Our three-month in-country training ended a week and a half-ago with our swearing in: I’m officially a Peace Corps Volunteer! Hooray!

The last few weeks in our training towns were filled with lots of activities. We gave our final charlas at the health posts, taught a few classes in nearby schools (my group no longer had Spanish classes during the week as we had advanced), and held our last meeting with our youth group. Saying goodbye to the girls in our youth club was so sad! For our final meeting, they put on a charla for us about HIV/AIDS, even including a socio-drama and traditional folkloric dance. It was so exciting to see the girls who were embarrassed to say their names in front of a group 10 weeks ago give a lesson on HIV prevention and put on a skit about a teenage mother with an HIV positive child. Powerful stuff. It got me excited to think of the relations I’ll have with the youth in my site for two years, considering our group got pretty close after only 10 weeks. After the meeting we went for ice cream to celebrate. Always good closure.

Our youth group presenting a charla on HIV, a sociodrama, enjoying ice cream in the park!

I didn’t really realize how attached I had become to my training town until the last week. Probably the hardest thing was saying goodbye to my host family. They were such a wonderful family and I was quite reluctant to leave them! On our last night together, I thanked them and gave them gifts from the States (my mom sent an amazing package full of goodies!) Candy, Cubs apparrel, Chicago postcards, Spanish magazines and a few games were among the gifts. They seemed to really enjoy them. I know I’ll be keeping in touch with them over the next two years.

 

Coloring with my host brother, and enjoying my package from the States!

We traveled to Managua quite a bit our last week or two for final Peace Corps training sessions to get us ready for our sites, where we’ll be pretty much all alone for the next two years (yikes). Our hands were held throughout the three months of training with schedules and meetings all set up for us, but life on our own as Volunteers will be quite different. I go back and forth as to whether or not I’m ready to be on my own!

We spent swearing-in weekend in Managua. One day we got to visit the American embassy, meet USAID staff, Embassy staff and the Ambassador! He was a really cool guy, bonus points for being from Chicago. It was really awesome getting to see the Embassy. Anyone who knows me knows I’m interested in US foreign policy and international relations, so getting to go inside our embassy and hear the Ambassador speak to us (quite frankly!) about US-Nicaragua relations was fascinating. Also we got pizza, so all-in-all a great day.

Our swearing-in ceremony was on a Friday. To begin, we paid tribute to our host families, the majority of whom traveled to see us swear-in (my host mom came). There were a lot of speeches about the history of the Peace Corps and its legacy (this year marks the 50th year since JFK created the Peace Corps in 1961), our role as Volunteers, the importance of health in Nicaragua, etc. A representative from the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health spoke, as well as the Peace Corps Country Director and the Ambassador. Between singing the American and Nicaraguan national anthems, listening to the various speakers thank us for the work we are about to do, being told we are the “best of American diplomacy” and saying the oath to service, I was pretty inspired.  In that moment I was quite proud to be an American representing my country abroad.

The Nica 55 health group- Healthy Lifestyles and Maternal/Child health

With our Program Directors, my host mom and our language instructor!

The Peace Corps Country Director and a lovely cake to celebrate.

I was able to hang out Saturday in Managua with the other PCVs from my group, and even catch a movie at one of the nice malls downtown. It was nice to have some chill time before the craziness that will be the next few weeks. Sunday was the big day: the official beginning of my Peace Corps service!

Some new PCVs, plus me and my training group – made it through three months spending 8 hours a day together without killing each other!

I’ve been in site over a week now and am having a great time so far. Lots of introductions, formalities and the like but already some very cool experiences. Many things foreshadowing lots of work opportunities, social things, and other things that will make my two years rewarding. There is much to share about my first days in site, so I’ll save that for another blog post.

As a small anecdote/preview of some notable things that have happened, I’d like to share that despite being in a fairly large city, a few days ago a mouse crawled on my floor and up my wall, last week a lizard jumped on me in the shower (I bathe in an outdoor shower stall), ants were crawling all over my newly cleaned laundry (that hung on laundry lines), and there is a semi-return of the bed bug situation. I know these are just surface level things, but I got a kick out of them and thought I´d share. My Peace Corps service has definitely begun!

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