Wow. What a week. Never before have I experienced such a crazy mixture of information, people, public transportation, and sweat in my life. The first week of staff training was indeed hectic, yet it was a great starting point for what will for sure be a highly rewarding summer. Let me tell you about it…
I arrived in Barranquilla on Sunday, May 22. It was late at night, and I had been traveling all day, so the best part about that day was finally being able to go to sleep in the air conditioning.
Monday-Wednesday was staff training. We went over everything from icebreakers, to what AMIGOS is, to who we work with, to how to say various medical terms in Spanish, to what kinds of classes the participants will take during the first two weeks. We also got to walk around UniNorte, eat some of the best arepas in the city, and explore the most vertical shopping mall I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, after training all day long, my brain hurt, but it was for good reason.
Thursday was different. Together with one of the national participants (a Barranquilla public transportation expert), we went to almost all the communities we will be working with for the summer, including El Tesoro, Villa Esperanza, Primero de Mayo, El Pueblito, and Puerto Colombia. When we were in the communities, we met with the partner organizations, got to introduce ourselves, and gave them a preview for what everyone could expect in the coming months. One of my favorite things during that day was in Primero de Mayo (where sadly I won’t be working), a group of about 15 youth taught us a song called “Primera vez en mi vida,” which means, “First time in my life.” They sing that song anytime someone does something for the first time. I’ll for sure continue to sing and teach it to people the rest of my time here.
After Thursday, things kind of settled down…which was nice. We did a Barranquilla host family training at UniNorte, got prepared for community survey which we will be doing this coming week (the process of the Project Supervisors going to each community and getting them prepared for the participants), and tied up any loose ends with regards to training. Apart from AMIGOS activities, we also went to a famous restaurant where Gabriel García Márquez and other famous artists and writers used to hang out called La Cueva went salsa dancing at a famous salsa bar called La Troja, and walked around the markets of the city center. It was really cool to experience life the way Barranquilleros do everyday.
Although I’ve been to many places in Latin America, this city is something unique. I can’t wait for what the rest of the summer has in store, and I look forward to getting out in the communities this week, and then meeting the participants the week after that!
Eric LoPrete, Project Supervisor, Barranquilla