Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Volunteer Visit

Part of our Life and Work training involves going on a visit to a working Peace Corps Volunteer so we can get a better feel for the living and working environment. I was assigned to visit Sara, and Kate was assigned to visit Cale. Cale and Sara are married volunteers that work just outside of Apia. Their house is along the road between the airport and Apia.

Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly?) there have been few surprises. If nothing else, I've felt quite a bit of relief.

Dan is visiting Aaron, who lives near Sara and Cale, so Kate, Dan, and I piled into a taxi early Tuesday morning and rode out to Faleula. Upon finding Cale and Sara's house, Sara and I quickly set out for the school day at Wesley College. Dan and Kate joined Aaron and Cale at neighboring Laumua o Punaoa Vocational School.

College is secondary school in Samoa, and Sara teaches the equivalent of high school seniors. I was introduced to the principal (or pule) after the morning staff meeting. Sara made a joke about how I had come to observe her to see how great she was, which he interpreted to mean that I was her supervisor, and I'd come to audit her teaching. So at the subsequent daily morning assembly in front of the entire student body, he says, "We have a special guest today. Matt is a Peace Corps Coordinator." He then had the students applaud my presence, and the teachers asked me to move to the front row. It was a little awkward.

Sara had prep until after lunch, so she showed me around Wesley. The school has 2 computer labs. One has about 25 running Windows XP that are used to allow the freshman and sophomores to run an ESL program. The computers that the Juniors and Seniors use are not as good. They can't handle running Microsoft Office and XP at the same time, so they run Open Office on linux operating systems. Many of the computers are in pretty terrible condition, and they've done a lot of dissection and transplanting to get enough machines in working order.

Over the two days that I spent here, I observed Sara and a Samoan teacher, Amere, teach classes. The Peace Corps organizes the volunteer visits so trainees can see a classroom firsthand, but the problem is that here in Samoa, this time of year is devoted to studying and reviewing for finals almost exclusively. So the classrooms I observed were doing pretty menial review. Going over sample tests and reviewing concepts that the class had learned over the last nine months.

I had the chance to get in front of Sara's class this morning. I called role (which is tough here with names in another language, although there was Jacincta, Victoria, and Lui), collected homework, and administered a short quiz. It wasn't much, but now I can go back saying I helped teach a class.

The evenings here have been the best part. The impression that I get from a lot of volunteers is there's a lot of downtime in the Peace Corps lifestyle. Sara, Cale, Kate, and I sat around this afternoon listening to Louis Armstrong, reading, and playing games on our cell phones. I can see how the inactivity might get old, but after the hectic stress of the last week and a half, I was totally comfortable doing nothing at all.

Dan and Aaron came over last night for burritos. We played darts after. I represented very well at Cricket, although Aaron beat me at the end by scoring 8 bullseyes. It was a little depressing.

Mostly it's been a relief to be here and to feel a little normalcy. Not only do Sara and Cale having a semi-regular house, but they also have a lot of time for fun, interesting pursuits. Cale is making a paper mache pinata for the upcoming Peace Corps Halloween party. Sara reads a lot and been able to focus on photography. I guess what I'm trying to say is that they have some control over their lives and how they spend their time on a day to day basis, and that is exactly what we lack in training. So it's been very nice to see the light at the end of that tunnel.

In any case, I hope things are well back home. My phone hasn't been able to send text messages, and I plan on getting that looked at tomorrow. Pictures below (Also, I added more pics to the Village post below... so check those out)!

We were asked to take photos of our schools to share with the other trainees on Friday. When I went to take a picture, these 4 girls instantly struck poses. It was goofy.

Here is the assembly just before I was announced as the Peace Corps higher-up. The blue chair is where I moved to after said announcement.

We also went to visit a different Aaron who is working at the Art School where it is rumoured that Kate will be working. The photo at the top of this post was taken with one of the sculptures from the wood carving class. The photo above is of a mosaic. (Left to right: Aaron, Cale, Kate, Sara)

A closer picture of the mosaic.

Cale making Ava on Wednesday night.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes I can't believe you're so far away!

I'm glad to hear you're moving up in the Peace Corps chain of command quickly.

The pictures are beautiful & it's good to hear about what you're doing.

Text me when you can!

Barb Carusillo said...

It seems like just a month ago I was reading about Cale and Sara making their visit to a working PCV during their training. In a blink, someone will be visiting you at your site. Great blog!
Sara's mom