A couple weeks ago I got an e-mail inviting me to a Google Hangout On Air from the Language and Culture Coordinator for the Peace Corps in Colombia. It said I would be having a call, which has been scheduled for me without my input, with a Spanish learning expert. Date and time: December 15 at 8am COT (Colombian Time). For some reason, the first time I looked up COT, I thought it was on Mountain Standard Time, an hour behind me. Not super convenient, but I have a pretty flexible job and would just go in late. Last night, I double-checked to find that it was the same as Eastern Standard Time, EST. This was at 11:20, while I was waiting for my last batch of biscuits for my work potluck today, after having attended a game night. I had woken up yesterday morning with a sore throat. I’m tired, I’m achy, I’m up way late, and now I have to actually get up at 6:45 to throw on some clothes and somehow be intelligible in Spanish?! I was glad I had already told my team I was coming in late to work so that I could follow up my interview with a quick catnap.
I got online at 6:55. I immediately had to use the restroom. I didn’t want to use the restroom, because I didn’t want to be late for the Hangout. I sat on the Hangout waiting. My phone rang from DC. It was Carlos, in Colombia. How does he have a DC number? The Hangout was never used.
He asked me if I could hear, if I was ready, in English. He announced to whatever was recording our conversation that he was doing an interview with Brianna Thompson. He said hello, asked me how I was. He asked if I could tell him about myself. What does that mean?! I told him where I live, what I do, what I like to do for fun. He asked me to tell him more. I started to talk about my family. As soon as I started that I was unsure what would come out of my mouth – would I tell him I had two brothers once, but one just died in September? It was too soon. I hate when people pity me, especially right after meeting them. I told him I have two brothers. He picked up that I like to ride my bike and see movies. He asked me about a movie I saw recently that I liked. I described it, probably horribly. He asked me to tell a story about a time I was on my bike. I told him about the time that I was on my bike with Marty riding through a park at golden hour and I saw how perfect the light was on the dandelions and the grass and I shouted “we need to stop!” and started to dismount my bike before I actually stopped so that I ended up just doing a ridiculous tuck and roll, and elegantly stopped in the photo taking position. Only I could not remember the word for roll, so I just said I fell but I didn’t get hurt, so it was funny. This is the picture that came of that.
He asked what I do at work. He asked what I studied at school. He asked about my daily routine when I was in school, my daily routine now. Then he told me we were going to do a role play. He first introduced the scenario in English. I had to ask him to repeat it, because his accent was thick and what he was saying didn’t really make sense to me. Then I had to tell him in Spanish what the scenario was. Then we role played. The scenario was basically that there was something wrong at my house, and I needed to talk to my landlord about it.
My mind blanked. What problems do people experience with their landlords? Literally all I could think of was that the light bulbs weren’t working. Then I had to come up with an excuse why I couldn’t just change the light bulbs (side note: my friend and former roommate Megan thought for a long time that it was a landlord’s job to change light bulbs, because we had a landlord that did any tiny thing we asked about). It was not a very long role play. He asked if I had any other problems. Literally the only other problem I could think of on the spot was that my bathroom ceiling looked like it was going to fall in from water damage. I couldn’t think of the word for ceiling, let alone discuss plumbing and rotting. The interview ended there.
In the end, I don’t think it really matters. The Peace Corps wants to understand where its volunteers are at with their language proficiency before entering the country, and be able to gauge their understanding and how they might deal with issues now. I’ll be fine.