Six Months In Country Report

It’s been six months since I flew out of Washington D.C. and landed in Managua to start my Peace Corps training. I have been in my permanent site for three months, meaning that I have 21 months remaining in my service. Time has gone by both quickly and slowly, as only time can. It’s hard to believe that half a year has passed since I’ve hugged my mom and dad or gone on a date with Amanda. Still, it does feel like I’ve been here a long time. I have certainly settled into a new normal here and I don’t even think twice about cooking plantains, eating and drinking out of plastic bags, or really bumpy bus rides. I’m going to try to give six-month updates on my broad progress here. To organize it, I’m going to proceed by category. I’ll start with the Peace Corps overarching goals, move on to my project-specific goals, talk about my community integration, personal growth and reflections, and end with goals for the upcoming six months.

 

Peace Corps overarching goals:

  1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.

  2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.

  3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans

 

Well, seeing as I have spent half of my time in country completing training and then working to integrate in a new community, I can’t say that I’ve made spectacular progress on these goals, but that’s not really the point of our first six months anyways. As I see it, the goal is to lay the foundation for success in these three areas, and I feel very good about the foundation that I have at this point. I have begun training people, both during training when I worked with a counterpart teacher, and in my permanent site. I am training teachers in English language and teaching methods. I hope that my example, my conversations, and my openness to answer questions about U.S. culture is helping to further the second goal, and this blog is my main attempt to further the third. Additionally, I am working with Amanda to find areas where we can connect her Spanish students with my experience here in Nicaragua or with my English students. There is a lot of potential here. For other Spanish teachers who would like to use me in their classrooms, please contact me and I’d love to find ways to share my experience with you and your class.

 

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) specific goals:

  1. Increasing the capacity of our partner English teachers in both English language skills and the use of communicative teaching methods and activities in the classroom.

  2. Materials development and training workshops

  3. Community support

For the same reasons listed above, I haven’t been able to do much TEFL-specific work. I started teaching community classes in my third week in site, so I have mostly been working on the third goal and laying the foundations for working on the first two. I spent time with all three of my counterpart teachers during the break, and now that I have begun to teach with them I am developing routines and teaching in the classroom every weekday. As I look for more ways to get involved in the community, I hope to provide more training, informational classes, and perhaps some computer skills classes.

Time spent teaching community English Classes: 94.5 hours

Students taught at least one English community class: 50

 

Community Integration

Thanks to the public introductions at the high school, many kids and parents in the community know me as a teacher in the school. Another great introduction to some of the members closer to my age has come from the community classes twice each week. My host family has been my most important link to the community because I spend most of my time at home and even when I’m introducing myself to others, I can use them as a reference in the community. I feel increasingly known, but not really close to many people. This isn’t surprising, considering that I’ve only been around for three months and we see hundreds of foreign tourists come and go all the time. It will take time before I feel like a semi-permanent member of the community. I still haven’t found ways to integrate outside of English education, but as I form more individual friendships and grow closer to my host family, I think I will slowly continue to meld.

 

Personal Reflections

So far so good! I’ve had my ups and downs throughout the experience, but I’m learning a lot about myself, about education, about Spanish, Nicaragua, and about people in general. The hardest parts have been finding things to do, not getting trapped in unproductive cycles, dealing with the social isolation, and clarifying my goals and strategies for my work. The easiest parts have been the Spanish language, the food and material circumstances, fitting in to my training family, getting along with my students, and passing time by reading. Overall, I’m very glad I’m here. I joined the Peace Corps for several reasons, including doing something positive for others, learning new things, and having time and space to figure out where to go next. I haven’t done many positive things, but I’ve done a few and am readying to make more of an impact. I’m learning lots of new things, and I’m surprised at how much I feel like I’ve been able to clarify in terms of how I want to live, both now and after Peace Corps.

I miss my family, my friends, Amanda, paved roads, cereal and milk, cheddar cheese, intellectual conversations, and toast with dad’s homemade jam.

I don’t miss the stress and speed of US living, the light pollution, the consumer culture, the hegemonic worldview, or the fast food restaurants.

I’m loving the fresh fruit, the volcanoes, the beaches, the hammocks, the Spanish, the challenges, my host families, and the reading I’m doing.

I won’t miss the pollution here, the heat, the bugs everywhere, the emaciated animals, or the social isolation.

 

I love mangoes

Goals for the next six months

I hope to expand my work in the community to include non-English education work. I have a number of contacts with other organizations in town and there is potential to start working with computer education, teacher training programs, park guides, and the local health center. Once I feel my job stabilizing with the high schools I will feel more able to work in other projects and community work. With my counterparts my goal is to establish good relationships and routines where we can plan, reflect, and talk about our goals for teaching and how to work towards them. In my community classes I hope to continue building our relationship, get their input on needs in the community, start including more project-based English usage and find a way to provide for the more advanced students, so they don’t get bored. Socially I want to make more friendships, do more group activities, learn more about the work and lives of the people here, find common interests and keep meeting new people. For my own personal development, I want to become involved with more writing projects, like a volunteer-produced newsletter and ‘zine, I want to make more of an effort to improve my Spanish, I want to read more good books, exercise more and remember to eat well. For my blog, I want to try to make more project-based posts and document things with audio, video and photos better. I’m finding myself more and more intrigued by journalism as a future career and I have great opportunities here to practice the skills that I would need.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Andrew H on March 3, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    Andrew, that mango looks delicious. Hope all is well down there. Look forward to your next blog. Journalism seems like it suits you great.
    Andrew

    Reply

  2. Posted by Aunt Kathy on March 5, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Andrew, I am amazed by your writing skills! I do a lot of editing, and have been really disappointed by the writing that I see in many different venues today. You would make a GREAT journalist. Your writing is visually descriptive, intelligent, and interesting. I love to read what you post on your blog, etc. Please keep up the correspondence and diary of your Peace Corps time. Love, Kathy

    Reply

    • Thanks so much, Kathy! I will definitely keep the posts up, and it’s great to hear that you enjoy my writing. I still don’t know what ‘getting into journalism’ would look like given the flux in the industry right now, but I’d love to give it a shot.

      Love,

      Andrew

      Reply

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