Jackie in Panama

Jackie Wald has served as a lecturer in Spanish in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in SMU’s Dedman College. She and her husband, Michael, have volunteered to serve in the Peace Corps in Panama for 27 months. Their assignment is to update the English Program at the Escuela Normal, which is Panama’s premier teacher training school.

Not so “Beautiful”

The opinions, if any, expressed in this post are the author’s only and do not necessarily represent those of the Peace Corps.

The Escuela Normal has gone high tech. I was working with a colleague who shares my love of teaching language through pop music. How many times in Spanish classes at SMU have we played Juanes, Shakira, Ricardo Arjona or Julieta Venegas songs, following the lyrics on worksheets in which I leave out words for the students to fill in as they listen?

This teacher had chosen “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt. She had a version on DVD, which we popped in a player. This particular rendition was the artist at the pier on the ocean. He sings about exchanging glances with a girl he will never see again. He knows they cannot ever be together so he meticulously removes his shoes, rings and shirt and jumps into the ocean at the end. At one point he sings, “She could see from my face that I was flying high.” When that line played, what I heard was “f—ing high.” I almost jumped out of my skin. I looked at the teacher. She had no reaction. Nor did any of the students. The teacher played the song three times in that class. I realized that no one in that room had the auditory discrimination to perceive that the spoken word did not match the written word.

After class, I mentioned to the teacher that flying was written in the lyrics but was not what he sang. Oh, really? Is that word bad then? We went to an internet cafe after class and found a better version of the song on You Tube, where James Blunt is in concert and sings according to script. She said she would get someone to convert it to DVD format to replace the offensive one.

I, of course, did not know this song or I’d have seen it coming; I’d have been familiar with the different recordings on You Tube (not my type of music). Combined with the teacher’s lack of English skills, it could’ve been a disaster if a savvy kid had known this word. Or maybe students would think that the correct pronunciation of F-L-Y-I-N-G was something else.

I don’t always agree with the teachers’ choices of music for their English classes. Some titles have been: “Octopus Garden” by the Beatles, “I Need to Know” by Marc Anthony, “Crash and Burn” by Savage Garden and “Wake Me Up When September Ends.”

If anyone out there has some other suggestions for clearly sung, catchy lyrics in English (in good taste!) please comment in this space and let me know. You may just be contributing to the English program of Panama!

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Rice is nice

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou … so says the old adage. But for much of the world, bread is not the staff of life. It’s rice. Panama is no exception.

Rice finds its way onto your plate all day long, three meals a day. At a recent Peace Corps seminar there was sausage, rice and beans at breakfast. Chicken and rice was on the menu for lunch. Fried fish on rice was served at dinner (with more beans). When we first arrived to Panama for Peace Corps training, our host mom served us a mountain of rice and half a chicken wing for our first lunch at home. For dinner, we received another mountain of rice plus the other half of chicken wing. Nothing else.

Green vegetables are not the norm. The most common vegetable all over Panama is cabbage, shredded, as for cole slaw, with a garnish of shredded carrots for contrast. It is served plain or with dollops of mayonnaise blended in. If a restaurant tells you that an entree comes with salad, 90 percent of the time that means potato salad, not tossed greens with a lovely balsamic vinaigrette.

Rice comes in two basic forms: primera calidad, first quality, is a bag of whole white grains, unbroken. Segunda calidad, second class, has some whole grains but mostly broken pieces. You can see the powdery residue of broken rice in the bag. When cooked, this results in a dish that resembles gluten glop rather than plump, fluffy individual grains. It’s much cheaper and equal in nutritional value. The poorer people must resort to second-class rice in hard economic circumstances.

One day in Doris’ house, where we live, she made a large pot of elbow macaroni for the midday meal. She mixed this with some shredded beef and chopped tomatoes. A friend of hers had joined us for lunch. Where is the rice? the lady protested. Well, there’s macaroni today, Doris answered. But if there’s no rice, I feel as though I haven’t eaten, said the lady. Panamanians totally understand this. Doris heated up some leftover rice in the cooking pot and added it to the macaroni dish. Everyone was happy.

Dogs are popular in Panama. (As pets, not meat.) I bring this up because most families here feed their dogs leftover rice and meat scraps. There are no pet-oriented stores with dog treats, yummies, toys, etc. You can buy dog food in the supermarkets, just not the huge variety that we find in the U.S.

