Friday, February 13, 2015

First Impressions

Packing up all of my belongings for the third time in the past five months was bittersweet. I was extremely sad to be leaving my host family. Even though I had only lived with them for the last month and a half, I had come to really feel at home with them. They had opened up their home to me and welcomed me into their family with open arms. Granted, that's how things work here on the coast - another reason why leaving them was so hard.

However, at the same time, I was also excited. I was excited to finally be moving to my small town (aka pueblo) of Repelon to finally start my Peace Corps service. I was looking forward to meeting my new host family, to start integrating into my new community, and to start working at my new school. I was ready to finally have something to look forward to every day besides Netflix and another 200 pages of my latest book.

Fast forward a few days and I can tell everyone that I am getting settled into my new pueblo and so far, am enjoying the small town feel. Living in a small town is nothing new for me - my hometown in Iowa fluctuates between 3,000 and 4,000 people (depending on what source you trust). I'm used to not having every amenity at my beck and call. However, that's small town IOWA style, not small town COLOMBIA style. As I've come to realize already, there's a big difference.

The pueblo that I now call home, Repelon, is a small community of 8,000-10,000 people (no one really seems to know exactly how many people live here). It has four main paved roads, a church, hospital, and an amazing small town feel and spirit. I am living with an awesome family (so far, I’m batting 1.000 when it comes to Colombian host families!). My host mom, Elvira, stays at home and sells various items from her house (i.e. lunch, purses, etc.). One of the neighbors, Elijah David, is over at the house every day, helping her out with the household chores and other odds and ends around the house.

The house itself is more than I could possibly ask for! There are five bedrooms and two bathrooms inside the house itself – this doesn’t even include the rooms around the back patio. There are two kitchens – one inside and one out on the back patio. The kitchen outside is where I get to store my food in my very own full sized refrigerator (I’m telling you – I got amazingly lucky). My room, which includes a bathroom, is one of three other rooms outside that I think Elvira might rent out to others when space is needed. She’s currently in the process of putting in a new closet and mirror in my room to help make me feel more comfortable.

Outside of the amazing set-up, my host mom is also an amazing cook. So far, the meals that I have had are some of the best that I’ve eaten during my time here in Colombia. The best part of all is that I get them delivered to me IN. MY. ROOM. Even when I ask to eat with everyone else, I’m told to not worry about it and that I’m a guest. This is a nice gesture, but pretty soon, I’ll be eating with everyone else to help permeate that family feeling. Outside of my host parents, I also live with a host brother, Pablo, and a host sister and her son (I have yet to meet them as they are in Venezuela, but hopefully they’ll be back soon).

One of the main streets in Repelon
The main church
Front of my house
The outside kitchen (and my host mom on the right)
The outside of my room (with my very own table to eat at)
Beyond my living situation, the rest of small town life so far has been treating me well to this point. Besides the lack of running water (this in itself has shown me just how much water I actually do use and has made me more conscious about this) and WiFi at my house, it’s a very simple life. Days are spent sitting in the kitchen, carrying on discussions with my host mom and various other townspeople that come by the house. Evenings are filled with runs around the town (my goal is to be eventually known as “that kid that runs all the time”) and nightly talks on the patio in the front of the house.

I still haven’t quite had a chance to see what my life at school will be like. I’ve been to school twice, but have yet to see a class. This past week has been filled with various Carnaval celebrations and trainings in Barranquilla, so I have yet to really see what my classroom duties are going to be. But with observations set for the next two weeks, this will soon sort itself out and I’ll be able to get comfortable with what my role will be on a day to day basis. So far, all of the teachers and students have been very excited about my presence and I can’t wait to get to know them all so much better!

Las Reinas de Carnaval de John F. Kennedy
Trying my best to fit in...

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