For the final day of our WorldTeach Orientation, volunteers were treated to an exceptional occasion in Bogotá, arranged by our incredible founders and directors, Luis Enrique Garcia and Pablo Jaramillo Quintero. Early in the morning, after packing our bags for prospective placements, we traveled by bus to the Casa de Nariño (Presidential Palace), where we cleared security and waited patiently for Juan Manuel Santos Calderón to arrive. El Presidente extended a warm welcome to our group, a combination of WorldTeach Colombia, Volunteers Colombia and SENA (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje).
President Santos expressed his gratitude for the teachers for being a part of the bilingual movement in Colombia, before turning the microphone over to a Volunteers Colombia member, who spoke in Spanish and English about his positive and enriching experiences for the past 2 years. The President then circled the room, shaking hands, asking where volunteers were from, and stopping for photos. Following the greeting, volunteers were served delicious coffee in fine porcelain, agreeing with one another that this unique experience was simply fantastic.
After meeting President Santos, our group reassembled outside the palace gates for some last-minute photos and goodbye hugs before boarding a bus to the airport. Club Med (Medellin), The Brits, Club Quilla (Barranquilla) and Crew Barú all represented.
Several hours later, Club Quilla arrived in Barranquilla, where we were dropped off at our host families’ houses in the dark, porch lights and screened areas lit to welcome weary volunteers. Beatriz and Luis have opened their home to me and I am grateful. My room is large and sparse with plenty of sunlight, and just outside is a busy street with friendly neighbors, large patios and corner tiendas on every other block.
The sounds of Colombian music and reggaeton are constant day and night, and as I washed my clothes in the warm afternoon, I sang along to some Don Omar, certain la familia will learn, poco y poco, soy loquita.
I am thrilled to have my friend Shauna, a WorldTeach volunteer from Kentucky, just across the street and a few houses down. Because we are further south in the city than the rest of Club Quilla, we are not as close to the others and have already missed a group trip to the beach on our first day here.
Fortunately, Shauna and I made up for missing the beach by going out for pizza in the evening with two friendly and talkative Costeños, Oscar and Rosanna, who discussed with us everything from Colombian politics to managing fincas to the best salsa clubs in the city.
After exchanging phone numbers and saying goodbye to our new amigos, Shauna and I agreed Barranquilla is going to be a great place to learn and grow in Colombia, both by teaching English and embracing what the country has to offer. Gracias a Díos por mi vida buena y especialmente por mi barrio, mi familia host y mis amigos nuevos. ¡VIVA!