To everyone that said I would forget about writing on my blog … you were right! I could not even try to express what has happened for the last 5 months. Time has this way of having days that continue to drag on, but the weeks fly by. As the weeks have passed, C2-10 has all sworn in officially the Peace Corps Volunteers. My cohort went our separate ways and now we are in the beginning stages of our commitment to serve for the next two years. I could write this super long list of all the things that have happened, but that would make my brain explode. There have been a lot of incredibly good days so far. There have been days when I have completely felt purposeful and useful here. There have been days when I am a boss in Spanish. I have not been able to speak English correctly. There have been days where I have not wanted to put pants on and leave my room. There have been days when I’ve waited three minutes for the bus and then the next day I waited for forty-five.
During my service, I will live with a host family. I currently live with a host mom and dad who keep my life interesting. I will admit that I did not know how I would feel giving up my freedom after living in the only life for the last handful of years. However, I am grateful for how welcoming they are, how patient they are with my Spanish, and for the surprise cupcakes that my mom leaves for me after she bakes a cake for a party (she’s a chef !!). My host mom is also the Godmother for half the kids in my town. Usually my front porch can overflow with laughter, games, and conversations. I can count on hanging out with my neighbors for at least an hour or more a day. Usually our time is filled with reading, puzzles, nail painting, or volleyball. I have one curious five-year-old neighbor in particular who loves getting into whatever he wants when he wants. He loves to still call me gringa and laughs hysterically when I call him one back. He is always surprising me with some sort of animal. So far it’s been a baby iguana, a rabbit, and a baby bird. I just know that one day I’m going to bring a spider and I’m not sure how I’m going to face that situation.
I have begun my observations in the classrooms here in my town. There is one high school and five primary schools. The next two months I will be continuing to visit and learn from the teaching staff and seeing how a typical classroom runs here. For the last two weeks or so Colombian teachers have had a nation wide strike. We are not having classes for the time being. Teachers have not received their payments and they are also protesting the lack of resources that their students are receiving in the classrooms. Classes are HOT, there is no AC, and sometimes there are no working fans. The classrooms are packed with students and sometimes there are not enough desks for everyone. This has been an eye opening experience to see first hand on what teachers and students go through on a daily basis. It is very different from classrooms in the states. Students must also pay for their own copies of worksheets or exams. I will never take anything for granted in a classroom in the states ever again. The teachers have been very kind and helpful. I am looking forward to working with them. We have already bonded over beers and sancocho (a really delicious soup).
Integration into my community has been challenging. I am still the new gringa in town and sometimes it feels like I just do not belong or fit in. You must step outside your comfort zone everyday. I have started to run in the mornings with some locals. There is a town about 5-6 miles away that has a nice paved road to run on (including some interesting wildlife.) I have also started to play volleyball twice a week with a group of locals that are my age. I thought I knew how to play this sport until I stepped foot into the Poli. Apparently you do not just flail your arms around to hit the ball … who knew ?! Joining them has been the best decision that I have made since living in my town. I would never have joined the sports team on my own back in the states. I have felt welcomed by the teams and appreciate them for putting up with me!
Here are some highlights that I am pumped about: getting to finally eat a bacon cheeseburger with Siracha, the AC in the ARA, finally getting to met the Mayor and the rector (principal) at my school, holding a plank for 2 minutes now, The beach is an hour away, joining a volleyball team, finding a drill to begin a compost bin, signing up for a 10k in Barranquilla, and successfully cooking a batch of homemade banana bread.
Here are some of the challenges that I am working through: the concept of time and how to use it wisely (apparently crying while eating Cheez Its not enough enough), rediscovering my hobbies, I’ve broken 3 pairs of shoes since living here , Constant mosquitoes, the lack of resources that students have in their classrooms, my Spanish abilities, missing my cohort and hating the distance that is between us, missing my family, my friends, and my dog.
Here’s to 23 more months of sweating, laughing, improving my Spanish, and learning all that I can from my students and team of teachers. I am incredibly thankful for this experience even when it seems impossible. There is a cycle of adaptation that is certainly real here. Bad days come, but there is always a good day that follows. I love you all and thank you for supporting me.
PS: If you want to send me a package, I will forever be grateful! I like hot sauce, Cheetos, peanut butter, protein, school supplies, books, old magazines, etc!
Here’s my mailing address again:
Cuerpo de Paz Colombia
Attn: Kellie A. Mahoney
Calle 77B # 57-141, Oficina 713
Centro Empresarial Las Americas
Make sure you cross the 7s and declare the value at $ 1. Make sure you keep the tracking number! ❤