This week, week number 3 of being in Santa Marta, has been pretty awesome. Week 1 and 2 were hard. I didn't realise how hard until I experienced this week. We have gone through a lot of difficulties. Not all of them have been solved but the fact that we have been aware of them makes a big difference. Every Friday afternoon we have a little honesty session where we exchange thoughts and points of interest from the week between the whole group of national and international volunteers. This makes a big difference. Brownie points to whoever thought of that one. 

This week has been a week of CANS! My grandpa used to say there's no such thing as “cannot”. A point that as an irritated 6 year old seemed very hard to dispute. This week I have been telling myself that over and over, and it's worked! (Thanks Grandpa). I had a few goals in my head set out for this week.

1. Be the positive attitude of the group when the group is lacking one.
So this week I've been throwing out hideously cringe-worthy and undeniably hilarious positive mantras (in English and broken Spanish) as well as the odd line of ‘Eye of the Tiger’. I did this all week and it has worked a treat. (Apart from one afternoon, but we all have our moments).

2. Push myself at the construction site.
Last week I was a self-named hypocrite as I criticised those who were slacking when preparing school talks and community events, while I filled everyone's ears with “can’t” at the work site. So this week some other international girls and I learnt how to, and DID indeed, split bamboo with a machete, mix cob, saw effectively and hammer a nail in straight, which I may add is harder than it looks! Unfortunately the odd Ikea flat-pack had not prepared me for this. And now we have an entire wall to call our own. (I won't mention the 2 walls adjacent to our own that the nationals put up in half the time.)

3. Last but not least was to keep learning Spanish at the same rate as last week.
A few weeks ago I realised my main problem was no longer vocab but my ability to construct sentences. And though the week is not yet up our own resident international Spaniard Teresa told me I was speaking in perfectly correct sentences- who knew!

I've been seeing this positive vibe everywhere, not just in myself. Our team leader Annamaria decided we should socialise more with the nationals in the evenings and have a party to boost morale. Two days later a party was in full swing.

I’ve seen Josh go through an entire spectrum of emotion- despair, realisation, acceptance and determination with his ability at Spanish. He worked all night at his vocab instead of watching Game of Thrones with us, and has been pestering Teresa more than ever for help with the language.

Those I don’t mention are not due to lack of achievement but more because my hand hurts. (That’s right, I have a blister from a machete!)

On the whole work week 3 (week 4 of being in country) has been pretty great! We are in the fantastic honeymoon phase of our group friendship- long may it reign.

The first few weeks I liked the country and coped with the heat, flies, latrines and my sudden incoherence. Now I am loving it, and I hope I can speak for everyone here when I say that. I realised that to me this country is perverse – people selling drinks in plastic bags, the animals (dogs, chickens, horses and cows) roaming free and visiting houses as if on urgent business and the fact that a constant subtle burning spell is treated as completely normal. In England (at least in London) we don’t make eye contact with ANYONE we don’t know, black snot is common and we drink ferocious amounts of tea. That used to be fine to compute in my brain. Now I’m starting to question why.

This learning curve is something I’ve always dreamed of experiencing with different countries and cultures. I never thought I’d be able to turn it back on myself. The more I’m seeing the harder it is not to love this country, and the more painful I know the goodbye will be when we finally have to say it.

Written by ICS Volunteer Debbie Luxon