I am so excited to say that after YEARS of applications, medical exams, interviews, paperwork, anxiety attacks, and endless waiting, I have finally been sworn in as a real life Peace Corps Volunteer.
The ceremony was beautiful and Peace Corps did a great job of making us feel special. My host moms from both Tumbaco and San Vicente also came and made me feel even more special!
It was a perfect end to an amazing 11 weeks in Tumbaco.
At 5am on Thursday I lugged my 4 thousand pounds of luggage to the bus terminal in Quito, said a lot of sad and delirious goodbyes to my fellow volunteers, and embarked on the 8-hour journey to my new home.
I’ve spent the vast majority of my time here so far with my host family and their entire extended family, which is great. I’m lucky because my family has like 74 children in it, and kids are way more fun to hang out with than adults because they play games with me and use simple language. I’m going to go ahead and say I’ve spent about 80% of my time in San Vicente so far playing variations of soccer, basketball, volleyball, tag, and monkey in the middle…PLUS I taught them how to play kickball, which I’m pretty proud of. Explaining sports in a language that you are not fluent in isn’t easy. It took a lot of trial and error. By the end I had what looked like a pretty normal game of kickball going on, except when one person kicked the entire team ran with that person to every base. I decided I have to choose my battles, and this was not one.
On my first day here we all went to the beach together, and I unintentionally agreed to allow the children to bury me in the sand because I did not know the spanish verb “to bury” (enterrar. you’re welcome.).
…it’s been 3 days and I still have not managed to get all of the sand out of my ears.
On Saturday I went to the annual “festival del cangrejo” (crab festival) in the rural community my host mom grew up in, Salinas. It’s a really big deal here and my host family had family members from all over the country come into town for it. There were also charter buses from other cities that came in with hoards of people, which was surprising because Salinas literally consists of one road with houses on either side, one school, and one health center.
Students from San Vicente’s high school marched in a parade playing excerpts from various Daddy Yankee songs on drums and xylophones, so that was pretty exciting.
There was also a confusing but wildly popular event in which they put a bunch of crabs in a giant bucket and filled it with beer (pilsener, obviously) to get them drunk. Then they emptied out the crabs onto the concrete and cheered as the disoriented and drunk crabs meandered around, waving their claws in the air. They called it a race but I asked a lot of people and no one was able to tell me where the start and finish lines were. After a while the crabs were all gathered up, cooked, and eaten. I guess there was no winner in this race…except maybe the spectators, because the crabs were DELICIOUS (sorry, PETA).
Overall the event was fun but a little overwhelming because we were there for 8+ hours and it was 12 thousand degrees outside. I felt like I was 9 years old again and my parents were dragging me to various booths at the folklife festival in DC in the middle of August. However, I did eat some delicious crabs and empanadas, and played many hours of basketball with the neighborhood kids. They didn’t have a basketball hoop, so we made our own by tying a bucket to a wooden pole. It’s the little things.
I was also able to take a break from Spanish over the weekend by going to an English trivia night at a bar in Bahia, the town across the bay from San Vicente, with the three other volunteers who live there. Bahia is kind of like a little America in that there are SO MANY AMERICANS living there, and also there are luxurious things like pizza and hamburgers and running water. I met at least four people from DC alone the one evening I was there. It was really great to get out and speak English for a bit, but I’m going to need to limit my time there if I ever want to learn Spanish and become a part of my community. Let’s go, willpower!!
For the first few months I’m here my job is going to be getting to know my community and figuring out what work needs to be done. Tomorrow I’m visiting a few schools and a home for people with disabilities with someone from my organization to see about the possibility of starting organic gardens there. I also started doing a 5k training program with my host mom and her sister every morning because they know I like to run and they want to start being more active. I think I’m going to be spending a lot of time winging it, smiling and nodding, unknowingly agreeing to do things, and running around with kids until I can get a better grasp on Spanish and figure out my role within my organization. Fake it till you make it, right!??!