I’m finally in my new home! I arrived Saturday morning and let me tell you, I’ve never been so nervous in my life. Not be dramatic, but the whole drive here, I felt like I was on my way to the Hunger Games (when I told my mom this, she responded “well you basically were!” This, ladies and gentlemen, is why I am the way that I am). However, my fears melted away with the the sight of a the big welcoming smile on my new host dad’s face as he showed me where to put my things and told me if I need anything at all, I shouldn’t be afraid to ask. I unpacked, took a nap and woke up to a yummy lunch. They insist in feeding me every meal and who am I to turn down food? I’m a little disappointed because I imagined myself hiking up mountains to get to school and sustaining myself on half a cup of rice and a small slice of fish a day. However, this is not the case and I am constantly having to explain to them that I do not need to eat 3 large potatoes with every meal. Slowly but surely they are discovering smaller portions. The town is so small and quiet and there is not a whole lot going on, however on Sunday my host dad (more like my host grandpa because he’s 74) took me to the “cancha” or soccer field to watch the local teams play. The games were exciting but my favorite parts were when they had to take a time out to catch the wild pigs, donkeys, dogs and cows that ran out on the field. I thought it was hilarious but no one else seemed to get the humor.
On Monday I woke up at the crack of dawn, literally because we have roosters, and walked over to my new school. There are two buildings on opposite ends of town, so they take about 5 minutes to walk in between them. I went to the primary building first because that’s where I heard the office was but the principal kindly told me that my English counterparts are in the secondary building. So I marched over and even though it was a short walk, I arrived absolutely drenched in sweat. Barranquilla is like Siberia compared to the heat that I’ve experienced here. I walked into a random classroom, interrupted a teacher and asked where the English room was. Lucky for me, I had picked the right room! I was introduced to the 9th grade class and then she took me around and introduced me to the other teachers who were all very welcoming. We went back to class and I got to know the students and we practiced some adjectives. It’s funny how even though they grew up thousands of miles apart, teenagers are all the same. They were shy and giggly at first but as they got comfortable, they crowded their desks around me and asked me questions about life in the States. After class, we walked over to the primary school where I met more staff (so many names!) and spent time in the principal’s office as it is the only place with AC. They just kept feeding me and giving me pop all morning. I’m going to leave here diabetic and weighing 400 pounds if this behavior continues. Regardless of the inevitable weight gain, I feel very lucky to have been placed in a small community where it is clear that everyone takes care of each other. The principal even asked me if I wanted one of the students to escort me home at the end of the day! I assured him I could make the 3 minute walk on my own. When I arrived home, my host family immediately bombarded me with questions as they wanted to make sure I had a good first day. I can’t express enough how friendly and caring everyone here is!
Ok so here are some of the logistics of my living situation. Rotinet, my town, is right off the high way on the way to Repelón, a bigger town of about 15,000. Technically, Rotinet belongs to Repelón and we don’t have our own mayor, hospital or police force even though we are about 30 minutes away. I have electricity! Hallelujah! Also, most of the time, I have running water that comes from a huge container that looks like a giant trash can. However, when the water level gets low, it won’t pump through the pipes and we have to go out and fill up a bucket. The water is mainly rain water or comes from the basin. It’s untreated so definitely not drinkable. I have a water filter provided by the Peace Corps and it’s already filled with algae. The electrical situation is a little dicey and after my first shower, I touched a loose wire and gave myself quite the shock. I had to lie down for a while after that but it was pretty funny. I no longer have my own bathroom which is obviously a bummer but not too big of deal because I only live with my 2 host parents. Their son lives down the road with his wife and 4 year old twin daughters so they are over often. I’m about a 15 minute walk away from the water and our town is surrounded by “mountains” that are really more like bluffs but I can pretend. It’s actually quite a beautiful view. I saw a trail on my walk yesterday that I’m pretty sure belongs to some cattle but never less I plan on exploring it this weekend. There’s never a lack of local “wild life” in the streets and it is not uncommon to see a dog chasing after a loose goat or pig. I’ve learned to distinguish the sounds between crying children, squealing pigs and screaming (?) donkeys. As I think I said earlier, the main industries in this town are fishing, farming and sand gathering for cement making. My school is called Agrocuicola which apparently means agricultural and fishing. The fishing teacher promises me to take me on the field trip where the kids learn to breed the fish and let them loose in the basin. Life certainly has changed but I’m confident that this change is for the better.
The Peace Corps had the foresight to realize we all might be a little traumatized after experiencing pueblo life and arranged a short training in Barranquilla to better equip us to work in rural settings. That’s all good and merry but I’m using this time to soak up as much AC and internet as I possibly can before I return home. This weekend is Carnaval and my counterpart promised to have something for me to wear so I can participate in the dances. We all know I dance like a white girl so wish me luck, friends! Sorry for the lack of pictures, next time, I promise! Whenever you’re feeling down, just remember that a lizard crawled out of my suitcase as I was unpacking, I’m not sure if he’s from Rotinet or if he hitched a ride all the way from Barranquilla. I’m becoming such a wilderness girl 🙂