In the midst of a sea of “new” it’s often comforting to remember “me” — who I was(am) prior to choosing a radical corner to turn. Such was the case this week when I had the opportunity to put on my best attire (though it did need airing out due to previously posted problem with mold) and do a bit of event planning.
The new Ambassador finally was approved this summer and he and his family (of four kids and rabbi wife) made it to Costa Rica a couple of months ago. The first trip he made outside of the capitol was to our province — Limon. I happened to be with the Response Volunteer (shorter stint than what I’m doing, much better Spanish, and really focused work on training) when the call came in asking what we might do in our area to help him get a glimpse of our work. Since the story of his arrival had just been featured in the national press and he had highlighted his desire to help improve English, it was a win/win for his stop in Guapiles to feature elements to the new National English Festival that will be held here in November. Nothing says “photo op” like politicians and children! And, having already seen how festive the teachers make even the local-only-the-students-and-other-teachers-will-see institutional level competitions, I knew we would have plenty of “atmosphere” to throw up as backdrops.
After saying yes and pitching our idea to his people at the Embassy, we had a plan — 90 min of samples from the Spelling Bee, Impromptu Speech and Readers Theater elements of the Festival all set in one of the loveliest Guapiles elementary schools. Of course, in standard event planning mode, the 90 min became one hour, the time changed 2-3 times, and we were asked to write all the comments for all the speakers (of which there were many because … hey! … it’s an event!)
When the large dark SUV rolled into the schoolyard the little girls were poised in their best folklorico stances, the 1st-6th graders lined the sidewalk waving the flags of both countries while welcoming Ambassador Fitzgerald Haney and his entourage in two languages, and the smile that never left his face beamed. I suspected that as that father of four — all apparently under 12 years of age — he was going to delight in what the children would do. I got that one right!
First he met with the Peace Corps volunteers and our Country Director. Again, I had written a few questions for us to use during the Q&A (the other vols had the chance but in the busyness of everyday didn’t submit in time) and it was cool to hear my words coming out of their mouths and even better when his response was “Wow! That’s a great question!”
We found out how he plans to achieve his support of English — Peace Corps is definitely a part of the strategy — and how he plans to continue to encourage U.S. businesses here to financially support the efforts that will produce the quality English speakers they need. Then we were off to the presentation in the gym that had grown from what we had originally timed out to include dance, a presentation of art and lots more photos!
I suspected I liked him when he was honest with our small group. I knew he was pretty much what I had guessed he’d be when he readily agreed to take part in the mock Spelling Bee. And when he used the speech I wrote as is, well, he had me.
Several days later, I was talking with a friend going through some leadership transitions herself, and we used the term “remembering me.” I am not simply what I do, but that is a part of me. And when I switched to teaching mode and was humbled (every day) with my lack of language acquisition to the point of ragged conversations with those I wish to learn more from, I sometimes forget that I am capable of many things, competent in many areas, and have a career of successes behind me. This week I was reminded that I may not be GREAT at anything but I’m consistently good at what I do — maybe even GREAT at being consistently good. And that … as my dear friend says … pleases me.