We rolled into our small town, Palmar de Varela, in a van stuffed with 14 people and a whole bunch of luggage. 4 of us were going to be dropped off in Palmar, and the rest would continue on to Ponadera. Very quickly after one of the Peace Corps staff members said, “This is Palmar,” we were already stopping at a house. The volunteer staying there got off and grabbed her bags. While she was doing that we saw a little boy run from one door to the one next door, and suddenly his face appeared in the window to watch. Fabiola, who is in charge of housing at Peace Corps Colombia, took the volunteer to introduce her to her new family. At this point, I was very excited, but so nervous. I knew I was going to be living with 3 woman, each in a different generation, and I knew their names, but that was all. What if they didn’t like me?!
I was next, though. Soon enough I was meeting a sweet tiny older woman, and her daughter, and shortly after, her granddaughter. They are a great host family and have a beautiful home. I have a larger room than I expected, and while my bed is hard I have found that it is great for sleeping!
Everyone seems very proud to introduce me to their friends and neighbors, and very helpful in getting me to where I want to go. I told my mamá that I had broken the snap on my sandals and wanted to have them fixed, and she took me to the zapatero (the dude that fixes shoes). He gave me one price, and I told him I’d be back for them in a bit. 10 minutes later he shows up at our door explaining he would have to replace more than he had said, so it would cost a little bit more. A cobbler who does house visits!
People get around in a lot of ways, but they definitely don’t walk far. The next town over is probably a mile max, but most people recommend taking a bus or motocarro (a mototaxi – a motorcycle with a row of 3 seats behind it), primarily because it’s so freaking hot out.
This is the cool season. I sweat at lunch, but the weather’s not too bad at night. I’ve actually had to turn off my fan both nights I’ve slept here! The evenings spent sitting outside on the porch and in the plaza have been with perfect weather. Given that it’s the cool season, this is not peak mosquito weather – and yet I’ve got at least 15 bites already. I’ve started to put on repellent regardless of where I am going, and fortunately our medical kit also has hydrocortisone.
Today we had our first Spanish class, and in the afternoon we used the greetings that we had learned this morning in order to introduce ourselves to community members. We visited the library (the most important place we’ve found – it has both wifi and air conditioning), city hall, the police, an internet café, and bought an ice cream. We were fortunate to have one of the girls’ host brother’s accompanying us, as our teacher is from Barranquilla. It also helped us meet various people – including the emcee of Saturday night’s Carnaval event. Every single person we met has been incredibly friendly and welcoming and has told us that if we need anything, they are there for us.
I feel very fortunate to be in such a welcoming and safe community. All four of us who are here feel very well-cared for. We definitely had a lot of protectors around us!