On Friday, we finished training classes and did more language assessments after being put in smaller groups with other volunteers of similar level. In one of our activities we had to dance with a broom with taped on lips… I don’t want to elaborate. But I really like our language facilitator (teacher), Blanca. PC uses the term facilitator a lot, apparently that’s what we as volunteers will be in our communities. We’re not the primary teacher ourselves, but the facilitators for the local teachers. Our primary goal is to teach the teachers how to teach. (Haha, I know how redundant that sentence is but I’m leaving it!) In other words, we’re here to teach about sustainability in the environment as well as creating sustainability in the local education system.
In the afternoon we were given the placements in our training towns. We are grouped with three other volunteers in a region specific to our sector (for environmental education, it’s Masaya). We each live with a separate family, whose main task is to feed us and talk to us in Spanish, but in a broader sense integrate us in their family, community and Nicaraguan culture. The family is compensated for feeding us and sharing their home with us (they even do our clothes). We were told most families want to do this as a service to their country, since we are here to help make it better. That really renewed my sense of purpose here.
Getting our host families was really exciting and felt a lot like being adopted. We all sat in the room and on a big projection screen they put up a picture of each family, where they lived and who was in the household. Then they announced the volunteer who as was going to that family. As soon as they put the picture of this one little town, I thought “Oh! I want to go there!” And what do you know? The third family in that town was mine.
I will be in a pueblo pequeno (small town) in the west of Masaya, close to Lake Nicaragua and Lake Appoyo. It’s best known for being an artisan village where they make beautiful, intricate pottery. Mi mama nicaraguanse (my Nicaraguan mom) is Luisa and she has a 16 year old daughter and a 30 year old son, his wife and a grandson.
We will live in the town for the next 12 weeks and receiving community based training. This is one of the few (or only) countries in which Peace Corps has implemented this method. There are many advantages to living in a community, like the one we will be serving in later, as opposed to being sequestered in some training compound for 3 months with other English speaking volunteers. We are going to have classes six days a week, in different host families’ homes; classes in morning and “applied” Spanish in the afternoon.
Another volunteer in my training group, John, said we’re probably the special kids of the larger PC Nica group. I can’t confirm this but evidence points to the affirmative… even though it was one of my fears before coming here, I’m not really worried now. A lot of the current and previous volunteers that talked to us knew almost no Spanish when they started and we only need to be at an Intermediate level to pass training. Right now I’m a mid novice level and apparently the majority of volunteers placed around this level. Apparently, even the fluent speakers had problems in their language assessments, so we all have a lot to learn. Even if I am one of the slower kids in class, there’s at least four of us, so we can suffer growing pains together.
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