Thursday, January 28, 2010

The ups and downs of Peace Corps service

During training we were told that we would experience a never-ending circle of emotions during our service. We were told that one day we would feel absolutely in love with the culture of our country, the posh beach side location of our house, our fulfilling jobs, the wonderful students we get to work with daily, yada yada yada. On other days we might feel nonchalant about our positions and just go through the motions of our jobs, feeling comfortable where we were and just going through another day at the office. And other days we would be thinking, “WHY THE HELL AM I IN THIS CRAZY COUNTRY???????? PLEASE GET ME ON THE NEXT PLANE BACK TO CORNER CAFÉ’S, CHINESE FOOD AND WARM SHOWERS.” Well today was just one of those days where I felt all three of those emotions.

I woke up this morning excited and confident about my lesson plans and ready to breeze through the planned twenty-minute classes scheduled for the day. My goal was to get to know my students a little bit better, learn a few new names and get a general idea of their skill level. So I did that for the first twenty minutes of my first period economics class but when twenty minutes was up the class did not end. I stalled for five minutes and made the kids write a little about what they knew about economics and told them they would have to turn it in. After the finished the assignment the bell still had not rung. I thought to myself, “What’s going on here? I know this class has already gone well past the allotted time.” But there was nothing I could do. I had twenty-five kids looking at me wondering what to do. So I had them share their answers and when the bell had not rung still I cracked open the text book and just expanded my lesson plan on the spot. The class ended up running for forty minutes, almost a full class. When the bell finally rang I went up to another teacher and asked them what was going on. They let me know that we were actually doing full forty-minute periods all day! I quickly scrambled to think of new ideas to expand my lessons for the next three classes I had. I quickly thought to myself, “you know as a volunteer you can just leave service anytime with a simple call to Tongatapu and then you’ll be on an airplane in less that seventy-two hours and headed back to the land of plenty with all you can eat sushi buffets and schedules that actually run on time.”

Luckily those thoughts quickly fled my mind. I ran back to my house and picked up some more resources and figured out what I could do for each of my classes. I expanded some sections of my lesson plan and brought out my Dr. Seuss book and read the story of the Lorax to my next class and introduced environmentalism. The rest of the day went by rather smoothly and I ended the day content with new confidence in myself to figure out what to do when things do not go as planned. The rest of the day was actually kind of fun.

After school I went over to a fellow volunteers house for a joint meal and commiseration session. We discussed teaching and the sad fact that the only cargo boat coming to our island might not be coming back. Everyone seemed to have similar teaching stories to mine, it is just the reality of teaching and of teaching in Tonga so it seems. There is no other way to deal with what we are experiencing than laughing about it. So that is what we did.

I ended the night talking to a volunteer who is in her third year in the Peace Corps. She already completed two years in Benin and now is doing one more year here in Tonga. I learned all about what it was like to do a third year and how to go about it. It sounded like an awesome opportunity to explore another country for just another year and if I can get through the ups and downs of Tonga I might be interested. And there I was, excited about Peace Corps again and contemplating signing up for a third year in a different country. I had officially done the Peace Corps circle of emotions in less than twelve hours. Get me out of here! O wait I actually like what I’m doing here and how do I sign up for more?????

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