Finally! We apply to the Peace Corps

PC-logoI can’t believe it’s been 2 years since we leased our office and started the process of downsizing our home to prepare it for leasing.

We knew if we wanted to be “competitive” and increase our “place-ability” with the Peace Corps (their terms!) we’d have to embark on a journey before we could even think about applying.

A number of factors stood in our way:

  • Most Peace Corps volunteers come as freshly minted university graduates.  The PC heavily recruits on major campuses around the country and these sharp young people have energy, enthusiasm and a desire to “save the world”.  They are single with no “baggage” as it were.  As a “mature” couple we don’t fit that mold.  We own real estate.  We have mortgages.  There are 2 of us to place as a couple.
  • Leslie and I aren’t credentialed teachers (education is a major pillar of the PC).
  • We don’t speak a foreign language (increases your competitiveness and place-ability).
  • We don’t have a specific skill to bring to the table (like a background in ag, medicine, etc).
  • We hadn’t been involved in a type of community volunteerism that would appeal to the Peace Corps and help increase our “place-ability”.

So after discussing these issues with a PC recruiter, we planned our next steps:

  • We would immediately become involved in community volunteerism.
  • We would live abroad to prove we could.
  • We would begin to live cross-culturally.
  • We would develop a specific educational skill needed by the Peace Corps.
  • We would develop a level of fluency in another language.

Laubach Literacy trained us to work as ESL teachers and through them we were deeply enriched teaching a class every Wednesday evening at the Ventura Avenue adult center for about 7 months or so.  Their work touches and significantly impacts the lives of many people throughout the county.

We leased out our home before Christmas, 2013, and in March, 2014 (the day after our daughter’s wedding!) we flew to Mexico City to live in a 10×12 room at the Casa de los Amigos guest house for the next 10 months.

The first 4 months were spent completing the CELTA certificate program (Cambridge University program on teaching ESL) then 5 months in español “ground school” with refugees from multiple countries.  That gave us the foundation for the next step – speaking español!

We’d heard from many in Mexico that Guatemala had a significant “cottage industry” teaching immersion Spanish.  So the decision was made to leave Mexico and move to Guatemala, where we’ve now been in immersion español for 2 months.  Four hours a day, 5 days a week, one on one, in nothing but conversation.  I feel like a 2 year old learning to speak – but it’s starting to pay off.  We intend to take about 6 months to get to a low intermediate level of fluency.

Which has led to this point in our journey.  We feel we’re ready to start the PC process.

We’ve applied to serve in Latin America, specifically in three countries: Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador.  The PC is starting a new pilot program for TEFL (ESL) that we feel is exactly what we’ve prepared for and are qualified to serve.

So now we wait and see.  There may be others more qualified than us, but that’s okay; the journey so far has been rich in new relationships and experiences – plus we’re learning a new language and learning it well!

Filed under article topic: Transitions
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Shopping in Xela – great contrasts

Our town in Guatemala (Quetzaltenango, or Xela for short) is a study of sharp contrasts. For grocery shopping, there are two extremes for choices.

mercado-las-flores-smallThis is the neighborhood market, just around the corner from our apartment where there’s a huge selection of locally grown in-season fruits and vegetables.

mercado-inside-smallThe vibrant colors and extra large sizes are a feast for the eyes.

leslie-with-chickens-smallMost everything is to be found here – even chickens in a tub on the counter –  and slabs of  beef.

mercado-outside-vendors-smallI buy most of my fruits and vegetables just outside this market from the indigenous Mayan women who sell their fresh, locally grown produce on the sidewalk. They sit with their legs tucked under them and arrange the produce around them. Note their colorful clothes!

lucia-broccoli-smallThis Mayan woman is Lucia. I frequently buy a huge head of broccoli from her for 40 cents. Every day I pass Lucia and stop and say, “¡Buenos días, Lucia! ¿Cómo estás?

buying-strawberries-smallNext to Lucia on the sidewalk is another Mayan woman selling shredded carrots, corn, peas and delicious strawberries. I’ve asked her how much for three pounds of strawberries and per custom, bartered her down a bit. She’s weighing out the strawberries in a scale of sorts – the counter weight in the balance bucket are carrots weighing one pound. The total price for these scrumptious strawberries is  $1.00 US.

paiz-frutas-smallBut by contrast, there are also big, modern grocery stores – much like Vons and Ralph’s.

paiz-cold-cases-smallAbout once a week or so I take a “micro-bus” (about $0.15) to the Paiz “tienda” (shop/store) and feel like I’m back in Ventura again.  But it’s strange seeing indigenous Mayan women in their colorful clothing also shopping here!

Filed under article topic: Transitions
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