly captured the amount of mud and feeling of walking around after the fact. I’ll have to leave that to your imaginations! Nothing makes a good impression like muddy feet…luckily I was sitting during the meeting.
Further integrating and exploring, Trevor and Sam came to visit and we got to see Jo Anne in action, working with one of her groups of artisanal women. It was great to see them in action and we even got a demonstration for how to make a hammock. Amazing!
Guess what…I passed my Spanish exam! Intermediate mid/high friends. Talk about exciting. I still have a lot to go, but it was a huge relief and excitement to get to this point. I can’t thank my awesome language teacher, Carmen, enough.
With that, it was time for Swear-In. The day we shift from aspirantes to PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers). Our graduation if you will. At least that is what my host family referred to it as.
We met near our weekly training site. My host mom joined me and I am impressed to say we were twenty minutes early and the first ones there. Unheard of! The ceremony included speeches from Helena and Trevor, two fellow aspirantes, PC staff members, Jackie’s and Angell’s host moms, and the ambassador. We each received our PC pins, signed the same oath to the United States that the President and other government officials sign, as well as an oath in Spanish to Colombia, sang both national anthems, and finished with lunch and cake. And obviously, a lot of pictures (unfortunately, I could only pick a few to share.)
Congrats CII-8! So glad we are on this journey together.
The last few weeks of training flew by! The weeks were full of Spanish practice, visiting friends, completing projects, and essentially trying to wrap everything up with a well-tied bow.
Part 1: English Class
I had been running an English class for the neighborhood kids for about two months. Diego, my host brother-in-law, helped plan and teach the classes. I decided to have the last class right after my site visit. Diego and his family had helped plan a lesson about animals. We had labeled pictures of animals from some of the preschool books my host sister has for the preschool program and were ready for a game of charades. Who doesn’t want to act like a giraffe?? (This actually completely stumped them and they always asked for another animal.)
It was a lot of fun and the kids got treats at the end while I got some pictures. Win win.
Part 2: Practicum
Dylan and I worked with a great counterpart teacher, Josefa, in a local high school. We were in one of her 11th grade classes. The practicum is an important part of training. It gives us experience in a Colombian classroom paired with an experienced teacher. It is a preview for part of what is to come as a PCV in the Education sector. The first few weeks we observed, then we taught, and the last few lessons we co-taught with Josefa. She was very enthusiastic and hardworking and it was a lot of fun to work with her. I definitely learned a lot about the education system and it was great to learn with her. The last class she told us we could only run a short activity because the class had a surprise for us. Torta and well wishes, thanks for the thoughtful send-off!
Part 3: Dia de la Familias
Living with a host family was quite an experience. I was so lucky to have such a welcoming, loving family who took me right in. All us aspirantes set up an event to thank the families and celebrate our three months together. Each host family was an extension family to each of us aspirates. They invited us into their homes, gave us freshly made juice, corrected our Spanish, and supported us and our projects. While it is not always easy, we all learned a whole lot. There was a lot of food, music, pictures, and even some dancing. We were certainly lucky Tortugas to have this crowd and each other!
What a crowd!
Now that we knew our sites, we had three days to visit. Prior to those three days we had a conference where our counterparts, the teachers who would be helping us integrate and learn about the schools in our pueblos, came together for workshops and general getting to know you activities. The end of PST was feeling very real! It was great to have some time to learn more about my new pueblo and the people I would be meeting and potentially working with.
The next morning we met with our counterparts to travel to our sites. Peter and I are about 20 minutes away and we traveled with our counterparts together. Once we crossed the Magdelena River, the line between Atlantico and Bolivar, there was a change in scenery. Where I lived in Atlantico, the terrain was very flat. Bolivar is all hills, and Peter and I were real excited to see the change in landscape. They are dry right now, but with the rain they’ll get nice and green.
After dropping Peter and his counterpart, my counterpart and I made it to our pueblo. We ate lunch and stopped by the high school my counterpart works at. It is an agricultural/vocational school which I am all about, being an alumni of Norfolk Aggie. The students can focus on agricultural or arts.
Walking to school
After meeting lots of people, we continued to the home of my new host family. My host mom, brother, and two of her cousins greeted me. The house is very nice and the family is friendly.
Pizza with my new host family plus some!
The three days were full of tours from Jo Anne, hanging out at home, meeting Jo Anne’s friends, and exploring the pueblo. I am excited for what’s to come!
Touring the town with Jo Anne