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!