Sorry for the major blogging hiatus I have been on lately! About a year and a half ago, towards the beginning of training, it was often mentioned how the second year of service goes much quicker than the first. I had no idea just how true that would turn out to be, but this year is just flying by!
Since I somehow managed to let two whole months go by with no update, I am going to do a highlights post and share some of the latest and greatest from my little slice of paradise here in costal Colombia!
Leading up to Easter there were many religious events at my school. The large majority of the kids are Catholic and the ones who are not are asked to just observe quietly and respectfully. Easter here involves a lot less candy, bunnies, and colorful eggs and a lot more Jesus. I was very impressed with the student’s behavior during all of the (sometimes very long and always very hot) religious services and activities.
On Easter Sunday, all of the volunteers here in Santa Marta got together to have an Easter brunch potluck. It is always a good time when we are all together, and it is nice to be with your second family when you are away from your real family, especially on holidays!
Teaching English for Primary Classrooms:
Last year I worked with three other volunteers to teach an English methodology class in the evenings for primary teachers. Teachers here are required to teach English to their students, but unfortunately many of the primary teachers have never studied English! The class we offer is open to primary public school teachers who attend voluntarily. We teach English in a way that the teachers can take back to their classrooms and replicate. The idea is that they get the English vocabulary while simultaneously learning methodology for teaching English to primary students. Nina, Andrew, and I started it up again at the beginning of this school year, and after a rocky start due to logistical issues, we are back in full swing!
It’s not all work and no play around here, I live in an endless summer just miles from the beach! With my time winding down, I have made it a personal goal to use my weekends making sure I see as many beautiful beaches as possible before my time is up. I also live a short distance from the centro where you can find quite a few delicious restaurants and an always vibrant night life! My volunteer living allowance doesn’t allow for too many nights out, but it is a great treat!
The Glasses Story:
Towards the end of last year I noticed one of my students was very withdrawn and unmotivated in class. For a first grader, this is pretty unusual behavior. I began watching her more closely and one day it finally dawned on me that she was having trouble seeing. She lives with her mother in a very modest home up in the hills. After approaching her mom to discuss her possible need for glasses, I learned that their family had been displaced (as have many of the families I work with in Gaira). This very young mother and her daughter are all that remain of their family, which means a girl younger than myself is charged with the monumental task of providing for and raising a little girl all on her own with very limited means. I began asking around and after a very long and drawn out process (nearly 6 months), I was able to work with her mother and a local organization to get her a free eye exam and a pair of glasses. The little girl’s demeanor changed drastically and she is now an active participant in class and rarely seen without a huge smile on her face. I was worried that being one of the only students in the school with glasses would make her feel self-conscious, but it turned out to be the exact opposite. On a daily basis, she approaches me and asks me to take her picture with her new glasses. I was invited to their home to have lunch to say thank you for my help. After lunch, the mother expressed some very personal thoughts and sincere gratitude for being able to provide this opportunity for her daughter. It was a very touching experience that ended in a hug with tears of both hardship and joy.
The last few months have brought me some of my highest highs and lowest lows of my service so far. Some days I feel like the time is passing slowly and I long for the comforts of home. Other days I look around and can’t believe how little time I have left here. On the one hand I look back at my service and see all that could have been done, but on the other hand I am proud of my teachers and students and all we have accomplished. I have sixish months left in my service, and all I can hope for is that they are as memorable as the last 20 have been!
Until next time…..paz y amor.