Peace Corps is about a million projects all going on at the same time. Many projects peter out or downright fail. Some of them succeed. Regardless, the push to sustain them and keep life flowing can sometimes leave you exhausted, even in tears, or at least really upset and Whatsapp’ing your friends at all hours.
This project is one of my big pushes right now. I was paired with an awesome teacher in Colorado through the World Wise Schools program, where a teacher in the U.S. can request to be connected to a PCV somewhere in the world. Lena is a high school Spanish teacher and wanted her students to have an opportunity to interact with native Spanish speakers and learn about life outside of the U.S. I wanted my students to interact with native English speakers and see how English can connect them to people they otherwise might not have known. We talked about setting up a pen-pal system, as the technology in my school is not great and definitely not consistent, and my English teachers jumped right on board. This idea was put into place around October/November, the end of the school year for us and the beginning of the year in the U.S. Finally, in March, our stars aligned and we were able to talk to the three 11th grade classes and find 25 students to match with 25 students from Lena’s classes. Her students are working on this as a personal after school project. My students meet once a week. We had ten weeks and a plan, mixing English and Spanish each week so everyone could practice, teach, and learn.
Tomorrow will be the sixth week of the program (well, it would have been, but there is a national teacher protest so we can’t meet.) What was supposed to be an hour a week session is actually a 2-3 hour weekly event. We have been through location changes, medical issues (mostly not me), big community happenings, hours of uploading entries when there was no internet (that was me), constant WhatsApp messages to my teachers reminding, and occasionally, begging them to attend, wavering attendance, highly motivated students, silly pictures, and explanations of why entering paragraphs of text into a translator doesn’t always have the desired result. It has been amazing to see how motivated the students are, especially when we catch the internet on a good day, to see what their partner wrote and to respond. Or how unhappy they are when they find their partner hasn’t done their part. Equally amazing has been hiding translators and making students read through their partner’s text and them (sometimes) realizing they understand more English than they let themselves believe. I even have had a few students challenge themselves to write in English without a translator, checking for meaning and words they really want to use but don’t yet know.
We have four more weeks to go, and then a reunion in July when Lena will be visiting San Jacinto! Here’s to five more weeks of prepping, sweating (figuratively and literally), reminders, tracking down students, lots of documents on two USBs, and a whole lot of adventure. Cross your fingers for working computers and internet!