With exactly 5 weeks to go until I leave for Belize, I thought I'd use this opportunity to make my first entry updating you on my Peace Corps progress. Where do I begin? It's been such a long and lengthy process, it's hard to know how to summarize it all into a few short paragraphs, but here I go!
I got back from my 10 months of teaching in Mexico sometime in late May 2009. I had been thinking about applying for the Peace Corps for quite awhile, and decided to just go for it. I went on the website and filled out the (very) long application, wrote 2 essays, and asked 3 people if they could be my references. A week or so after submitting everything, I was asked to come in for an interview. I then went to the Peace Corps office, located at CU-Boulder, and talked for about an hour with a former Peace Corps volunteer, who was now in charge of interviewing all prospective volunteers. It lasted about an hour and was really interesting and informative. He basically told me I was a shoe-in for the Peace Corps, given all of my traveling, volunteering and teaching experience, and thus recommended me. So as of June 1st, I was nominated and got a cool "invitee toolkit" on the Peace Corps website. My nomination was for Latin America as a teacher trainer, leaving in February 2010.
The next hurdle before I could get placed was getting medically and dentally cleared- and let me tell you, it was not easy. The medical packet is easily 10 pages long and asks the doctor to detail every ailment, no matter how small and insignificant it might have been. But after 2 or 3 trips to Kaiser in Wheatridge and much hair-pulling, I successfully submitted it. Now came the hard part: THE WAITING. As I've discovered, the Peace Corps is all about waiting. Anyways, I sent in the medical packets in late June, and I thought I'd be hearing back sometime that summer...nope! June turned into July, and July turned into August, and I started having my doubts about the Peace Corps (I'm not always the most patient person, I'll admit). But luckily, sometime late- August, I got a letter in the mail informing me that I had been medically and dentally cleared! With the hard part out of the way, I only needed to be placed (which I was told could be awhile because they were busy working with everyone who had an earlier nomination than I did).
During the following months, I really, really tried to be patient and to just keep myself occupied- thinking about Peace Corps as little as possibly, and busying myself with teaching and traveling. I went to Costa Rica for a week at the very end of October, and of course, that's when my placement was sent out. I begged Mom to open it for me and to give me every detail possible. I WAS GOING TO BELIZE! My departure date was set for March 24th, and now, when I open my toolkit, this is the page I'm greeted with:
Congratulations on your choice to become a Volunteer in Belize. Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer is an experience like no other. Soon you will learn a new language, exchange ideas, and take part in a community as a partner and a friend. Each day in the Peace Corps will bring something new. Your life will be enriched by the friendships you make, the challenges you undertake, and the experience of seeing the world and yourself from a truly new perspective.
In the enormous packet of information I received with my placement, I also learned about my primary duties as a teacher trainer:
"The Ministry of Education is in need of Trained Teachers who will assist in the training of over one hundred Administrators and Teachers in primary schools in Belize. They will be assigned to the individual schools and will provide support to these administrators and teachers in the areas of:
School and classroom management:
-Support in language professional development
-Content and methodology in the teaching of reading and ESL
-Support in the day-to-day management of the reading program
-Support and methodology in the management of, and teaching strategies in early childhood education
-Support in professional development in the area of Inclusion Education"
Here's a little information about the country I will be serving in:
-Peace Corps arrived in Belize in 1962, and since than 1,700 volunteers have served there.
-Belize became the colony of British Honduras in 1840.
-British Honduras was renamed Belize in 1972, and on September 21, 1981, Great Britain granted Belize full independence.
-Belize is still a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
-The population is only around 300,000, making it the least populated country in Central America.
-Belize is characterized by an incredibly diverse society: Mestizos (people of mixed European and indigenous ancestry) constitute about 53 percent of the population, Creoles 25 percent, Mayas 10 percent, Garifuna 7 percent, and others, 4 percent, including Chinese, Taiwanese, East Indian, and Mennonite populations.
-English remains the official language. Spanish is becoming more widely spoken as the Mestizo population increases. The Garifuna and several Maya communities speak their own languages and Mennonite settlements in Cayo and Orange Walk speak Low German. Creole is fast becoming the language common to all.
-And a little about the environment: Ninety three percent of Belize's land is under forest cover. It has the largest coral reef in the western hemisphere, the largest cave system in Central America, over 500 species of birds, thousands of Maya archaeological temples, and the only jaguar reserve in the world.
Alright, there you have it. This is just a very, very short synopsis of my application process and what I should expect as a teacher trainer in Belize. I promise I will try to do a better job of updating my blog when I'm gone (my Mexico blog had only about 3 entries...oops). Let me know if you have any questions- you know where to find me until March 24th :)
And now, I leave you until next time with one of my favorite quotes from Into the Wild:
"The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun."