First update as an official Peace Corps Trainee! The last few days have been a complete whirlwind and I still haven’t wrapped my head around the fact that I’m going to be in Ecuador for the next 27 months. I am writing this blog post from the top bunk in my room full of girls at the Peace Corps Training Center in Tumbaco, which as far as I can tell is a little town on the outskirts of Quito. We don’t have any wireless or internet connection here but there is an internet café down the road so my plan is to save this blog post onto my flash drive and post it later.
My journey started at the crack of dawn on Tuesday when I flew from DC to Miami for staging. I was a crazy delirious mess after staying up all night packing, but I made it to the hotel in Miami where the entire Peace Corps training group was meeting for the first time. We spent the entire day in a conference room in the hotel doing basic Peace Corps orientation activities, which obviously involved tons of icebreaker games, standing in circles and talking about our hopes and dreams, and skits about the core expectations of the Peace Corps. It was pretty rough after not getting much sleep, but I survived! The next morning we loaded our collective 12 thousand pounds of luggage onto a bus and were off to the Miami airport for our flight to Ecuador! The Peace Corps puts pretty strict weight and size restrictions on our luggage which was pretty traumatizing when packing because I couldn’t fit everything I’ve ever owned into a suitcase, a backpack, and a duffel…but after maneuvering through the Miami airport with all of it I realized there is no way I’d make it with even an extra pound. It was so painful. Luckily I survived that, too!
We landed in Quito around 6:30, right as it was getting dark, so I couldn’t see very much of the city. We were met by PC staff and loaded onto a bus to the training center in Tumbaco. We met all the staff, ate dinner, and explored the training center, which has all sorts of artwork and relics from Peace Corps Volunteers past and present. It’s a really cool complex with a giant open courtyard in the middle, a few rooms with bunk beds, a kitchen, and classrooms. This is where we’ll have all our training classes over the next 11 weeks, but we’re just staying here until our host families come to pick us up on Saturday. I stayed up for a while chatting with my fellow Peace Corps Trainees and set my alarm for 6am so I’d have time to shower before breakfast at 7, but it turned out I didn’t even need the alarm! I was awoken around 5:30 by a deafening symphony of roosters, cows, and dog fights and ready to face the day! The day was spent in a series of 1-2 hour sessions on safety, health, and various Peace Corps policies and rules, broken up by rabies vaccinations and health and language interviews. Such a long day! My favorite part by far were the language/culture classes because they are taught by Ecuadorians whose main job is to teach us how to act in public without making a scene and/or embarrassing disgrace of ourselves. So far I’ve learned never to point at anyone and if I point at my elbow it means I’m accusing the person next to me of being cheap and/or narcissistic. For now we choose which language class to put ourselves into (beginner/intermediate/advanced) but our language interviews will determine which level we belong in. I put myself in the intermediate class so hopefully the language people will not demote me.
Saturday our host families will come to fetch us, which I’m a little nervous about because my Spanish skills are very rusty but I’m excited to have a real bed instead of a bunk bed. We will spend the weekend with our families then come back to the training center bright and early Monday to resume classes. They told us our families will be anywhere from a 5-40 minute bus ride from the training center, which is a little scary because I have no idea how to navigate the Ecuadorian transit system. I have a feeling Monday morning will be an epic adventure.
So far everyone has been super nice, the food has been good, and I’ve only had to take one freezing cold shower where the water shut off halfway through, so I’m going to label the first few days a success! I’m excited to see more of the country, we are a little isolated in the training center (literally…we are surrounded by giant walls with barbed wire, plus 24/7 guards) so I can’t wait to get out and start exploring. In the next few weeks I will be getting a cell phone and hopefully more reliable internet connection, and I’m really looking forward to becoming more comfortable with the language and culture. ALSO today I cuddled with a bunch of stray dogs and ate mystery meat from a street vender and I’m still alive…I figured I might as well get all the diseases out of the way early so I don’t have to live in fear. So far, so good!! I’ll update again soon.