Our PC volunteer friend, Laura, was given a newborn puppy by her neighbor last year. She took him into the city for shots at the vet. She buys him Pedigree to eat. His coat is shiny and he is energetic, in sharp contrast to his scrawny litter mates (most of whom have died from parasites or malnutrition.) Wow, your dog looks really good, people tell her. Yeah, leftover rice just doesn’t cut it as dog food, she thinks.

I am experiencing starch overload. My diet contains too much rice, corn, yucca, and plantains. I thought with all the walking we do, coupled with the challenge of Peace Corps, I would get really skinny. Instead, I am gaining weight. How depressing.

I look forward to coming home in a year or so, cooking in my gleaming, modern kitchen. I will make enormous salads of spinach, leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli, fennel, arugula, red onions and tomatoes. I will broil fish and chicken without breading. I will get fit again. I just may not be able to look at another plate of rice for a while.

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Change we can believe in

Jackie’s column appeared March 23, 2009, in The Dallas Morning News:

Change. That has been the operative buzzword of society lately.

The Peace Corps itself is all about change. Ideally, the changes that the Peace Corps implements would become routine practice after we are gone. That is what sustainable development means. But often, former volunteers return to their sites two or three years later to see how little their efforts have continued. What they might find is that the community, small business or school has gone back to the way things used to be done. They weren’t interested enough to carry on the changes for themselves.

Why would that be? Programs need to do something for the people. But they themselves must be involved in the process. They have to want to create change in their everyday lives. If we say, “Oh, that’s not the best way to do this; here’s what you should do; let me show you – the people will never carry on their own development. They need to be motivated to implement change by being involved in program planning. They have to own their decision-making process.

Easier said than done. All of us are resistant to change when we feel that a current system is working just fine, thank you very much. We, as Americans, accept a faster rate of change than those in the Third World. We eagerly ditch our 35mm cameras and bulky cellphones for sleek all-in-one digital models. We use debit cards. We have cable TV.

Here in Panama, it is still common to chat on a public telephone, pay with cash and watch network TV. (If your community has electricity.) Farming practices in more remote areas are the same as they were in prior generations.

Even change on a small scale is a challenge. The landlady from whom we rent a room still cooks at an outdoor fogon, or hearth. She prefers to make coffee as follows: Boil water in a small pot. Throw in some scoops of ground coffee. Cut the flame when it bubbles up to a head. Strain through a piece of fabric that is hand-sewn onto a curved section of wire coat hanger.

Tastes pretty good, actually.

But imagine my surprise when I found a Mr. Coffee in kitchen closet. It was covered in dust, and some insects had made the carafe into a final resting place. “Oh, I don’t like that thing,” she protested when I asked about it. “The coffee just doesn’t taste very good.”

I could go on and on about the education system in Panama, which is crying out for change. Learning is mostly rote memorization of vocabulary and terminology. In my school, 20 donated computers have sat idle all year, unprogrammed and disconnected. The director feels that school is progressing well enough without investing the time, effort and cost to get them up and running.

Is the Peace Corps offering change we can believe in? Can I really make a difference in the teaching of English in Panama? When I leave, will they forget all about my interactive songs, activities, dialogues, role plays and dynamics in favor of their old ways of memorization?

I have another 15 months to give it my best shot.

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Bugs, trash and water

The opinions, if any, expressed in this e-mail are the sender’s only and do not necessarily represent those of the Peace Corps.

On JEOPARDY! there is a category called Hodgepodge. I love that. It’s a great word. That describes my mind when it’s full of Panamanian cultural oddities that I struggle to process. I will try to limit this discussion to a mere few of these phenomena that constantly daunt me: bugs, trash and water.


Ants, as we all are aware, are amazing creatures. The most fascinating are the leaf cutters, capable of defoliating an entire tree in half a day. They follow a pheromone trail from their underground abode to a particular tree. They carry away huge sections of leaf on their backs, down into the hole where other members of the mound process it into food for all. I initially thought that was terrible for the tree. It can’t contribute oxygen if all its foliage is stripped away. But, as a guide in one of the jungle areas told me, the leaf cutter ants gravitate toward trees that are not deciduous, that is, they do not drop their leaves seasonally and produce new buds. So, Nature, in all her wisdom, has the leaf cutter ants periodically strip the old foliage so that the tree can generate new leaves. Ingenious, no?

