martes, 27 de diciembre de 2011

Christmas in Colombia

Hope you all are enjoying your holidays!  Just thought I'd share a little bit about my Christmas here in Colombia. 

In Colombia they celebrate Christmas on the 24th and we arrived at the Christmas dinner at...drumroll please...10pm!   At every Colombian party I have been to we set up a lot of plastic chairs and sit in a big circle drinking and talking...although after awhile the dancing ensues! (Although not by me the boyfriend points which I reply that I have no idea how to dance!).  I have dubbed this the Colombian Circle.

At around 11:30 the presents were set under the tree and the sleeping children were woken to open them.  

The lovely host family I am living with were kind enough give me a few gifts as well...all accessories! They know me well :)  Check out the bling in my ears, on my ring finger and in my hair!

At midnight everyone stood and said a prayer and began to eat dinner.  We were the second people to leave the party and got home at 4am!  I'm not sure who has seen the Christmas Modern Family, but my sister-in-law told me that they made the whole show about people getting punk'd on Christmas in Colombia.  That tradition is actually about Dia de Los Inocentes on December 28th (April Fools Dayesque). HOWEVER, I will say that my host brother got me so good on Christmas Eve!!!  There's is another volunteer staying with a host family that is related to mine, so we see each other at family occasions.  He was at dinner with me and my host brother told us that it's tradition to sing the Colombian National Anthem at midnight.  Well, after a few drinks, I got quite excited about this because we all learned the Anthem to sing at our Swearing-In Ceremony.  So Mike and I start singing...and only Mike and I start singing!  No fair to punk the people who have no idea what's going on!!! But a good laugh was had by all...even us :)

On the 25th, after sleeping in quite a bit and talking with the family, most of the volunteers got together and had a Christmas potluck!  We all decided that it certainly didn't start feeling like Christmas till we were all together.  Everybody made amazing food and it was so nice to spend some time on Christmas with the gringos!  All of our host families couldn't figure out why we were all getting together on the 25th...Christmas for them was already over!

Hope you all are enjoying the holidays and I'll blog again soon :)

domingo, 25 de diciembre de 2011


When I first heard about the Peace Corps I was in high school and remember being truly struck by what a remarkable idea it was and what an amazing experience it could be.  However, I was quick to dismiss the thought of me joining the Peace Corps. I really and truly thought it was something I would never be capable of accomplishing, being barely brave enough to face high school each and every day.  Well, a lot has changed since high school (thank god!), and after pushing myself for years, living abroad and volunteering in many capacities around the world, after an application process of well over a year and training for two months here in Colombia, I've finally done it! December 14, 2001 I took the oath of a Peace Corps Volunteer, the same oath that the President takes at his swearing in, and accomplished a life-long dream.

Colombia was actually one of the first countries that Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in in 1961 shortly after Kennedy's memorable call to action. However, in 1981, due to safety concerns for the volunteers Peace Corps was forced to close the Colombia program.  After 30 years PC has started rebuilding the Colombia program here along the coast.  Two groups of Response Volunteers, volunteers who have already served their 2(+) years in other Peace Corps posts and have responded to a need the Peace Corps has, have worked hard to build the cornerstone of the TEL (Teaching English for Livlihoods) program.  However, the 22 of us who swore in together, were the first to do so in Colombia in 30 years!  This milestone also happened to align with the 50th anniversary celebration of the Peace Corps.  Due to all of these circumstances, we had the pleasure of having Stacy Rhodes, Peace Corps Chief of Staff, fly in from Washington to attend our swearing-in Ceremony.  Along with Stacy the Governor of the Department, the Mayor of Barranquilla, and the US Abassador were all in attendance. Kinda a big deal!

PC Country Director of Colombia, PC Chief of Staff, Governor of Atlantico, US Ambassador to Colombia, Mayor of Barranquilla, and RPCVolunteer who served in the very first group to Colombia
 Due to the many important political figures in the room and the growing interest in bilingualism in Colombia, there was quite the media presence!  There were several newspaper articles written about the ceremony and all of our smiling faces were on the television news as well! For any of you spanish speaking folk, feel free to check out this link from the biggest Barranquilla newspaper:

 Long story short, it was an amazing day and I could not be happier living and serving in Colombia.  I let the pictures of before and after the ceremony do the rest of the talking!

Front row seat!!

Traditional Colombia Folklore band that played the Colombian National Anthem (which all of us rocked if I do say so myself). One of the band members did an amazing version of the Star Spangled Banner using ONLY a leaf.  Seriously. Mind blowing, I know!

