Peace Corps – we’re in a holding pattern…

We knew upfront being accepted as Peace Corps volunteers would be exceptionally difficult.  Of the 7,000 current volunteers, only 5% are married and only 7% are over 50.  So we’re doubly challenged…

We’re not there yet, but we’ve reached the “finals”.

We applied early last October and were notified we were “under consideration” for service in the Philippines.  So much for all our español training!  On December 1st we reached another significant milestone – a 3 hour video interview with a placement officer in Washington.  Leslie and I were individually interviewed for about an hour or so, then together for about half an hour.

If accepted, Leslie would serve as a secondary education English teacher trainer.  Per her job description, she would “work with new and experienced English teachers training student teachers at teachers colleges or providing in-service training to experienced teachers in current education technologies”.

While living in Mexico City during 2014, we both attended an intensive Cambridge University 4 month teacher training course (CELTA) to prepare for this PC work and we also did volunteer ESL teaching while in Ventura to “increase our place-ability” (PC jargon…).

I’m under consideration as a Community Development Facilitator.  That job entails “working with a counterpart at a governmental, non-governmental, or community-based organization that addresses the needs of children and youth in especially difficult circumstances (CYEDC) including indigenous and disadvantaged children and youth, at-risk out-of-school youth, orphans and street-children, victims of abuse and trafficking, and children in conflict with the law.”  Serious stuff where I believe I can make a substantial difference.

We’ve been told we’ll know by March 1st if we’re accepted or not.

So living here in Xela, we’ve stopped our español training (Tagalog in the Philippines!) while waiting in a holding pattern…!

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From jammed to ghost town

From Christmas onward, several of the streets in our “democracia” shopping area were closed down and filled with shopping stalls.

One street was primarily fruit and vegetables…

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But the other streets were packed with stalls like this fireworks stall.  The rolls on the right are strings of firecrackers…

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But at least this stall has a (tiny) fire extinguisher!

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And so the streets were packed with walkways between stalls like this (about 3 or 4 blocks long)…

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and

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But on New Years morning, we walked up to see what the area looked like and were startled to see a ghost town!  Everyone had packed up sometime in the late afternoon on New Years Eve and gone home!

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The street over was deserted – it definitely felt “weird” to me and gave a sense of an apocalypse.

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New Years day and the Rose parade

When our kids were growing up during middle school and high school, we’d take the week off between Christmas and New Years to work on decorating the floats for the Rose parade.  We worked long days (and nights) and then camped out on Colorado Blvd New Years Eve to watch “our” floats go by the next morning.

So on New Years day we cranked up the laptop and had it on during the 2+ hours the parade was on while we puttered in our apartment.  Being far from home, it was great to see something we were very familiar with.

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Later in the morning we walked around our neighborhood and saw lots of evidence from all the fireworks last night!  All the streets were littered with the long strings of firecrackers that had been set off just a few hours earlier.

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Happy New Year!  We’re now waiting to see if we get an invite from the Peace Corps to serve in the Philippines…

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New Years Eve – no electricity but fireworks galore!

Early Thursday morning the electricity went out.  Found out later a huge tree (which may have been in the process of being cut down – or just fell down – choose your storyteller) fell across a major transmission line and cut power to a significant part of Xela.  On New Years Eve!  Disaster!  There were parties to go to – or host!  Restaurants and clubs anticipated one of their biggest nights!

We’ve had short outages in the past and usually within an hour or so power was back, but everyone knew this was a big deal.

So, keep the refrig closed.  Go to the market and buy some fat candles.  But I was bummed.  I was planning on watching the two college playoff games on our huge hi-def TV screen (my 15″ laptop!). I can watch about 45 minutes of video on my battery and knew that’d be it.  So when darkness fell, Leslie lit some candles and…

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continued reading a book while I watched what I could of Alabama’s blow-out game till the battery quit.

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But miracle of miracles, the power came back on a half hour before “they” said it would! The refrig kicked in, my laptop continued and life was good again.

Meanwhile, fireworks were starting to kick in with more frequency and intensity outside, even though it was still a few hours before midnight.

Walking up to the mercado to buy our candles that afternoon, I stopped by my good friend Dario and his son who keeps a “tienda” (small shop) on the sidewalk at the park where he sells Bibles.

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Dario and his younger brother Enrique (our regular taxi driver) and their family have befriended us, had us in their home, have lived in the States and speak English (while I try to practice my español!).  I asked him about a type of roman candle I’d seen shot off on Christmas Eve so he flagged a passing vendor, explained how they worked and I brought 4 home for Leslie to shoot off at midnight!

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Our apartment building is like most buildings in Xela – concrete block and concrete roof – and up on the roof would be a great place to watch all the fireworks plus shoot off our own at midnight!

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These roman candles shoot multiple little canon bursts maybe 50′ into the air and are popular with the kids (like me). On Christmas Eve I saw some (unsupervised) kids shooting them at each other…

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Finally at midnight, Xela went crazy with fireworks.  The intense noise of strings of firecrackers going off on all the streets below us added to the massive noise of 360 degree aerial fireworks above us.  And it kept going non-stop for over half an hour before it slowly began to subside.  Even at 2 am there was still a lot of fireworks going on!

But what amazed Leslie and I was that all these fireworks were private individuals shooting off their own privately bought fireworks in their own neighborhoods.  These dozens of neighborhood shows easily rivaled the “professional” shows we’d see in Ventura like the closing shows each night of the County fair down on the beach.  It was a great way to start a New Year!

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