Other types of ants are less admirable. We know about fire ants in Texas (ouch!) They are here, too, in varying sizes, ready to sting if we cross their path. Some are as big as beetles. In Panamanian kitchens, we find little, itty bitty teeny almost imperceptible ants. They are everywhere, crawling on countertops, on tables, food cannisters, on dishes with any residue at all. A brand-new package of raisins with cellophane over the sealed box was teeming with ants inside when we opened it. If we put leftovers in the refrigerator, we may find little ants happily criss-crossing the plate hours later. Oh, don’t worry about those little things, says my host mom. They won’t hurt you. (So, what, am I supposed to eat them?)

Doris had a clever plan to deal with these ants when she prepares catered meals for her clients. If she bakes one of her famous beautifully decorated cakes, she elevates it on a tray. At the base of the tray, she puts a used margarine container or yogurt cup filled with water at each leg. The tiny ants can’t swim so they don’t crawl up the leg of the tray to contaminate the pretty cake. It’s a neat trick that I will use in the US, maybe for a picnic or outdoor meal.

If I lean into the countertop while I’m working, I start to feel a tickle on my legs and arms because they have decided to crawl all over me. They are not easy to swat because they are so small and fast. I step away from the countertop and slap my arms and legs. I think I’ve gotten them all when, ten minutes later, there’s that tickle again. They’re still running around my skin. I was going to say more about mosquitos, roaches and scorpions, but the ants have dominated the bug discussion.


It’s everywhere. In the streets, on sidewalks, in the yards of households, on the side of the highways, at the beaches. We were in a bus one day, behind a very nice BMW. Suddenly, paper bags, styrofoam cups and remnants of a meal flew out its windows onto the road. I guess they wanted to keep the inside of the car clean. Before stepping onto a city bus, a mother hissed at her young son, “Don’t bring that empty drink carton and paper bag onto the bus!” So, he threw it down right there in the street before getting on.

My husband and I are the crazy Americans who have walked for blocks, clutching our candy bar wrapper or drink container, futilely searching for a trash can (there are none), steadfastly refusing to contribute to the ever-growing mountain of garbage. Usually we have to wait until we get to school or home to properly dispose of litter. We have discussed the lack of receptacles with municipal representatives and Rotary International, trying to find a solution. No result yet. And, once accumulated, most people burn trash in their yards – paper, plastics, rubbish … can you imagine the smell of that fire?


One would think that water is not a problem here in the tropics. There is abundant rainfall, flowing rivers, and a water passage that connects two great oceans. But nationwide, indoor plumbing is fraught with difficulty. Water service does not reach outlying communities. People have to bathe and do laundry in rivers. They have latrines that don’t require water to meet their needs. They may have up to an hour walk to procure water from a well or spigot nearby.

Here in Santiago, a city of 80,000, we live next to a huge water tank. Problem is, it was constructed about 30 years ago and has never ever worked. It’s useless. Doris jokes that it is helpful as a landmark to direct people or taxi drivers to our house. (Oh, yeah, next to the big tank that doesn’t work.) Santiagans are quick to excuse their civic leadership saying, oh, but the pipes were constucted for a population of 40,000 at most and we are twice that size now. It puts a stress on the water system.

OK … I’m no engineer but it seems to me that since the increased population is not going away, the city needs to commit to expansion of its underground water delivery system. Isn’t that basic civil engineering? I realize that construction would be invasive, inconvienient and disruptive for a time. But the long-term benefit would outweigh the discomfort.

As it is, no one throughout Panama has a constant supply of water flowing through sinks, showers and toilets, even if they have a private tank. If the tank is mounted on top of the house, city water, when it does flow, has insufficient pressure to run upward into the tank. A pump or well might guarantee constant water, but these are costly and off-limits to most of the population, including Doris’s house. That is why, whenever we hear gurgling through the pipes, even if it’s 4 am, we may drop whatever we are doing and jump in the shower, or flush toilets that have an accumulation, or fill buckets and pitchers or do some laundry.

During the rainy season I was gratified to think that there would be a greater supply of available water. But no, that presents other difficulties. Large pieces of debris (see previous discussion of garbage above) can clog the pipes and impede the flow of water to the system. It may take technicians a couple of days to clear away these obstructions. Then we gratefully get our trickle back.

