Monday, September 1, 2014

PST, PCV's, and A Myrid of Acronyms

One thing that we've all come to find out during the first few days in Colombia is that the Peace Corps (like any government agency) uses a lot of acronyms - like an abusrdly large amount! I'm going to keep track off all of them in a separate page called "PCV Lingo," so be sure to refer to that when you get confused!! All of these acronyms and more information were thrown our way from the time that we landed in country. Those first few days at the Hotel were filled with long days of mandatory tasks, including:

- Medical Interviews, in which all of the information that we sent to Washington D.C. months and months ago was verified for accuracy, while also attaining some more, basic information about each of us

- Host Family Interviews gave us the opportunity to discuss with the HFC what our preferences for our family for the next three months are

- The Language Test (LPI) was conducted to help divide us into appropriate language classes that we will be in for the entirety of PST. We were each assigned one of 3-4 certified teachers that administered a simple conversation to properly assess where our Spanish abilities are at this point in time. We will have two more LPI's during PST to make sure that we are making the necessary progress.

- The other stations included filling out some forms to help establish our bank accounts, finalizing some immigration paperwork so that we could be issued our Colombian ID's, receiving our first "walk around" allowance for the next two weeks, starting more immunizations (Hep. A, Influenza, Rabies, and Typhoid), being issued our rechargeable, T-9 WORD cell phones that none of us have used since middle school, and giving a small blood sample to determine our blood type.

All of these tasks were accompanied by talks about some basic security measures that we should be aware of, a brief history and overview of the Peace Corps from our CD, George, some basic medical information from Charro, our PCMO, and other "Welcome to the country" shenanigans. Overall, it was an exhausting few days filled with important information that we all managed to probably forget!

One thing that I have found that's been pretty cool is a group of people that are runners! Everyday while we stayed at the hotel, I was up by 6:30 am (yes, that's right - I'm slowly turning into a morning person) and participated in a daily run to the Peace Corps Office and back. They each lasted about 30 minutes and were a good way to see some of the city that we couldn't see from the hotel. There is also a small group of us that are talking about training for a full marathon that will be held in the area next September 2015! I'm determined to finally check that goal off of my bucket list!

Another thing that we experienced was one of the first really, really heavy rains of the season! Apparently, it's been over a year since this area last had rain, so our group was the good luck charm! Now these heavy rains can lead to some pretty dangerous situations. The drainage systems here in Barranquilla are not necessarily the best. When the rains come, flash floods (or arroyos, as they are called here) fill many of the streets, making travel perilous and almost impossible. While no arroyos occurred in front of the hotel, we were treated to quite a spectacular thunder and lightning show. Made me miss the storms of the Midwest!

Finally, not all that we did at the hotel was lecture upon lecture! We were able to experience some Colombian nightlife both Thursday and Friday nights! We ended up at an outdoor club on Thursday for our first true taste of what life in Barranquilla is life after dark. Well, sort of. It appears that no one really goes out in Colombia until Saturday night. So we were literally the only ones in the bar (both nights) - a large group of about 30 gringos and gringas (the term that Colombians use for Americans, not the derogatory term used in other Spanish speaking countries), with virtually no Colombians in sight!. Needless to say, we were quite the spectacle, tearing up the dance floor to some traditional Colombian music and familiar hits from the states. All in all, it was a great couple of nights out from the hotel!

Robert and I
Erica, Caleb, and I
Making a scene and having some fun!