I know that with my last three posts focusing on Carnaval, it may seem like I’ve just been partying for the last five weeks, but I promise that isn’t true! We are 5/13 of the way through Pre-Service Training, which is a period that all Peace Corps Volunteers around the world must go through in order to swear in to begin their 2 years of service. There are 5 main components to our Pre-Service Traning:
- Spanish classes. Almost all of us will be placed in small pueblos throughout the coast of Colombia, where it is likely there are few English speakers aside from the English teachers. In order to effectively communicate with our host families, our community partners, and even our English teacher counterparts, it will be important for us to have a fairly high level of oral Spanish communication ability. In December, everyone in my group went through a Language Proficiency Interview, in which our level of Spanish was determined. These levels were used to divide our cohort into groups for training, so that we would be in Spanish classes with other people at a similar level. Our cohort is the first to go through community-based training, in which all of our classes are within the community, rather than at a central location. Our teachers come to us from Barranquilla, and we hold classes within our homes. They have even included cooking lessons! One mom taught us to make arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), and my mom taught me to make arepa de huevo (arepas with eggs fried inside them).
- Technical and core classes. Technical classes are the ones that teach us to actually do our job (teach English and teach English teachers), while core classes are ones that all Peace Corps Volunteers around the world go through. For these we meet in a center in a town that is central to all of our training towns, and Peace Corps staff and current volunteers come to teach us the ways.
- Practicum. Once a week we go to a local school, where we each have a teacher that we work with, and we help in the class. For the first 2 weeks of practicum, we just observed to get an understanding of how the classes currently operate, and what level both students and teachers are at. This week, we begin leading activities within the classroom. In a few weeks, we will begin running the full class.
- Charlas. These are “chats” that we are having with English teachers from several different schools to train them on various English teaching techniques, as well as to help them improve their own English.
- Community projects. In order to give back to our community for allowing us to train here, and to gain practice in planning projects within the community, we are doing community projects. For ours, we are planning to do mini-camps with local youth to teach them about public health and sanitation in a fun way.
In order to get all of this done, we have spent a lot of time in the last 5 weeks walking around town and introducing ourselves to random people – principals at schools, librarians, the mayor, his staff… Fortunately, Colombia has an open culture where you pretty much walk up to any door, say you want to speak with someone about such-and-such project, and after a little wait, you’re in the door addressing what you want.
Additionally, we had a volunteer site visit. I, with 3 people from different sites, went to visit a current volunteer who has been at his site for more than a year. We were able to get to know the bus routes a bit; make a good “American” dinner of pasta, salad, chocolate chip cookies, and wine; see the volunteers’ schools and hear about the various projects that he is working on; sleep on his patio; and, most importantly, ask him a barrage of questions. I was one of a lucky group that visited someone so great that the Peace Corps Global director recently mentioned him in a recent Pacific Council publication!
Outside of this, my days include eating lunch and dinner at my host family’s house, spending time at the library to get blog posts up, hanging out on the patio with my host mom, and going to the gym. Weekends have been spent soaking up the sun at local pools and beaches, and Carnavaling. So there’s been a lot of work, but there’s been a lot of reward, too!