As the title suggests, I am now settling into my new home. Since compartiendo (iendo = ing in Spanish, plus compartir = sharing) with the displaced community a few weeks ago, I finished up my last bit of orientation with my Colombian YAV group (sad face), and have now moved into my new home here in Carepa! Here are some pictures that are on the outskirts of the town so you can get a feel for where I’m living:
Look’s pretty pretty right?! I’m staying in the town of Carepa though, not on the outskirts, so it is an actual town, though small in size. There is one pretty large store here called Exito, which I’ve yet to be inside but from what I’ve been told it’s a little bit like a Colombian version of a smaller Walmart. So yeah, I’m not like totally out in no man’s land, but for example there is only one school, one gas station, and I’d venture to say the residents of Carepa have never seen an American before.
I’m going to go on a quick side rant about the word American. The America’s are quite large in fact, reaching from Canada all the way down to the tip of Chile, and including everything in between. Therefore, everyone who lives within the Americas is in fact an American, but the United States has adopted this word to mean one of their citizens. Yes, I used it, largely because I wanted to bring this topic up, and because a United Statesian is not a word, plus it sounds funny. Nonetheless, I’ve become much more sensitive to the use of this word and avoid it at all costs, just some food for thought.
I suppose my new host family would be a good starting point for my new life here huh? Well, I actually live with the the pastor’s family, which I must admit feels a little bit like living with royalty. The pastor, my new papa, is Apolinar, my mom is Danilsa, my sister, Ledis, is 17, my other sister, Mileydis, is 15, and finally we have my brother, Carlos, who’s 13. If you’re anything like my actual mother your very next question would be: “do they speak any English,” and the answer is no, they do not. Due to this language barrier, we communicate in my secret language of “smiles”. For example, in the afternoon when I come home from work and see them, we make eye contact, I give them a big smile, and they give me a smile in return. I’m pretty sure they’ve figured out that smile stands for: “I’m happy to be here, thank you for having me, I’d like to have a really meaning conversation with you, but I can’t”.
None of this is to say that my Spanish has not been coming along pretty well, if I might say so myself. However, they have a different accent here which is much more difficult for me to understand, and I feel like they speak faster than what I’ve experienced in other parts of the country. This has resulted in me saying no entiendo (I don’t understand) many a time, and ultimately has led to them thinking I actually speak less Spanish than I really do (I know, I didn’t think it could happen either). Needless to say, the conversations we have in Spanish are about very basic “small talk items,” and we don’t even have very many of those. So in all honesty, the whole experience to date has left me quite frustrated about not being able to build the relationships I envisioned myself forming with my host family.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, the pastor, my host father, probably the one who made the decision to take me in, and from what I can tell from the one visit I had with him, the talkative initiative one of the family, is out of town in Barranquilla finishing up his theology degree until November. Even though he’s out of town, he still makes an effort to communicate with me and check up on how I’m doing here at the house, which as you can imagine for a person in my shoes, means the world to me.
Anyways, moving onto the physical house itself. Thankfully for you, this time I’m not going to bore you with large walls of text, but instead I shot a fancy little video of my new pad:
(You need to watch that video or these next few paragraphs won’t make all that much sense. Yes, sorry, I’m forcing you to.) I thought I’d share a couple interesting adaptations I’ve had to make in my daily routine. First off, I’ve had to get very used to bugs. Long story short, things here aren’t airtight sealed to the outdoors like in the states. As you may have seen in the video, my window is not in fact a window at all, nor does it have a screen, but rather it’s just an opening to the outdoors. I have at least 3 spiders on my bedroom ceiling that I’ve allowed to become permanent residents because they help by eating other bugs that stroll on into my room. It is very common for their to be ants on the table, as well as any and everywhere in the kitchen. Believe it or not, I’ve actually become decently used to this (although I’m not all the way there yet). It’s just a more natural way of living that the people of Colombia have adapted to.
