Jurassic Park

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Did I say Jurassic Park? I meant Parque Tayrona. I don’t necessarily see them as different things. I mean, look at this!

Natalie, a fellow volunteer and I decided to make Tayrona one of our puente destinations. A puente is a three day weekend due to a holiday on a Monday. Natalie punningly called it #puenteenelparque. She’s genius with a sense of humor I really appreciate. The first day we arrived late in the afternoon and stayed in Castillo, the first camping spot. There are three major camping spots, with plenty of smaller ones about. The main ones are right on the water with places to get food and water. We rented a tent with a double mattress inside that was sitting right on the beach. We explored our area and woke up early the next morning to go to the main camp site furthest from the entrance. We walked about a half hour and then opted to ride the rest of the way. It took almost two hours on rocky and muddy trails. Definitely an experience.

We arrived and enjoyed the clear blue waters, sun, and sand. That evening we slept in hammocks surrounded by what seemed like millions of hammocks and tents. There were plenty of people but in the early morning it was nice and quiet. We even followed the coastal route to check out some of the other beaches. One of which was a nudist beach…which we found out after. At the time we were just confused about why there were a few men sitting in random parts of the beach with their birthday suits.

The last day we hiked out, which took about 1.5 hours and loads of sweat. I only gave up at one point, when we saw a sign after walking for at least 10 hours saying we were 40% to our destination. Don’t worry, I made it through. There were stairs and pathways through the woods, scenic outlooks, and other hikers to discuss the multitude of stairs and the beauty of the views. Even with the one moment of weakness, totally worth it!

If you’re in the Santa Marta area, definitely a place to see! Be sure to bring plenty of pb&j and water!

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Let’s GLOW (again)!!

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Last year I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of Camp GLOW, a leadership camp for young women on the Colombian coast. As a counselor, I co-lead a group of five wonderful young women, lead multiple workshops, facilitated and took part in games and songs, supported wherever I was needed, and was amazed by how the girls interacted, grew, and took advantage of the unique opportunity that is GLOW.

This year, I returned to GLOW as a director, co-directing with two amazing friends and co-volunteers, Lindsay and Audrey, who I would not have made it through without. We also took on a spectacular junior director, who returned for her third year at Camp GLOW. She could run the entire show next year, she was so helpful and energetic. We had three other wonderful Colombian counterparts, 7 great counselors (PCVs), and 7 enthusiastic junior counselors (campers from last year who took on a leadership role of supporting a counselor and leading a group). Our counterparts were on top of any job we requested and our counselors took the lead whenever there was downtime or extended transitions due to last minute schedule changes. They were all absolute champs and the campers had a great experience with the positivity and enthusiasm the leaders showed.

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Camp this year was held in a new location, a location that took us many months to find. It was a fairly strenuous process. In the small town outside of Cartagena, we came together with 38 girls from three departments (states) on the coast. This included four young women from my pueblo and the neighboring one. The preparations and logistics of the camp itself were an adventure in and of themselves.

Did we have to change dates last second because of a seemingly never-ending teacher strike? Yes.

Did we have conversations late each week for months and almost every night in the two weeks leading up to camp? Yes.

Were there some major issues to deal with at site? Yes.

Was there no water when we returned from a beach trip? Yes.

Did we sleep? Barely.

Did we try out some new activities this year? Yes.

Did we exercise every morning while a young puppy tried to play along? Yes.

Did we connect with lots of amazing, strong Colombian women of all ages? Yes.

Did we have a dance party when we were trapped due to rain? Yes.

Did some girls have the chance to see the beach for the first time? Yes.

Did we host a successful mini-camp where the girls planned and facilitated the activities for the majority of the kids in town? Yes.

Did we have a talent show in the dark when the electricity went out? Yes.

Did we love it all, the frustrating, amazing, silly, rough, intense, and deep moments? Yes.

It was vale la pena (worth it) to see and be a part of the girls and counselors thriving, making friends, learning, teaching, and having a blast!

Progress in the Pueblo

There has been a lot of change over the past year in my pueblo, including new businesses and roads being paved. My favorite (the one that improves my day to day most – clearly biased here, I know), is the road leading to the main high school I work with. The road used to look like this:

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It was hard to get a shot that really captured it. With hundreds of students walking on it every day, lots of moto drivers, horses, donkey with carts, it had gotten fairly destroyed. Then one day a sign went up saying the road would be worked on. Not long after that, I saw this:

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Of course, this was happening while there were downpours most days, which made for difficult working and walking conditions. Sometimes it involved leaping from one rock to another, having one of the workers assist in crossing over, or getting muddy shoes. The teachers of my school have a WhatsApp group and two of my favorite pictures that seem to showcase the struggle so well is when our administration staff tried to get home one day:

It’s all about teamwork! However, after many weeks of nonstop work, we now have this:

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A world of difference!

Here’s to progress!