So as I am writing this I’m sitting my schools English Cabinet, with some students clicking away on computers and their phones. I’m surrounded by monsters and pumpkins, organizing my thoughts as to where every thing should go. Ok do I have toilet paper for the Mummy Game ? Check. Apples for bobbing ? Check. Certificates for the costume contest ? Check. Now to hurry up an wait as we wait for the gym to open up.
I’m marveling at my calmness, as I think about last year and how I’ve progressed from there. I know my students, the language, and the just the way things work around here so much better then a year ago. While this is my second party, I’m also kind of realizing that its my last as well.
While in many your second year is easier – it can also mean more felt responsibility and stress when it comes to projects and the pressures you put on your self. Take last week for example.
My first year , we put on a “Lets Speak English Contest. It was encouraged by our foreign language methodologist, as lots of time, due to the type of testing done in Mongolian schools, most kids know the grammar but never garner enough confidence to speak it. Hence the competition. All of the PCVs at site came to a local school gym to put on. It came, it went, and I had very little responsibility because I didn’t know people. My second year we decided to do the competition again, with a few changes of the program. Basically , instead of showing up, we gave the teachers prepared dialogues and monologues to give to their students, to prepare with them and to be able to perform in front of us judges . Who was going to be in charge ? Why me of course.
While the foreign language methodologist sent out the information to teachers about two weeks ahead of time, I went to each of the 5 schools in Uliastai to make sure that the information was getting across. I met with teachers and other volunteers just to be clear. Despite all this , there were still issues.
Some information was only given to the Russian teachers not the English teachers. Some teachers didn’t tell others. My school had a large talent competition, the same day, meaning my students were preparing, at most 20 minutes a day, and honestly, not very well. Then , big whoop, my foreign language methodologist, my main counterpart for this project called to say that the entire education department would be going to void of the Mongolian countryside. Which would mean that she would be out of cell contact and probably unable to help.
There were many thoughts at this point. I thought about postponing, because isn’t one of our goals capacity building ? Would it be worth it to go on if my main point person wasn’t going to be able to participate? But if I postponed, then it might mean that it wouldn’t be able to happen at all, even after students had been working really hard to learn their stuff. After some discussion with my sitemates, I decided that it would be better for the competition to happen in some form, even if it was less ideal. So a week before everything, we decided to keep on trucking.
Of course the problems continued. Despite some schools knowing a full two weeks before the competition, teachers didn’t inform students until maybe two days before. In some cases the day of! These issues gave me headaches , as I found myself calling sitemates at other schools, teachers in other places just to feel like things were getting off the ground.
Throughout the week though , people helped me out. My teachers were super responsive when I told them I had to go, running off to explain what students would need to do. When my point person at the Government building fell through to print certificates, my good friend that works there told me she could print certificates. I am indebted, because I cannot understate how important certificates are at these things.
Finally the Friday arrived and everything went smoothly. All schools participated and there was an awesome amount of talent . One girl even cried during her monologue… but its up for debate whether she did that on purpose or not. And despite the wrangling, the overall reception was positive, and teachers were talking about wanting to do it again next year. My foreign language methodologist came back and we had a meeting about what we could do so that all the communication issues wouldn’t happen again. There is even discussion for doing a speech competition for older kids later this year.
So there were only positives coming out of this and despite everything, there are always things to learn. Mostly, that the whole Peace Corps thing of ‘building relationships’ in your community , is really code for making friends. And its through little things like that, competitions and the tough times, where I have realized that I have made a couple.
But as much as there is time to reflect, right away I have to prepare for the all important , Halloween Party. My week has consisted of pulling kids to color in tentacled monsters, make collage paper pumpkins (cause goodness knows I will never find a real one here) , and ghosts out of toilet paper. Now as the hard work is done, all I have left to do is make sure my Halloween Party Playlist is kid appropriate (not that they would reeeeaaallllly know, but still) . Oh , and wait for the gym to open up for decorating. Which apparently won’t happen till six. Might as well take my students lead and ‘sit’ on the internet for a little bit. And listen to this killer mash up of ACDC and Ghostbusters. You know that that’s coming out tonight.
Till something else exciting happens -V.