Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2 Month Rewind

So it seems that the attitude of coastal relaxation has affected me more than I thought! Here is a brief summary of the events of the last two months!


In early October, the first installment of Camp HERO (a leadership camp designed for boys between the ages of 13 and 15) was held in Minca, a pueblo outside of Santa Marta, in the Sierra Nevadas. HERO is an acronym for Health, Equality, Respect, and Outreach. During this weekend camp, a total of 25 boys from the various sites where male Peace Corps volunteers serve gathered together to participate in workshops, activities, and community service projects that helped strengthen their capacity to lead in their own communities. For many of the boys, this was their first visit to the mountains or even outside of their pueblo. It was an amazing weekend filled with new friends, improved skill sets, and new experiences.

Read this article by one of the other counselors, Danny, to get an idea of what the boys did during the camp.

Showing off all of the garbage collected that was around Minca!
All the campers
The boys having fun at the waterfall
The greatest success of the camp - the campfire and s'mores
My 29th birthday

I celebrated another year of life on November 1. The members of my community class surprised me with a small party at one of the local clubs in town, where one of my students works. The even was complete with balloons, streamers, and lots of smiling faces. The celebration included drinks, food, cake, and of course, dancing! I was finally given lessons on how to actually dance champeta, cumbia and vallenato. Although I'm still not even close to being as good as my students, it was a great evening spent with some of the most important people to me here in the pueblo.

I am beyond blessed to be able to teach these amazing human beings!

Thanksgiving is a very American holiday. Trying to explain to my Colombian students, teachers and community members the meaning of this holiday was a bit of a challenge, since they really have no holiday with which they can relate to. Since this is also a holiday which is marked by family and a lot of food, we decided to have a CII-6 Thanksgiving on the beach. This get together also marked our one year anniversary since we swore we as official volunteers, so it was twice as special. We rented an apartment and some other rooms in a resort in St. Veronica, a small pueblo on the beach. Everyone pitched in with the making of the food and desserts and the spread was amazing! That night, we played some games as a group and really enjoyed everyone´s company. Although we could not be with our real families on holiday, we made due!

The view for our Thanksgiving feast
The spread - such good food!
The dessert table was also delicious!
The group!

Graduation ceremonies was held in late November at my school. Not only did we celebrate the completion of classes for the 11th graders, but we also included the adult "11th" graders who have been taking classes at night. These students are students who did not graduate from high school during their first time through and returned to complete their education. In total, about 50 students received their diplomas and other certificates commenerating this important milestone in their lives. Tears were shed. Songs were sung. Photographs were taken. It was a nice ceremony and marked the official end of my first year of school in Colombia!

With some of the students in 11th grade in their last official day of school
11th grade students ready to graduate!
The adult students all settled in!
The proud owners of their new diplomas! Congratulations all!
That's a brief recap of some of the events here in the last couple of months. It is still hard for me to comprehend some days that I have successfully completed more than half of my service in the Peace Corps. With school not set to start again until late January, I have been spending time getting things ready for next year and doing some traveling. Look forward to a future post detailing my recent time with my parents!