I will never again, even when I get back to the USA, ever take water for granted. I will bless all the gods and godesses of heaven when I can turn on the tap and feel the magical flow of life-giving water coursing through the pipes. Think about that – and count your blessings.

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SMU: It’s everywhere!

This one sports a Mustang and a Horned Toad.

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Merry Christmas from the Isthmus: SMU in Panama

Look what jumped out at me in Panama!

Happy holidays, SMU!

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Sharing my Peace Corps journey

The following op-ed column by Jackie Wald appeared in the December 4, 2008, edition of The Dallas Morning News:

A new journey in the Peace Corps

If it weren’t for the pain in my lower back and deteriorating knees, I’d feel like a 22-year-old. As a volunteer in Peace Corps Panama, I’m surrounded by young people. I can ignore the pesky irritations of middle age enough to keep up with them in training, hiking, swimming endurance and the like. I’m the only one who knows how my middle-aged body betrays me.

Mentally and emotionally, I also feel as though I’m going through a youthful rite of passage. As freshmen in college, we are thrust into a new and confusing world. Occasionally the cloud of confusion around us lifts, and we perceive things clearly. That is similar to Peace Corps. We are dropped into an alien environment. Language, customs, food, habits, resources, sights, tastes, sounds and smells – all are entirely new. The challenge of acclimating to a foreign culture and operating effectively within it seems insurmountable at times.

I teach English as a foreign language at a large high school in Santiago, Panama. I have to create my own curriculum. There are no textbooks. There is not a copy machine for teachers. My colleagues write on the board, and students copy everything into their notebooks.

Even many exams and quizzes are written on the board, and students write on their own paper. We can go to copy centers and pay 3 cents a sheet, which I often do, just to make sure all the students have the same information. The lack of textbooks, a language lab, a copy center or printers (at the few computers that do exist) is excruciating for me. But I must adjust and function within this different learning environment.

Before I left Dallas, people told me that my acclimation would be much easier and that I would be more readily effective than the younger trainees. Supposedly my life experience and seasoned perspective would give me a heads up over my fellow volunteers (some of whom were younger than my own children). That has not been the case.

We were all in the same place as we began training in Panama. The experience itself, with all its obstacles, is the equalizing force, no matter what one’s age. Sometimes it has been their fresh ideas, the exuberance of youth, their willingness to try new approaches that have inspired me.

So, do I mind that I was not the wise old sage they turned to for advice? Do I feel slighted that my decades of problem-solving have not given me an edge in achieving my goals? No. What I have come to conclude is that there are benefits to finding yourself at the very bottom of the road you must climb. The rewards of your efforts are sweeter when you have thrown yourself headlong into something completely new. Maybe that’s why the Peace Corps says it’s “the hardest job you’ll ever love.”

It energizes me to work alongside my fellow volunteers. We share the desire to make a difference through our projects and development work. It almost makes me feel 22 again. Now if I could just do something about my creaky knees …

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Running on Panama time

I really hate to be late. I am a punctual person. I drove my children crazy when they were growing up. “Hurry!!” I’d yell. “We’re going to be late!” as if that were some federal offense.

We’ve all heard the stereotypes of Latina culture – manana is soon enough. Si, si, mas tarde, I’ll get to it later. In Brazil they even have a verb – adiar – which means “to put off until whenever.” But recently, my frustration has come to a head. I’m having real problems dealing with the Latin attitude toward time and schedules.

If class starts at 1:00, not only do many students arrive at 1:20 or 1:30, but they cheerfully burst into the classroom with a hearty “Buenas!” for one and all. “Ah, como estas?” everyone answers. “Excuse me?” I bleat haplessly. “I was speaking.” In the USA, if a student enters that late, she or he at least tries to slink unobtrusively into the room.

The principal of an elementary school asked me to do an English class with 6th graders on Friday at 8:00. I dutifully planned my lesson and arrived promptly to discover that there was no English class on Friday mornings.

Where 7 means 9
The first week we arrived to our community we were told, “Oh, you must come to the school’s annual dinner tomorrow at the convention center at 7:00.” Fine. We arrived. The building was dark. Do we have the right place? The right day? Yes, said the guy who was sweeping the atrium. They’re not here yet.