All of the host families were in attendance!  My mother is in the red dress and black shirt in the middle, my host brother is to the right and his lovely wife is sitting between me and him. Another volunteer, Mike is in the shirt and tie all the way to the left.  His host family and my host family are related...somos familiares!

Goofy pic : P
Well loved ones, once again thanks for reading!  We are on vacation for two weeks for the holiday season, although I volunteered to teach English classes during the vacation...I can't help it!  Starting on the 2nd of Jan. we have two more weeks of classes/training before I move to Cartagena on the 15th!

Lots of love.

domingo, 27 de noviembre de 2011

Thanksgiving and Final Site Placement!!!

This past Thursday was memorable to say the least!  It was an action packed day and at first it slipped my mind that it was Thanksgiving (Día de Acción de Gracias, if you will) until that first Happy Thanksgiving hug I received from a fellow trainee.  Peace Corps Colombia set up a special day for us from start to finish.  We started by visiting the famed Museo del Caribe all morning learning more about the costal areas and unique costal culture in Colombia.

This here is a traditional meeting place for elders of the community. It a beautiful structure in the shape of a tepee (sp?) only the top does not close off completely. It was left open to better commune with nature and also allow for shadows to tell time. (At least I'm pretty sure that's what the guide Spanish isn't that great, folks!) Only men were permitted to enter to discuss community issues and come to decisions, so, quite naturally, we kicked all the men out and took a picture.  (No disrespect, just sayin')

There was an amazing room dedicated to Gabriel García Márquez in the museum too.  The entire presentation about his life and works was this amazing picture and light show projected onto the walls.  Trippy!  The room was full of period pieces to 'set the mood' so to speak.  Here I am having entirely too much fun playing with a typewriter...


And here I am in front of a very famous image on the coast.  Before I moved to Colombia, during my diligent research phase (cough, cough), I read that Colombia is considered to have the purest Spanish outside of Spain. This made me quite happy considering I lived in Spain and still speak Spanish with a lisp! (To the frustration of our language professors) So I arrived in Barranquilla thinking that I had a leg up...which I quickly found out to be false! Although I'm told the Spanish spoken in the interior of the country is quite different and quite proper, the costeños here speak very, very quickly and cut off the ends of nearly every word as far as I can tell (typical of most coastal areas).  There's an expression here that speaks to this: comerse sus letras/sonidos.  Which means to eat your letters or sounds.  Furthermore, I don't know what they have against the letter 'd' but it just disappears at the end of words. For example, Pescado becomes pescao (that ao dipthong actually makes it a very portuguese sounding word) and raspado becomes raspao.  And if all of that didn't make the learning of 'costeñol' -the way los costeños speak español- hard enough, enter the slang.  If you don't use at least one slang word in every sentence, you simply are not speaking the language here on the coast!  It's been fun learning a lot of the slang and this image I'm sitting in front of is a compilation of some of the more popular expressions:

And now all of our Spanish Professors in front of the wall:

After the museo in the morning we went back to the Peace Corps. office to learn where we would be living for the next two years!!!  But more about that later...

After the site announcement we had a full-fledged American, with a bit of Latin infusion, Thanksgiving dinner!  Everybody who works at the office were amazing and all cooked something special to bring to to the party. In addition to the food, they all brought their was quite the cultural exchange ;)

And what Thanksgiving is complete without kicking back, ful lleno (translation: full full...seriously), for some football?  Yes, I hate football.  But it was an aircondioned room with a couch which seemed like the perfect place to take my tummy ache!

And now for the big announcement!  The reason I was so excited that I forgot it was Thanksgiving. So, where I will be living for the next two years completing my Peace Corps service...drumroll please..CARTAGENA!!!  Good, so now you can all start making your travel arrangements :)  I don't know much about my site, the school I will be working at, but I'm meeting with someone from the school this week and traveling back to Cartagena to get to know the school and the community a bit before officially completing training and moving Cartagena Jan. 15th.  So this will be our Peace  Corp crew in Cartagena:

Top Row: Kasper, Amanda, Me, Mike D, and Mike B
Second Row: Christina and Abby

I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving and the unofficial kickoff into the holiday season.  I had my first Skype date with my parents since moving to Colombia. They are out in Colorado visiting my brother and his lovely wife and it's made me so happy that can't help but share it. 

Peace Corps is making my sappy.  All that hippy love must be rubbing off on me or something.  Regardless, I hope you are all still as thankful as I am and are enjoying the holidays.  Thanks for thinking about me and reading the blog.  Miss you!

