Thursday, September 4, 2014

My Home Away From Home

Throughout my copious amount of traveling over the years, I've been blessed with some pretty amazing living arrangements. Home stays with families in Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Spain helped make those experiences as memorable as they were. The kindness and generosity that each of those families showed me during my time in their country has stayed with me to this day. So far, those same sentiments have followed me to my experience here in Colombia.

Last Saturday (August 30), all 33 trainees were finally united with the families that we will be staying with for the next 3 months. We were given brief bios about our families before we actually met them to help give us an idea of who we would be living with. Needless to say that anticipation and excitement levels were at an all time high as our future families were distributed to each of us. I received mine and found out that I would be living with Agripina (Pina) Acevedo, her husband Erick Salazar, who is a fashion professor at a local university here in Barranquilla, and their son, Jeffer, who is studying Mechanical Engineering. As the time came to meet our host families, we packed our bags and headed down to the lobby, anxious for the big moment.

My host mom was actually one of the first ones to arrive at the hotel! We were introduced to each other, completed a short little "Getting To Know You" exercise, and then headed to my new home! We hailed a cab and had a nice discussion in the taxi about our likes and dislikes. I informed her that my Spanish is still a work in progress and she immediately understood and did her best to make sure that when she talked to me, I understood! It was a great taxi ride in which we both got to know each other a little bit better.

We arrived at the house after a bit of a perilous drive (I'll be giving more detail about the driving in my next post), unloaded my bags, and headed up the stairs. My house is situated on the corner of Calle 54 (Street 54) and Carrera 37 ("Roadway 37). For the most part, the streets that run east-west are the "calles" and those that run north-south are the "carreras". This actually makes navigating around the city a lot easier, even though it's not a perfect grid like one might hope for. My piso (house) is located above a tienda (store - very similar to a small convenience store), which is nice because if I'm ever hungry or need something really quick, I can just head downstairs and grab what I need.

After I got the grand tour of the house (see pictures below), I unpacked my bags and took a 4 hour nap (which was much needed!). The heat here in Barranquilla takes a toll on everyone pretty quickly. When I woke up, I was introduced to my host father and host brother, both of whom were very welcoming and excited to have me in their house. I'm the first person that Pina and family has ever hosted. They have friends that have hosted and are currently hosting other Peace Corps members, so they are somewhat familiar with the program and whatnot. Later that evening, I was treated to my first meal, which was delicious! Sadly, I do not remember what it was, just that I absolutely loved it!

Mi cuarto (bedroom)! Those two gigantic windows are a blessing in disguise!
La sala (living room) that is literally just for show - no one uses this...ever
El comedor (dining room table) that is more of a holder of cups and glasses than a place to eat at
La cocina (I eat at the counter while Pina stands and talks to me)
"Spare" room that leads out to the patio where the dogs, Pipo and Tommy, live
Calle 54 and Carrera 37 - normally there are always cars, buses, and motorcycles zooming about
I have been blessed so far with an awesome family! They have really been understanding in regards to my up and coming Spanish abilities and have done everything that they can to help me feel welcome. I went for a run with my host brother Monday and hope to continue that in the coming months. Pina makes some of the best food around. Plus, she found out that I love mashed potatoes and grilled ham and cheese and has thrown those in for a few meals to help remind me of home! Of course, she's also cooking the normal Colombian food, which is absolutely awesome! But it's always nice to have a little taste of home every now and then.

I can already tell that my Spanish is getting better and I'm feeling more at ease speaking and communicating. I'm still having trouble always using the right tenses, but I'm able to get my point across, which at this stage is the most important thing. Tidying up those mechanical errors will come with more practice. I'm so excited to be living here and can't wait to see what the next three months hold! I can already tell that it's going to be hard to leave in November...

My host mom, Pina, and I! She had to go do her hair and put on earrings before taking this picture - she's phenomenal!