Happy fall from the land of eternal summer! I hope you are all enjoying your crisp weather, changing leaves, and all things autumn. On the one hand, as I scroll through instagram looking at sepia toned shots of pumpkin spice everything and vintage looking piles of leaves, I am a little envious of everyone enjoying my favorite season. But then I remember how quickly my time is passing here and that the next time fall rolls around, I will be heading home! I remember all the things that I love about Colombia and how limited my time is here. Then I grab a mango, throw on a sundress, and head to the beach and suddenly pumpkin spice is the farthest thing from my mind!
Here is what has been happening lately in the beautiful Santa Marta:
WOMEN AND GENDER IN DEVELOPMENT
A little over a month ago I went to Barranquilla to participate in a Women and Gender in Development committee meeting. Here on the coast of Colombia (as is true in most parts of the world) women are still a marginalized population. There are lots of initiatives already in place and doing work in the area of women and gender in development. As a committee we are working on creating and organizing a database where we can consolidate all of the materials and information we have for volunteers who are interested in starting secondary projects in this area. We also had a great conversation via Skype with a representative from the UN Women (the sector of the United Nations dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women). It was really inspirational to hear the work my fellow volunteers are doing in their sites and I am excited to see future projects.
TECHNICAL IN SERVICE TRAINING
About a month ago we had a regional in service training. Basically this means that staff from the Peace Corps office comes to Santa Marta and invites the volunteers and our counterparts (the teachers we work with) to attend a three day conference focusing on technical training. We attended sessions on materials development, the backwards design to lesson planning, co-teaching methods, assessment, behavior change theory, etc. Our teachers take these workshops very seriously and welcome the opportunity to learn some new methodologies and improve their practice. At the end of the conference we presented our counterparts with certificates and were asked to say a few words about working with them. There were a lot of heartfelt sentiments shared and even some tears shed. This experience can be a very emotional one and the work can be very trying for both volunteers and counterparts. The genuine emotion shared on this day reminded me of the importance and sincerity of the relationships that are being built.
Back in August the next new group of volunteers arrived in country (a new group arrives each year in August). I was not able to go meet them at the airport, but I was invited to go during their three month training and present a session on teaching young learners, so I had a chance to meet them. They seem like a wonderful group and are very enthusiastic about their future work here in Colombia. About two weeks ago we found out which of them would be coming to Santa Marta. We will be adding 8 young women to our Santa Marta family and we couldn’t be more excited. They came to visit their new schools last week and we had a potluck to welcome them.
TEACHING ENGLISH IN PRIMARY CLASSROOMS
One of my secondary projects here is a class I teach with three other volunteers at night. This class is designed for primary teachers at a basic level of English language proficiency. We teach English vocabulary while modeling dynamic teaching methodologies appropriate for large primary classrooms. This is one of my favorite parts of my service and I look forward to this class each week. We just had our last class where we played a Jeopardy review game (which they absolutely killed), had a potluck (which was delicious), and presented our students with some well-deserved certificates (Colombians love certificates). I am looking forward to starting this class up again next school year and hope to see some familiar faces return.
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION ENGLISH IMMERSION ON SAN ANDRES ISLAND
A few months ago we were presented with an opportunity to apply for a position at an English immersion workshop being put on by the Colombian Ministry of Education. I submitted my proposal for a workshop I would present on Dynamic, Communicative, and Cooperative Learning in Large English Classrooms. Those of us who applied have been anxiously waiting to find out who had been selected as we knew the workshop begins in the beginning of November which was rapidly approaching. A few days ago I got a call from the Peace Corps program manager telling me my proposal had been selected and I was being invited to attend the workshop as a trainer. The participants of the workshop are secondary school English teachers from all over Colombia. The workshop is a month long (I will be gone November 8th through December 7th) and is being hosted on San Andres Island (google map it….it is a tiny spec of land in the middle of the ocean off the coast of Nicaragua). Even though it is way closer to Nicaragua, it belongs to Colombia. From what I hear and from some extensive googling, San Andres seems like paradise! We will be working during the days but it sounds like we will also have time to explore the island and all it has to offer. I will likely not have internet while I am there so next time you hear from me will be in December when I am back in Santa Marta.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving full of family, friends, and of course delicious food. Know that all of you back home are always on my mind and I am so thankful for each and every one of you. I am also thankful for all of the wonderful people who have become such a huge part of my life over the last year. Finally, I am eternally thankful for all of the amazing opportunities I have been blessed with in my life and that continue to present themselves.
Until next time….paz y amor.