In the past week, I’ve moved to Quito, met my fellow volunteers, moved in with my family and began our in-country training.  For the next 11 weeks, I will be living with my family in Quito and attending classes Monday – Friday on various subjects including Peace Corps policies, Spanish language, Ecuadorian Culture, safety and security, and teaching English as a foreign language.  I really love my Spanish classes the most, as I’m so eager to finally be able to understand, and be understood, in this beautiful language.  I also really love the cultural classes as the staff is very creative in presenting information to help us learn the do’s and don’ts in this country.  Last week they taught us through a series of skits, what to expect from a typical dinner with our family, or workday with our teachers.  These skits were very helpful in getting us comfortably settled for the first week.

Today, they put us into groups and gave us an assignment.  We had four hours to walk around the streets of Quito and accomplish a list of tasks.  First, my group had to find a specific police station.  Easier said than done.  Apparently, each neighborhood has their own police station, and anyone we asked on the street might not have been familiar with the exact location of the police station in that neighborhood.  But since Ecuadorians are very helpful, they would send us in a direction. Then the next person we asked, sent us in another direction.  We walked around for a long time before deciding to get on a bus, which of course took us way out of the way, and then we had to find our way back.  Finally we found the station but it was closed.  Then we had to wait for it to open, so we could present ourselves to the officer and ask him some questions about safe and not-so-safe areas of the city.  After this, we had to find a bank with a secure ATM and talk to a taxi driver about how to call for a safe taxi.  Obviously, we learned a lot about how to travel safely in the city, and how to get help if we need it.  It was a great adventure!  I really enjoyed practicing my Spanish with vendors and people on the streets.

Other training topics have included how to avoid getting Express Kidnapped, or mugged or drugged. We’ve learned all about skin infections, biting monkeys and how to avoid gastro-intestinal illnesses, and diarrhea – something we all expect to have at some point during our stay.  The Peace Corps gave us a huge medical kit to help us take care of ourselves, but there’s a 24 hour doctor (and a security officer) a phone call away if we need more help.  They really are taking good care of us!

37 Volunteers from all corners of the United States represent the 119th group of Peace Corps Volunteers in Ecuador.  After our language, cultural, safety and health training, we will be placed in schools throughout the country to help build capacity and improve English Language instruction.  I’m the second oldest in the group, but I’m so proud to know and serve with these primarily 20-something volunteers. Each day they impress me with their intelligence, positive energy, political and world knowledge, critical thinking skills, creativity and willingness to give themselves to others. We have a great time together and I have been learning so much from them.  Que suerte para mi y nuestra mundo!