Most of my blog posts are about my emotions, people I interact with, and basically everything other than my work. So, what am I working on?
Truth be told, I’m not satisfied with where I am because of who I am. Peace Corps has taught me that I am much more introverted than I ever imagined, and I have to work hard to step outside of myself and make the necessary contacts to be successful. I hate networking. I feel like a lioness on the prowl, seeing whose life and resources can be beneficial for me. Can’t we be friends first? But networking is a part of getting your job done here, and the most successful volunteers are those that make connections and rub the right elbows.
Where I have made good connections, I am making process. I spend a lot of time with the teachers at my school. I’ve learned that the key to being comfortable and being effective is working one-on-one. If I spend a lot of time with a teacher, get to know her kids, drink some tea with her, and in the general flow of conversation make a suggestion for her class, she feels less threatened, less judged, and is overall more receptive. In this manner, I got the preschool and first grade teachers to teach their kids the vowels, and improve daily teeth-brushing activities in the classroom. I’ve also convinced them to integrate a daily activity with numbers where the kids are exposed to the abstract and concrete forms. That might not sound amazing to my Stateside readers, but trust me, it’s a mighty feat here.
In first grade, I haven’t had much success with the teacher. He has, however, agreed to let me work one-on-one with some struggling students (he has a million reasons why they aren’t his responsibility). 5/7 are making progress that I feel comfortable with! I believe the other two require a certification that I don’t possess, but to compensate I am developing a greater sense of patience, flexibility, and humor.
I’m teaching two fitness classes. This season, we are focusing on dance as a way of getting fit. We are exploring different dance forms from throughout the world including pop, jazz, traditional Arabian and traditional Japanese, ballet, and hip-hop. I have experience in some of these areas but I owe a lot to the internet. My advanced class is my pride and joy; those girls have my heart! (And when they misbehave, it’s heartbreaking!)
As for side projects (ha! so far they are the most time consuming), two schools have identified the need for an additional classroom. One of those schools would also like a playground. One would also like a water tank to supply constant running water. So my goals are: two classrooms, a playground, and a water tank. In the States that could be done in less than three months. Here, the paperwork alone may take three months. I’m willing to put in the effort. Not because I think the playground is a necessity (I can identify other things that I think are more important) but because the community sees “things” as a sign of progress, and if I don’t deliver “things” they are less likely to appreciate my service here. Forget that their kids are learning to read. They want something they can see! Whatever. I can do both, God willing.
As a side-side project (ha! ha!) I am working with two other volunteers to create a series on Afro-Paraguayan history. Ignorance is fierce in Paraguay. I’d compare it to 1950s US without the Jim Crow but with all of the misconceptions, racism, classism, and stereotyping one could stomach. The volunteers and I hope to compile resources and present our findings in the town of Emboscada, which has a high concentration of Afro-Paraguayans. It’s basically going to cover how black folks got to Paraguay in the first place, for what purpose, the end of slavery, and then a bit on the Afro-Paraguayan community today and visions for the future. It’s a big undertaking since resources are few and far between, but that will just make it all the more rewarding when it’s done.
Well, that is the work swing of things. Apparently, EEE is no more. We are now Education and Youth Development (EYD) so my work outlook may be changing. Vamos a ver…