Tag Archives: host family

Back on Track

I’m finally feeling a bit more settled. After over a month of living out of my suitcases, I have once again starting unpacking into a more permanent place. I can finally find all my accessories and my books will have a home as soon as I get a bookshelf in my new room! It’s nice to be establishing a new routine and integrating with my new host family.

I didn’t anticipate the effect that being between houses would have on my work, my energy and my organization. Not to mention the stress it caused. It ended up being a pretty draining process, with a lot of diplomacy lessons along the way.

Now that my home life is a bit more settled, I feel better equipped mentally and emotionally to get back on track.

I am re-focusing on my goals for the next few months. I can’t believe we have already been here for 9 months!

Some of the things I’m working on:

Developing and implementing a curriculum for our Call Center-hopefuls in 10th grade. We are trying to combine a customer service/telephone class with our English conversation laboratory. Any input is appreciated! ūüôā

Environmental Committee: I’m the new chairperson of a fairly new committee, and we just had a successful first meeting! We’ve seen that trash and conservation are big issues for us on the coast, so we are designing some projects that PCV’s can implement in their sites, such as awareness campaigns and hopefully some field trips.

Co-teaching and co-planning: this is our primary project. I have great counterparts and a supportive principal, and we’re working to make the English program strong and effective. It’s actually a lot of fun to co-teach–the teacher and I can bounce off each other’s ideas. And she can tell them all to sit down and be quiet.

Primary teachers: with one of my counterparts, we are putting together some workshops for the primary teachers. I’m hoping to target their English skills in order to have stronger English in the students coming from primary to secondary.

English clubs: when you’re the token native speaker, people stop you in the street and even show up at your house to ask for English tutoring! I have an adult class, a high school club and am hoping to start a class at my friends’ foundation and one with the preschool kiddies at the convent. What could be better than singing English baby songs for an hour?

That’s a brief overview! Throw in gym time, sit-on-the-sidewalk-and-talk-about-nothing bonding time, and thinking about studying for the GRE, and I’m keeping busy.

But it’s a good busy, a settled, productive, fulfilled sort of busy. And that feels good.

On Settling In (a little bit)

I’ve unpacked a few things into my new room. I have tons of closet space and a rug for my American toes. My new abuela, host dad and host mom all tackled the fan in my room, but it’s roto so we scooted the bed closer to the other fan and they cracked a joke and laughed even harder when they thought I understood. “She gets it!” I didn’t quite get it, but I’m working on it.

In two years’ time, the new sounds outside my window and the new house smell will be familiar, more so than many of my other homes. I haven’t stayed in one place longer than ten months since I was 18 years old. A new kind of adventure.

You know those moments when you feel homesick but you’re not sure for which home or place or person or feeling? Soul ache of some sort? Yeah.

But a content, settling in, anticipatory kind, with a heart brimming with fresh memories and a head dancing with new ideas, faces, places.


On Moving

The fan doesn’t faze the insistent unknown insect devouring my legs. It’s hot. My back hurts from lugging supplies all over town because I’m too stubborn to take a bus and I need the exercise.

My belongings–the things that I say I need for this life in Colombia, the things the Peace Corps says I need and a few extra pairs of shoes–are all back in the suitcases. I’m watching the shadows from the traffic on my curtains for the last time; listening to the cats outside my window making kittens for the last time.

Three months I’ve been here, months of memorizing Barranquilla’s addresses and training to be teachers. It feels like a long time. I feel older.

Goodbye to the park where we ran in the mornings, to the utter confusion of the walkers, chatting about dinner last night (‘how much coste√Īo cheese this time?’) and culture integration (‘I went to three different birthday parties!’)

Goodbye to Gutierrez, my favorite little old man with a mustache who called me a queen every morning I walked past his plastic chair outside the tienda. He looked up at the darkening sky and said, may god bless your path.

Goodbye to the guy who runs a grocery out of his living room who always said good evening but then piropo-ed me, which in my mind cancelled each other out. (Piropos are the cat calls and comments men make to women. I’ll write much more about that later, don’t worry.)

Goodbye to the black wrought iron gate that pinched me yet again today and I had to steal a napkin from the perro caliente cart on the corner to stop the bleeding.

Goodbye to the beautiful porch with palms and green benches outside the window where the abuela watches the street.

Goodbye to these three little women who opened their house to me and shared their food, jokes, family members, tv shows and opinions with me. They were my first view of Colombian life, and boy, will I miss their arepas! These ladies are a wealth of knowledge, experiences and ideas. I’ll miss them!

Goodbye to Barranquilla proper! These tree-lined carreras and hectic market stalls and sweaty buses and curious neighbors and your contradictions and colors and challenges and hopes are now a happy place for me, and I’ll be back.

Next weekend, in fact!


On Hayaca

This weekend (and I mean the whole weekend) was hayaca time, because my host mom wanted me to try her hayaca before I move out. My current host family is from the interior, from a department/state called Norte de Santander. They moved here in grade school, but the three ladies have kept several recipes alive in the house! Perhaps the crown jewels of the recipe box are the hayacas in the Cucuta style, the city where they were born. These are kind of like tamales on steroids, to give them a VERY broad translation into American cultural knowledge.

My host mom woke up at 4:15 am on Saturday to start the process.


First, she prepped all the ingredients individually:

Boiled and seasoned garbanzos

Boiled and seasoned chicken legs

a load of onions, bell peppers, green onions and oil

a bowl of raisins

a bowl of capers (giant ones!)

the masa made of corn flour

the leaves for wrapping the hayacas


Then, the process begins. First, she preps the leaves with a swirl of oil, then she rolls a ball of masa and flattens it until it shows a print of the leaf pattern.


Then come all the fillings, expertly placed into a perfect pile by the years of experience in her hands.


Once the piles are perfect (she even placed the raisins individually–it’s an art!), the whole thing is folded into the leaves and neatly tied up with string (green leave packages tied up with string are now one of my newest favorite things for breakfast.)¬†


And there is one¬†hayaca, all prepped and ready for the¬†olla¬†on the stove. Rinse and repeat–25 more times!!

This woman is incredible, and I’m so glad she wanted me to taste the magic of Cucuta! Sunday morning we had a breakfast party with¬†tios and¬†tias,¬†everyone kissing their fingertips and talking about their childhood in Cucuta.¬†Que rico, para chuparse los dedos!¬†