The next three items I’ll kind of lump into one, because they all deal with limited running water. Originally, I thought there was no running water in the house, but I recently found out the kitchen sink faucet does in fact work (I guess I just didn’t know how to use it). There is, however, no running water attached to the toilet or showering area shown in the video. This means in order to flush the toilet, I have to go grab a bucket of water from the pool/well type thing shown in the video, and dump it into the toilet to make it flush (my first time doing this I was utterly amazed that actually made the toilet flush). My showers are a bit more interesting without running water. I have to throw water over myself using the bowl pictured in that massive bucket in the video. I must admit, it does make washing the soap off my body a bit harder, and this is the only point in the day when I’m cold, and I mean shockingly cold. While I don’t remember the exact figures for the water used when flushing a toilet or taking a shower, I am certain that both of these methods save tons of water. I went from watching water poor endlessly down my shower drain, to using only 10-15 bowls of water to bathe myself. So if you’re seriously wanting to make a difference in your consumption of an ever shrinking resource, here are two great options!
Finally, the adaptation for which I’m most proud of, is being able to hand wash clothes (well, really only my underwear, but still). I had to have my host mom teach me how for my first time, and it’s really decently simple. It’s a somewhat freeing thought knowing that I’ve broken that attachment to washing machines. Whether I don’t have the money for a washing machine, feel like living in the wilderness for an extended period of time, or face a zombie apocalypse, I’ll always be able to clean my clothes.
On to the last part of my new life here: my work. I’m working at an after school program for kids that have issues at home. For the past week and a half I have spent most of my time at the project just hanging out talking with the kids, playing futbol with them (really more of them teaching me), and researching how to best teach them English. Here’s a couple of the various encounters I’ve captured with them:
As a quick side note here, you may notice in a couple of the photos that I appear to be swarmed, and I am indeed swarmed, it’s not just for the pictures. This is actually a fairly frequent occurrence for me now. I could really be anywhere, doing anything, and next thing you know, it will go like this: at first a few kids will approach me and start talking to me, starting with the typical where am I from. From here, other nearby kids will see that a conversation has been initiated the the guy from los estados unidos (The United States), therefore giving them the opportunity to jump right into the discussion as well. Within under a minute, this compounding effect will have gathered all the children within viewing distance into a swarm around me, all wanting to ask me where I’m from, what my name is, and how to say their name in English. My mom joked with me that kids will want to touch my hair, and I’m sure she was pleased to find out her prediction was correct. It won’t typically happen until we are pretty well along in the conversation and one of the braver kids finally decides to attempt it. But then, like with initiating the conversation, once one kid does it, everyone does it. Yes, I do love it 🙂
Getting back on track here though, not only will I be teaching the kids English, but also all the staff who works at the program, and my host family would like to learn as well. I quickly learned that speaking English and teaching it is two entirely different things. So after a week and a half of preparation time, learning how I was going to teach a language that I only knew how to speak, I was all ready with my first couple lesson plans (I feel like I sound old just saying that for some reason, I have lesson plans). I had my first class on Monday of this week, the 28th, and boy was it difficult. I have a new found respect for teachers everywhere because it is so incredibly hard to control that massive herd of what seems to be pure energy. They never want to be quite, and then because they are distracted doing other things they miss what I just taught them, and don’t know the proper response to: “what is your name,” and I have to go through and do it all over again. Needless to say, by the end of each of my hour sessions I am not only drenched in sweat, but exhausted. Here are some of those future English speakers:
I have so much more that I want to share about my thoughts and feelings on work, home life, and how God has been playing a roll in all of that, but this blog post is already incredibly massive, and I’ll dare to say my biggest yet (and that’s really saying something). I figure I’ll save my more in depth analysis for my next post, and just give the broad overview with this bad boy. I need to include one last thing about my work though, and that’s how incredible the people I work with are. While my relationship with my host family isn’t fitting my expectations, my work relationships are exceeding those expectations. Everyone at work from the director, to the cooks, to the tutors, are all so incredibly kind and inclusive with me. By inclusive I mean that they make sure I am included in activities and conversations by going out of their way. From explaining what the conversations they’ve been having are about, to asking me questions that I can answer to get involved with the discussions, to assigning me a job I can do to feel meaningful that doesn’t require fluent Spanish speaking, I really feel like I belong. I am so incredibly grateful that God has put these people in my life, and he knew they’d be exactly the community I’d need. With that being said, we have already had quite the adventures together as well. From making tamales to raise money:
To a day away at the beach:
To a beautiful river trip:
This now brings us to the end of this monstrous post. Thanks for taking what was probably a reasonably large chunk of your day to read this beast, and thank you even more for your prayers. Please keep them coming, I can attest that they are indeed helping 😉