We walked around for awhile. People started to arrive at 9:00. We clustered around the entryway until they opened the ballroom doors at 9:30. A few nuts and crackers were out to munch on while tributes, awards and speeches continued until dinner was served at 11:30. Yawn. Why do they call this a dinner, I asked, if it’s almost midnight before we eat? “Oh,” everyone laughed, “you’re not used to Panamanian time. Also, if they put out the dinner first, no one would stay for the speeches.”

We needed to go to another community to meet with other Peace Corps volunteers. Oh, don’t bother going to the terminal and paying bus fare, said Doris, our “mom.” Jose is driving there. He’ll give you a ride. When? we asked. Ahorita, right now, she said. Two hours later, Jose showed up on his way out of town. Good thing, too, since we had missed the buses.

Countdown to 2009
Peace Corps gives us vacation days. We can’t use them during the first or the last three months of our two-year service. That leaves an 18-month period to plan our trips. “Where is the calendar for 2009?” we asked in the school’s main office. “We don’t have it yet,” the secretary said. “But it’s almost December now. When will it be announced?” “We don’t know.” “But when is the first day of school in 2009?” Answer: The Ministry of Education will tell us when they decide.

A very special graduation ceremony was designated for Thursday afternoon for the English For Life students. This is a wonderful government program for English acquisition that is the brainchild of someone in the current administration. If another party wins the presidency in the May elections, this and all other programs from the prior administration will likely be discontinued. We showed up an hour early to find that it had been held at 8:30 because the Minister of Education, who was the keynote speaker, had to change his schedule. “Oh, didn’t you hear that it changed yesterday?” our colleagues asked.

My husband and I started a citywide English club for all students of English at any school – private or public, university or high school. We publicized it on all campuses. We listed the time, place and agenda. We specified that it was hora americana, not hora panamena and that if you were late, you’d miss all the fun. What do you know – they arrived on time. We followed our agenda. We ended as scheduled. It was a tremendous success. Everyone wanted to increase from monthly meetings to bi-monthly. Maybe things can slowly change by our example.

Meanwhile, I have to lighten up. I cannot let these cultural differences get the best of me. But sometimes my only reaction echoes the great quote from Charles Schultz’s Peanuts gang: AAUGH!!!!

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Counting blessings

If Halloween is here, can Thanksgiving be far behind? Have you taken time to count your blessings? All of us have much to be thankful for, even little things we’re rarely aware of.

Recently in Peace Corps Panama, I attended a workshop with many members of my old training group. All of us have been in site working on our assignments for a few months. It was fun to see one another again and compare notes on our experiences.

Some volunteers live in extremely poor communities where they have no electricity (think: no refrigeration), no indoor plumbing, they bathe and do laundry in a river, they use 10 gallon drums as makeshift latrines, they boil, filter, and treat river water with chlorine pills before drinking, they sleep on a floor, they eat mainly rice and plantains every day, occasionally they get chicken (if neighboring families decide to kill one that’s running around squawking).

Usually the volunteer is the only English speaker in the area. Cell phone service is rare. If he or she wants to visit a fellow Peace Corps site, that involves a long hike, maybe 2-3 hours, or catching a boat off an island or a canoe up the river. If he or she wants to go to a larger town to buy supplies, it often involves an overnight stay, depending on boat or bus schedules.

After dark there is little to do in pitch blackness. Volunteers go through many batteries in efforts to read. Candles attract too many bugs. Sometimes a solar-powered car battery emits a feeble light. Therefore, bedtime is 8:30 for many of them.

That’s not such a bad idea if they’ve worked all day wielding machetes to clear land, planted crops, harvested rice, helped construct an aqueduct, planted organic cacao, set up a business to promote sales of local artesania and crafts, led a meeting about environmental health, AIDS awareness, recycling projects, organized a local Olympics for the kids … these volunteers get tired! Some of them can sleep for 10-12 hours.

They may have to build their own houses. They get help from community members to cut trees, gather wood and collect penca, dried leaves lashed together to form a roof. They fashion a floor out of bamboo-like sticks, about four feet off the ground to keep out bugs, snakes, rodents and moisture. There are no walls. They store their gear in coolers.

