Heading Home: What to Even Say?

ColombianFlagSelfieIt’s been an experience. For someone who’s never travelled alone until this trip, I’ve done a lot of new things on my own. I’ve also never been happier than when I saw Brian’s taxi arrive at the AirBnB in Cartagena and I knew the alone part was over!

The volunteering was really great – and really hard. I have a lot of respect for all teachers, and day care workers and babysitters. And parents. But day care workers? Wow. 26 2 year olds. In 33 degree heat and humidity and no air conditioning. Impressed. Next steps? Knowing I will never be a child care worker but still love to play with kids and having the utmost respect for those who do that every day.

The home stay was also great. Warm and welcoming people and a different world for me. I definitely got to use my limited Spanish. Next steps? Spanish classes or a tutor back in Toronto. I went to a couple of language exchange meet-ups, in Cartagena and Medellin, and will seek those out in Toronto now.

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Ending on a high note

My last few days of volunteering have definitely not been boring! The kids don’t even know it’s my last week, but they are still making life fun!

Things that have happened this week:

  • A little girl threw up all over herself and the little boy sitting next to her – fortunately they were outside. They do have a shower here to wash them when these things happen! I didn’t know! The little boy was sitting there with puke on him for a few minutes when I finally took him and washed it off his legs. No one noticed lol. The little girl was still seated for lunch. She didn’t eat.
  • A little boy peed himself and continued to sit in it looking at himself until someone noticed and took him to the shower. He did the same thing the next day only he was standing outside. Just stood looking at the wet ground until someone took him away. He did it again today. Is this a hat trick?
  • A little girl tried to bite me.
  • Massive food fights in the cafeteria (I cheated though because that happens every day)

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Spanish Lessons

Part of the reason I came here was to improve my Spanish. With the volunteer program, I signed up for a week of lessons. That week is still not complete.

I have now been here for 2 weeks + 2 days. I honestly thought I would have Spanish lessons each day after volunteering for the first week. Why did I think that? Because that was what was written out in my volunteer plan.  Things don’t work the way they’re supposed to – I have definitely learned that.

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No Sugarcoating

So I don’t want you to think this is all a bed of roses and I am handling all the differences with no problems. I have had some setbacks along the way.

I’ve gotten lost twice, and it’s highly likely I will get lost again. So much of Cartagena looks a lot the same to me. The inner barrios are full of short apartment blocks mixed in with stores and restaurants. The stores and restaurants sometimes look like homes as well. Probably because they are or were at some point.

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Volunteer Duty

So I have been volunteering at the institution for over a week and gotten into a bit of a routine.

Surprisingly there are no other full time volunteers. About once a week a couple of Europeans will drop by for a few hours, never to be seen again. They are with another organization whose name I haven’t caught but I am surprised they don’t return or that no one else is volunteering here.

I usually get to the institution around 8:30am. I have tried to arrive earlier but haven’t seen a bus between 730-8am so gave up on that.  The bus I need comes around 8am or after so that’s what I take.

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Roll with it 

It’s been a little crazy the last 2 days because my host family just moved. Yes, I know! I got to their place on Monday night, stayed two nights and then was moved to another family’s house to stay while the first family moved. It sounds complicated.  Maybe it is.

So Wednesday night I stayed with the volunteer coordinator, Libary, and her family. Then last night we were told the new place my family moved to still didn’t have ac so could I stay another night? Roll with it Melinda!

This is my new mantra to myself. Part of my reason for coming here was to hopefully change some things about myself, even a little. One of those is my lack of patience. Another is my need to be in control. So here we go! I tend to like having a plan and sticking to it. haha. Roll with it. This isn’t that bad.

So I am now in the new house but it doesn’t have wifi. So short post now via my phone and my local data plan. I also can’t take a shower because my towel is at Libary’s house with some of my other things since I stayed there for 2 nights.

To focus on tbe positive here!

1. The negative is really not that bad! I always had a place to sleep!

2. Shout outs to Libary. This 23 year old works 2 jobs and is amazing. Good thing I am the only volunteer she is coordinating this week because it’s been busy for her for sure!

3. Finally,  I got to the institution today and the children ran and hugged me so hard we all almost fell over. Great reception and easy to roll with that.

First Day at Pre-School

Today was my first day volunteering. I am going to be spending my weekdays at “the institute” a division of an organization called Granitos De Paz, which is a free day care for parents who need it so they can work to support their families.  So today I got to spend the day playing with 2 year olds. 26 of them. In Spanish. Yea, I am tired!

First I had to take the bus. The buses here are not like back home. First off, no AC! Second, they are super cheap. Like 65 cents US.  And third, the ones I’ve been on (3 today) all play loud pop or dance music and have disco styling. I felt like royalty in the tassel curtained bus! I would have loved AC though, but I think that’s just going to be my lament for the month!

Check out my morning bus today:

Fun bus ride to volunteer

I had a guide for the bus ride so it was uneventful, but tomorrow I ride alone, so wait for that! Fingers crossed.

The institute was great. I spent the day assisting one teacher. She has a class of 26 x 2 year olds so yea, I think I helped some.  These kids are adorable and full of life.

Colombian children
At the institute with the 2 year olds

The most interesting part of the day was lunch. Tables upon tables of kids (not just our classroom) trying to eat some kind of broth, pasta and meat, all in separate compartments on their plates. And then, the adults, trying to shovel the food into them so they got some nourishment instead of spilling everywhere. I quickly pitched in to help feed the slow dawdlers. OMG The place was a MESS!! No food fight, but it looked like it! The kids had so much food on them, that we then had to take them to a huge sink to wash them. Not just their hands, their arms, faces, and necks. And then, when we brought them back to the classroom, all their shirts came off! Then it was naptime. Isn’t napping the best?

Kids Napping
Nap time

Not everyone slept, but there was a period of mostly silence so who can complain?

Other things I did today:

  1. Visited the Old Walled City and Bocagrande – photos and more to come! Will be back there many times. The bus there was easy. The bus back less so (see 2)
  2. Took two more buses one of which was driven by a crazy person racing another bus to pick up all the riders until everyone on the bus yelled at him. I need gravol from now on for bus rides
  3. Visited a scuba shop – may go diving this weekend. Will probably go diving this weekend
  4. Got a Sim card
  5. Had a Colombian cerveza
  6. Ate yummy plantains and soup

Yea, so way more to come!! Good night!

I’ve Arrived

It was a long eventful day but I am in Cartagena now!

I took an uber pool in Toronto at 530am thinking no one would share the ride at that hour on a holiday Monday. Wrong! I ended up with two drunk girls who hadn’t gone to bed yet and were hilarious and woke me up for my flights. They got dropped off in Mississauga and I got to the airport with plenty of time for my flight. Gotta love the people you meet in uber pools.

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