Volunteer Spotlight: Tiara McCarty (A Woman Who Loves Cats) Talks about Pueblo Life

The Oíste Team recently corresponded with Tiara McCarty to get a taste of pueblo life in Piojó, Atlántico.

tiara cats

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m 23 and from a farm in middle of nowhere Ohio. I studied International Relations and Mandarin at Wittenberg University, and spent a semester in wonderful Shanghai. I like cats. I like hanging out with cats, or talking about cats, or looking at cat videos. Someday I hope to drink cat wine with the cats of Cat Island, Japan.

What’s your daily routine like in Piojó?

The mornings are spent at the high school, and most afternoons at primary. I nap every day. It honestly just gets so hot at about 2pm that there’s nothing else you can physically do but sleep. In the evenings, I sit out on the front patio, the neighboring kids come over and play games. Their fav is “gophers” (Go Fish) hah, or charades, which has really helped with my Spanish. The weekends are for laundry (by hand!), hiking, Sunday fútbol games, and currently, carnaval events. Ayye la vida, I’ve checked A LOT of books off my to-read list….

Tell us about some of your projects and/or your work in the school.

I’ve just started working in primary with the project Allison Bakamjian did in Santa Marta (Primary Teacher English Training Curriculum–it’s on the Google Drive). It’s great because it’s already done, so organized and simple. I used to have an after school English club, one project they did was prepare food from different countries. I learned that they eat salchipapas in Canada…..

What’s your favorite part of Costeño pueblo life?

Vallenato! I sit in the hammock in the family’s palm hut (kiosko) and look out over the banana tree-lined arroyo and listen to the blaring Vallenato. I also love that I can walk everywhere (no buses!), including neighboring villages, and don’t have to worry about getting piropo’ed or robbed. And it’s so pretty! I can see the ocean, a dark endless line of blue beyond hills of green and valleys of lakes. Also, cógelo suave is taken to a whole new level in the pueblo.

What’s your favorite Vallenato song?

Seriously?! How could I pick just one song? Honestly I would have to say “Que Vaina Tan Dificil” by Diomedes Díaz, because it was the first one I fell in love with, and led me to the wonders of Vallenato. (If anyone wants suggestions I have a whole playlist 😉 with some merengue and salsa favs, too!)

What’s the most challenging aspect of pueblo life?

Everybody knows stuff about me before I do. Usually they’re rumors, but sometimes, the most random people come up and are like, “I heard you have a tattoo. Can I touch it?” Also, the lack of variety in food. We go days without a single fruit in sight.

Can you give us one or two of your favorite recipes that only require food from a tienda?

I’m a terrible cook, I love to eat but I hate cooking. I live on oatmeal, hot with peanut butter, or cold with fruit and nuts, or as an oatcake with honey. (PB is now a luxury since the prices went up, but you can get a giant bag of nuts from jumbo, and a local boy sells honey from his farm) And beans. Beans with yucca, beans with plátano, beans with eggs.

What are some of your goals for the second year and as the new Atlántico VAC representative?

This project in primary, and I want to apoyar the new sex education curriculum the high school is implementing. As far as VAC goes, I’m just excited to hear what other volunteers think of pueblo life, and hopefully we can collaborate on projects together!

tiara queen

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to the volunteers who have recently been moved to Atlántico pueblos?

When in Rome…. seriously. Dance in front of huge crowds, take shots with your host dad (any time of day, and from the twelve year-old cousin carrying the bottle around), talk for twenty minutes with people you don’t know. It’s all part of the culture. Speak the street lingo, know words to the popular songs, love whatever fried, greasy comida rápida that’s offered to you. Stuff like that goes a long way.

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