So I just want to give everyone a quick update of what the last two days have been like for me. The flight to Miami was really early but uneventful. From there we were able to grab a quick empanada before we had to get to the conference room for Staging. Staging was pretty much what I expected. We did a lot of ice breakers, and reviewed important Peace Corps principles such as the 3 goals, 10 core expectations and approach to safety (if you’re interested in what those are, you can google them). Our staging director did a good job of making this engaging, and I felt like it was a great opportunity to get to know the other volunteers in my cohort. There are 29 of us, but I already know everyone’s name and I feel like I’ve had the chance to speak personally with and get to know everyone at least a little.
After staging, I took a much needed shower and the Peace Corps gave us money to go out to dinner. We went to this amazing Cuban restaurant and I had vaca frita (a dish of caramelized onions and shredded beef that I had heard about on Food Network and always wanted to try). The food was so good and the restaurant did a great job of accommodating our large group. It was nice to get a little taste of Miami.
The next day, we left for the airport at 6:30am. It seemed a little crazy since our flight wasn’t until 11:00, but when we got there, we realized that 29 people with massive (sometimes overweight) suitcases take a long time to check in. Nevertheless, we were at the gate extremely early. The flight was quick and uneventful.
When we finally arrived in Barranquilla, we had to wait in a long line to go through customs. As I got further along in the line, I started to hear random outbursts of joyful cheering in the distance. An official joked that Shakira was at the airport. Of course, my gullible self believed him for a second, but I was confused when it kept happening. I asked another official, “¿por qué gritan?” and his response was “alegría por ver a sus seres queridos (joy from seeing their loved ones).” When I got outside, I realized that the joy was for us! There was a huge group of current Peace Corps volunteers and Peace Corps staff greeting us with signs, cheers and hugs. It was a really nice welcome.
At the hotel, they had decorated our doors with our names and gave us cute goody bags with Colombian candies and teaching supplies. They also have been hanging out with us a lot and giving us advice based on their experiences. I really appreciate all of the work they put into it. At the hotel, we had more ice breakers and an intro to what the next few days will look like. We have two more days here at the hotel where we will go over safety, figure out how to get money, and get vaccinated (among other things). Then on Saturday, we get to meet our host families! I’m really excited about that and have been really enjoying Colombia so far and getting to know my fellow volunteers. I can’t wait to get out of the hotel and do some exploring!
If I had to describe packing up to leave the country for 2 years, I’d say it’s pretty much like plummeting down a rabbit hole trying to grab for my belongings and the people I love while I still can. I’d like to say it’s a little easier this time around since I’m somewhat experienced at packing for long trips, but that also makes it harder since I can remember everything I missed while studying in Peru (what a rookie mistake traveling to South America without bringing any hot sauce!). Now I’m in the process of deciding which comforts of home I will bring and what I will be able to live without. With just 1 suitcase and 1 backpack, there will definitely be things I will have to leave out.
Some key things I will be bringing:
Sriracha, chili powder, chipotle seasoning, chipotle tabasco– Just because I’ll be south of the border doesn’t mean everything will be spicy! Most South American countries are pretty wimpy with spice.
Lots of makeup-While there are plenty of white people in Colombia, I still can’t expect my extra-ginger shades to be readily available. We don’t want a repeat of the Peruvian eyebrow pencil incident of 2012…
Head Lamp, Surge Protector, Power Bank-Apparently the electricity in small town Colombia can be a little spotty. Gotta be prepared!
Battery operated fan, weird cooling do-rag thing from REI-With a heat index consistently into the 100’s, I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that I will always be “that sweaty gringa”. I’m hoping these items will provide some relief from the stifling heat.
6 XL bars Secret Clinical deodorant, 1 Bottle perfume-In Ecuador, I hated always smelling like sunscreen, sweat, and 100% DEET bug spray when the locals all smelled so fresh and clean. Don’t worry Colombia, this time around, I’ll be smelling like sunscreen, sweat, bug spray AND Marc Jacob’s Daisy Dream. ¡Qué sexy!
Fancified Crocs-It’s not an oxymoron!! They have some cute flats these days! Ok… decide for yourself… as my best friend says, “Crocs are Crocs,” but apparently they’re popular in Colombia. Plus, what else am I supposed to wear when it’s pouring and the streets are flooded and I have to get to work?
If your interested in what else I’m bringing, my full packing list will be in the top menu.
With just 8 days left until departure, I’m definitely feeling the pressure of trying to savor everything (and everyone) while I still can. That last Bears game, last visit with Grandma, last yoga class with mom, last Chipotle burrito, last hot tub with dad… It’s definitely an emotional roller coaster, but I know it will all be worth it. As you can see, I’m crazy busy with packing and preparations (and I’ll still be subbing a few days this week), but I welcome anyone who wants to stop by and send me off before Tuesday. If not, there will be many ways to keep in touch with me and, of course, I’ll be back before you know it!