Pretty Pictures of Santa Marta

I know it's been awhile since I've updated the blog, but not having internet will do that to you!  So to make it up to all of you, I'll add lots of pretty pictures this go around :)

This is the amaaaaazing view (night time via the lens of a camera does it no justice) of a small town outside of Santa Marta called Rodadero.  I had the absolute pleasure of joining my host family as they visited their son in Santa Marta several weeks ago.  Their son has a one month old baby, so needless to say I was in heaven!

I never would have been able to experience Santa Marta if it weren't for the wonderful hospitality of not only my host family, the ones who signed up for taking care of a gringa, but their wonderful children and extended family.  I am incredibly lucky! Speaking of experiencing Santa Marta, we went up into the Sierra Nevada's a little bit and pulled of into this amazing paradise to spend the afternoon swimming in a pool and frolicking in the river! Once again, playing with kids the whole day. Perfect!


And you'll have to excuse the general disorder of my appearance, but I was underprepared for this trip to say the least!  But here I am dipping my toes into the Caribbean Sea for the first time in Colombia.

So now I've seen, and by this blog so have you you, the three potential cities that I will be living in for the next two years.  Stay tuned for the next post to find out where my final destination in Colombia will be!!

jueves, 3 de noviembre de 2011


Hola a todos! 

So this blog is going to be easy on the eyes seeing as I just got back from Cartagena where several of us trainees went to visit Peace Corps Response Volunteers who have been working with several schools in the area. Peace Corps Response Volunteers are Volunteers who have already served their two years (and then some in most cases) who Peace Corps has then contacted to step up in times of need.  Many Response Volunteers actually came for the major flooding that Colombia has been experiencing and are now working as English Teachers in Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta. 

This quick 1 day, 2 night trip was exactly what we needed!  A break from all the typical classwork we've been doing in Barranquilla and another adventure into the public school system!  We encountered very energetic students and teachers for the most part which is very encouraging for the work that we'll be doing.  So about 9 out of our group of 23 will be following up the work that the Response Volunteers have been doing and the rest will be starting our own programs in January.  Stay tuned for lots more about that later.  As for now, just look at the pretty pictures:

And, it was a good friend's birthday, so of course we made some time to learn a little bit about the night life in Cartagena too!

Miss you all so much! Thanks for taking the time to read my blogs, by the way, it really does mean a lot!



School Visit

So sorry to disappoint.  I know last time I said that I was talk move about the culture a bit, but we ended up visiting our first school last week that I wanted to show you all pictures of :)

Our group of 23 Peace Corps trainees down here were divided up and we went to 4 different schools that ministry of education had chosen as exceling in their bilingual programs. We definitely got a welcome we didn't deserve!

So after being welcomed like royalty, eating amazing food, watching beautiful dances, listening to incredible music, and learning more about the history and culture of Barranquilla from all the students K-11th Grade (The last school year before University) we then went into a smaller room with just the older students and answered questions and did a few fun English activities. We even taught some yoga as a cultural exchange. Yoga's not very popular here at all, but whenever I mention yoga, people are interested.  The students loved learning a few poses :)

Well, that's enough for one post!  Suffice to say we are all really excited to get out of training and into the schools! Hope you all are doing well and hope to get another blog up soon about my trip to Cartagena! 


domingo, 23 de octubre de 2011

Settling In

Hey y'all!

So, it feels much longer, but I've officially been with my host family for one week now! It's great because they're the parents of one of the Colombian staff memeber who works in the Peace Corps office.  They love the Peace Corps and it cuts down on my having to explain technical things in Spanish :)  Here is their son with his (pregnant) wife and young son...all named Alberto!

Things have been going really well down here! I live really far away from our 'school' where we are doing our language lessons and training and am the only one who doesn't have somebody in the Peace Corps living near them, but I'm trying get out and learn the city...would be easier with a map!!

So far its just long days during our three month training program.  The first part of the day is spent in language class that we were divided into based on ability.  Totes in the upper half of the PC group based on language ability (whoo-hoo!), but turns out no where near as good/prepared as I thought I was (awwww).We also have Saturday classes together (see above picture!).  It's *insane* how much my Spanish has improved in just a week! 

The second half of the day, Monday-Friday, is dedicated towards TEFL (Teaching English as a Foriegn Language) training, lectures from the PC Doctor, Security training classes, and any other bits of information they can throw at us.  Right now the PC Office is trying to figure out where each of us will be going in mid January for our permanent site!  Looking forward to knowing where I will be spending the next two years of my life and settling into a home a bit more. 

I haven't been able to get out too much in Barranquilla to hang out with friends and explore the city but loving the times that I'm able too!

This is how a gringa rolls this close to the equator: SPF 100 and and umbrella to block the sun at all times!

Okay.  Enough about me.  Hope you all are doing well and the next entry will be more about Barranquilla and the culture here (get excited!!)