Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Results Are In...

Stress is one of those things that's unavoidable. It comes in all shapes and sizes and presents itself at the most inopportune times in ones life. Whether it's making decisions like where/when to buy a new house/car or deciding on what to eat for breakfast, stress constantly rears its nasty little head in our daily lives.

To say that our PCT group has been feeling slightly stressed this past week and a half would be a grand understatement. This past Friday, we received our site placements and the tension was pretty high leading up to those big announcements. To help us try and relieve some of that pent up stress, we partook in some "de-stressing" activities...

Paintballing Like A Boss

Last Saturday, following our morning training, a group of us headed out to a paintball course on the outskirts of Barranquilla for a friendly, stress-reducing round of paintball. Here's the catch - I have never once played this game in my life. The thought of being shot at with little pellets of paint has honestly never really sounded appealing to me. I'm also not the biggest fan of purposing inflicting pain on myself or others, so I've honestly done my best to avoid this all together. But I figured that I'm in a new country, so might as well try out some new things.

So 16 gringos piled onto a bus and headed out of town. We weren't sure where we were going and found out while on the bus that we were going to have to walk about 20 minutes from where the bus was going to drop us of at. No big deal minus the fact that as we disembarked from the bus, it started to pour. As our luck would have it, it poured for the entirety of our walk and then stopped when we reached the paintball place. Typical.

We got changed, geared up, and I attempted to psych myself up and convince myself that this was actually a good idea and that I wasn't going to die or walk away with some horribly inflicted flesh wound. We were given a safety briefing, had the rules laid out, divided up into teams, and headed out in the course. The course that we played on was multi-leveled with a plethora of obstacles and barriers. The game itself was actually a lot of fun. You were officially out when you got hit twice or ran out of ammo. The first go around, I took a paintball to the eye (luckily my helmet and eye shield prevented any major optical damage) and one to the upper thigh, courtesy of Christopher. Needless to say, I didn't make it to the end of that game and neither did my team.

The second team was a bit more competitive. I never got hit, but ran out of ammo about halfway through the game. We ended up losing that game as well, but all in all, it was a lot of fun. It also really helped us blow off some steam and think about something other than the upcoming site placements. I'm really hopeful that we'll be able to play this again before we all split up and head off to our respective sites.

First soccer. Now paintball. What is Colombia doing to me??

Secret, Personal Encouragers

Another thing that we did as a group was to assign every member a secret, personal encourager. Jessi had this awesome idea and it really helped qualm a lot of stress throughout the group. Basically, this was just like Secret Santa - everyday, every member of our group received a little gift (bus money, food, encouraging note, etc.) to help them get through the week. At the end of the week, we all stood around in a circle and revealed who we had by stating positive qualities that they possessed. My secret encourager was Barbara and she did a great job of staying hidden and unknown all week. I was surprised when she revealed herself Friday!

Site Announcements

Friday finally came with lots of anticipation and nervous energy. Everyone was anxious to find out where they would be spending the next two years of their lives. We weren't scheduled to find out until 3:30 pm, which seemed like poor torture. We did our best to pay attention to the sessions being presented to us, but it was difficult. I'm pretty sure that a 2 year olds have longer attention spans than we did sitting through those sessions. Finally, the last session ended and we all headed out to the concha where we eat lunch to find a circle of chairs all ready for us.

Olga and the rest of the training staff arrived right around 3:30 and the selection began. Olga, our Project Manager, briefly explained the process that she used to place us and reminded us all the we took a "leap of faith" by joining the Peace Corps. This was a great reminder to have. Instead of just going in alphabetical order, our group decided to mix up all of the folders that held our future fates and use a random drawing method. I was the fourth person selected.

As I got up to receive my folder, Olga announced the entire group that I would be staying in Barranquilla, working at IED El Campito! I couldn't have been any happier! Staying in Barranquilla is what I really wanted. I was hoping for my practicum school, but it turns out that they didn't receive a Peace Corps volunteer at all. As everyone received their placements, some were met with screams (Alex and Caleb), shock (Caitlin), and just overall pure joy (Mike). This massive stress that had been weighing on all of us for the last 7 weeks was finally lifted!

Super stoked to stay here in Barranquilla!!

Gonna miss this two when they go off to their pueblos, but I can't wait to visit!
Midwest connections staying in Barranquilla!

True to form, we headed out from training ready to tear up the town! We grabbed drinks and grub at Perrilla and then spent the rest of the night mingling with other current volunteers, finding out more about our future sites, and enjoying everyone's company! With only 4 weeks left of training, these large group opportunities are dwindling. I know that I've said this multiple times before, but I have been so blessed to be surrounded by such an amazing group of people. We have honestly become a close knit family and it's going to be really sad when we all split and head our separate ways. However, the furthest anyone will be is about 2 hours, which in the Peace Corps world is a blessing!

This next week is going to be a blur, as we have a conference with our new counterparts on Monday and Tuesday, then head to our sites Tuesday afternoon through Thursday morning. There is a lot of new things to learn and embrace and I couldn't be more excited to start this new chapter! My list of cities to visit has been expanded by a few this past weekend. Honestly, I wouldn't want to have it any other way...

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