Peace Corps has many rules. I understand why. Lots of lives are involved. Plus they’ve been at this for 53 years and have learned a thing or two about how to get a large group of people from here to there — crossing cultures, saving money, making whatever difference that might be made. I appreciate the history, the knowledge and the leadership.
But sometimes … you gotta break the rules.
No, I’m not talking about ignoring safety issues. I don’t walk in the Red Zone in the capitol city of San Jose. I’m not getting on a motorcycle, or drinking all night in a bar, or picking up strange men, or pretending all the warnings my host families have given me regarding what is and is not “muy peligroso” are for someone else and not me. I’m a grown up. I pay attention and I do what I’m told.
Except … when it comes to the work.
According to the rules, I’m supposed to be observing for at least six weeks, sitting in classes and watching how the teachers teach, the students learn, the system works… Learning the community…Integrating.
In a couple of weeks, my school will be conducting the first level of activities related to the English Festival. We’ll have a Spelling Bee, Impromptu Speeches, maybe some music and art focused on English and more. The students need to be studying for these activities and since the initial intro week when I was only checking out the site, I’ve been drilling them on spelling, checking that they understand the words, and (hopefully) making it a fun experience. Secondly, the school level is only the beginning. Next we will go to the Circuit Level and then Region and finally National and my OTHER assignment as a volunteer is working with the regional leader and a special response volunteer who is solely focused on the Festival. They’ve been working on edits to the manual and I’ve helped a bit with editing. Several of us are being trained next week on how to explain everything to all the teachers in our region. So … yeah, I’m not just watching those two highly committed women and my passionate school counterpart grind it out. I’m right there by their sides, computer in hand (thank you, GS), and doing whatever is needed.
But wait … this confession isn’t quite over yet.
This week the dream I had when I first started considering this whole experience came true. I don’t want to sound too grandiose but one of my reasons for wanting to be a part of the Peace Corps was the chance to make an impact — something that I would know contained my mark, something that was made easier/better because I was a part. On Tuesday, I started that journey. Costa Rica is about to totally revise its English curriculum. And I have been invited to join that process. So for three days this week I provided some of the psycho/social input needed from a native speaker, looked at grade 1-6 age-appropriate “can do” statements, and got creative with a group of committed Regional Leaders who take their responsibilities very seriously while somehow still having fun in the process. After my first day, I was asked to make plans to return for future meetings. After the third, I was asked to continue when they moved to 7-12 grades. In the car ride home, the Regional Leader and Response Volunteer said even if I wanted to, I was too far in now to ever get out.
Why would anyone want to wake up from a dream come true?
I certainly don’t. So I’m not just observing. I’m knee deep in this English-as-a-foreign-language teaching pool and about to dive in even further. And I couldn’t be happier.
As for that emphasis on learning my community? Well, I took a long walk with Melroy, my host’s son last night and go the lowdown on the local market; introduced him and his brother Estaban to the joys of chips and dip with homemade mango pineapple salsa; learned how to use the washing machine today (and thanked my very lucky stars that at the moment part of my payment to my host family covers laundry being done for me because let me tell you it is NOT a simple process), took a long walk (long enough that Lilly, my host, shook her head and disbelief) and discovered I’m surrounded by rivers; did a little yard work and am about to go watch Melroy play “futbol.” Integration? Even with my language issues, yeah, I got this!
Frequently, Costa Ricans ask if I’m married and/or have children. What I want to tell them is “your children are my children; your children are my legacy.” What I do is smile. When you get to do the thing you love in an area that surprises you with more beauty at each turn in the road, with people who value “tranquila” and “pura vida” … well, you’d break a few rules to be a part of it too!