Yes, I’ve stopped crying. As always, huge thanks to those who reached out to remind me that everything is going to be okay and make me feel loved.
And, now we’re moving on. Because it’s a new year. With new opportunities and (yikes) challenges. This will be the year that things really happen in site and also the year I have to say goodbye. I’ve got some resolutions and goals to share, but first I figured I should review what I claimed I was going to accomplish twelve months ago and see how I did.
“I’m going to continue working with the youth group I’ve started in a nearby aldea and start at least one more. In addition to the English they’ve requested, I’d like to continue with lessons related to world culture and geography. I want these activities to culminate in the painting of world map murals and, for the females, in Estrellas de Hoy Camps (in which activities related to self esteem, goal setting and decision making take place… along with s’more making).”
Well, hey! So far so good. In addition to the group mentioned (Campito) I did managed to start five additional youth groups – Don Gregorio, Naranjo, Asuncion, Agua Blanca and Teocinte. Participation definitely lagged once we hit the middle of the rainy season and never fully recovered, but I did keep up with the English lessons and managed to incorporate “Around the World” activities for those that did stick it out. The world map is almost done (just some labeling left) and you’ve read about the GLOW camp in November.
I’m going to continue working with my two established women’s groups and start at least three more. I hope to continue meeting with them at least monthly and teach them the process of project design and management. And then assist them as they define priorities, develop community project ideas, plan, seek funding, manage and evaluate.
By March/April my counterparts and I had put together eight women’s groups in various communities. We realized that many women would stop showing up if they didn’t have something tangible to take home, so we tried to present leadership training alongside hands on activities (like baking, soap making or arts and crafts). It soon became clear that workshops on human rights and leadership and communication were of no interest to the women. And that’s unfortunate because it’s so easy to see how these lessons could really benefit their communities, but I can’t force them to want to be more capable leaders. I would have loved to undertake a project with one of the groups (there was one in particular that I thought had the “ganas” to make a park project happen) but that’s just not what they are into. So I left the groups to the Home Skills Teacher from MAGA (the Agriculture Ministry) and one of my counterparts. I’m not sure what is going to happen to the groups when the administration changes, but we’ll see what happens.
I’m going to help make my office a more efficient place by showing co-workers how to utilize available tools (mainly Excel and the internet) and by demonstrating various event planning skills. I’m also going to help the Women’s Office get to the point where we regularly develop and follow monthly plans.
My counterparts do have a few more Microsoft Word and Excel tricks up their sleeves nowadays, but the monthly calendars wouldn’t happen if I didn’t do them and with so little internet access office wide there really haven’t been many teaching moments available. Plus, with more than ten years doing these jobs, most of my coworkers habits are fairly ingrained and the whole “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality was at play. Oh well.
I’m going to either pursue a bottle school or library project in my municipality.
The library idea never really did spark the imagination of the mayor, but the bottle school did get some attention. And I tried. I met with the treasurer and talked to the mayor and got the municipality on board to pay the builders and transport materials. I met with the local school superintendent and got her on board. I got the teachers at the chosen school on board to organize. I got the community on board for manual labor. I went to almost every school in the municipality (some more than an hour away) to do environmental presentations and then collect bottles. We have something like 3000 bottles sitting in a shed next to the school. But the NGO we were going to partner with has more projects on the table than funds/staff and ours is languished in line. And then when the mayor didn’t win re-election… well, it basically meant starting over. So, the plan is to get the new one on board, get some plans done in muni (rather than through the NGO) and apply for grant funds from USAID.
I’m going to finally become legitimately “bilingual”.
I’m conversational but miles from fluency. My accent is pretty good but my comprehension is lacking. But every day is another chance to practice.
I’m going to move into my own home in order to raise chickens for eggs and plant a garden.
I wrote that ignoring the fact that available housing in my muni was limited. I feel lucky to be living where I am. It’s near where I work, it’s surrounded by really great neighbors, it has water and electricity and feels safe. But the chickens and garden would have had to be in the shared outside space in the middle of all the neighbors homes and I felt like I would be imposing or something. I do have some cilantro and basil I’m trying to make grow in some old cans on my patio though. That counts, right?
I’m going to become a master tortilla maker.
This was a total fail. I never lived with a family that makes their own tortillas, they always bought. And I tried a few times, but it’s so messy and not worth the trouble when I can go buy 4 for 1Q. When I go home I will be buying a tortilla press since the little ladies won’t be there to make them for me.
I’m going to keep writing this blog.
I will floss everyday. (Of the thirty or so volunteers that just went through mid-service medical exams, ALL BUT TWO had cavities. That’s what all that bread and those sugary refrescos will do to you!)
I flossed more this year than probably all the other years of my life put together. Look, I know that’s probably gross, but I’m not a flosser. Was it everyday? No. Probably 5 times a week. AND I STILL HAD 3 CAVITIES. Stupid refrescos.
Despite the distance, I will be as supportive and involved as possible in my family’s life and the lives of my friends back home.
I made birthday phone calls and facebook stalked like you wouldn’t believe, but you’d have to ask them whether I accomplished this one or not.
I’m going to lower the number of bags of what I like to call “mental health Doritos” I eat and become more patient and less prone to extreme frustration in the face of the challenges that present themselves everyday.
I did eat fewer doritos. Though I think mainly because I finally moved out on my own and was able to cook my own meals. I don’t feel more patient and still get frustrated – in fact sometimes I worry that I’m becoming less patient and more prone to fits of rage…
I’m going to attempt to appreciate each day, each challenge, each opportunity and each experience that I am lucky enough to have come my way.
Well isn’t that cute and lofty? Look, I try. When I’m freaking out there is always a part of me standing back and saying, “Seriously, Carmen, chill out. This experience is unique and special and you should try harder to appreciate that.” And then the irrational part of me is all like, “Shut up. I’ll appreciate it when it stops sucking.” And when it stops sucking, I do sometimes appreciate it. But, yeah, I guess I could try harder.
So that was 2011. As for 2012…
- Put together an awesome Degree Project that will not only wow the professors back at Evans, but also truly help my municipality.
- Finish one largescale project – either bottle school, library or capacitation center.
- Don’t strangle the kids in my youth groups…
- Test out at Avanzado Alto Spanish level.
- Truly take advantage of the free time I have here that I won’t have post Peace Corps.
- Appreciate the new friends that I have made, remind the ones that have made the effort to keep me part of their lives how much they mean to me and accept the fact that people change and grow and grow apart.
- And, why not, I’m going to attempt to appreciate each day, each challenge, each opportunity and each experience that I am lucky enough to have come my way.
Feliz Año Nuevo.