They charge their ipods whenever they get to a city or town. They buy an hour of time in an Internet cafe. They make their phone calls. They may stay in a cheap hotel or hostel and enjoy a real shower and sit on an actual toilet. If they’re feeling protein deprivation they’ll scarf down big meals in local dining spots. Then they head back to their sites.

They do this for two years, the usual Peace Corps service.

You may wonder why I keep saying “they.” Aren’t I in the Peace Corps? Didn’t we all receive the same training? Ah, here’s where I start counting my blessings.

If you have read previous blogs, you know that my husband and I teach English in a large high school (1200 students) in a city of about 80,000 people. We rent a room in Doris’ house, where we have a private tiled bathroom, a ceiling fan, a closet and drawers to store our stuff. Her kitchen has a large refrigerator, a microwave and a washing machine. She has two tv’s that get cable channels. We are a 15-minute walk from supermarkets, drug stores, department stores, restaurants, Internet cafes where we can download podcasts, cafes, barber shops and salons. If it rains, we can hail a taxi. I know … Is it the Peace Corps or the Posh Corps?

Sure, I’m glad we don’t have to live quite so primitively. We had our weeks in training where this was the case so I know what it’s like. If you look at prior blogs I have written on the SMU page, you know that our work is not without frustration. The education system in Panama is backward, with a third-world feel. We beat our heads against the wall trying to implement more effective classroom techniques, but we meet with resistance from those in charge who prefer to do things the old way. We work hard as professional developers. That is what Peace Corps is all about.

Still, these remote sites where my fellow trainees work have many blessings, too. They are not slums or war zones. There are no armed terrorists. Families are together, children can play and go to school. Everyone can pursue a dream. They just need extra guidance and encouragement. It’s not easy but I guess that’s why they say Peace Corps is “the hardest job you’ll ever love.”

Happy holiday season, SMU. Don’t forget to be thankful for your blessings in life.

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One person at a time

Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged when problems are so numerous and insurmountable, when a situation is difficult with so many obstacles to overcome. Such is the education system in Panama.

Our Peace Corps assignment, my husband’s and mine, is to work in the Escuela Normal in Santiago, which trains all public school primary teachers in the country. We are to work with the English program, to strengthen the language skills and methodology. What we have found so far is that the program seems to offer classroom skills to work with young children, such as songs and games, rather than teaching English. The truth is, the students at the school cannot speak English, despite years of study.

For example, if they learn a children’s song (“If You’re Happy and You Know It” or “Good Morning Mr. Sun”), they memorize the sounds, the words have no meaning and their rendition is barely recognizable. Learning is rote rather than integrated and cognitive. Another example: a unit on clothing vocabulary. Words are written on the board, pronounced, repeated, defined and entered in students’ notebooks. They may do matching games with the vocabulary and label diagrams. At the end of the unit, they have a test. Oh, teacher, they plead. Will it be hard? Ay, no, es facilito, she assures them. Don’t worry, it’s easy.

If it were me, (and you who know how I like to teach Spanish at SMU) I would role-play shopping for items such as girls buying party dresses in a department store, or students in a shoe store trying on boots or shoes … we assign roles for customers, clerks, we ask how much things cost, what sizes and colors. I would bring a large bag with clothing items, students reach in a pick out something and describe it. This encourages use of the target language. It’s active, not passive.

In class, if I notice a quiet student, I may try to draw her out. The teacher might say, oh, don’t expect much from her … she’s lazy, she doesn’t do the work, she’s slow -right in front of the student. But, scratch the surface and you might find that she has to walk several miles to get to school, she has only one uniform and washes it each night, there may not be enough food at home, no electricity to study in the dark, she has chores to do or younger kids to care for when she gets home … many reasons for inattentiveness. We can’t even pop in to observe classes without prior consent from the department – the coordinator has to sign off on this.

I submitted a course proposal for an English class I want to teach. I had to write it according to the Ministry of Education guidelines. The department chair scolded me for placing things in the wrong columns, such as content information in the resource area, or mixing up methodology with objectives. You have to fix it, I was told. They will never accept it like this. It’s format over substance, always.

One Peace Corps volunteer nearby says that in teaching English in her community, attrition has weeded out all who don’t want to put forth real effort. She’s down to working regularly with one or two people. So that’s where she puts her energy.

That’s where the impact is, I guess. We can touch one person at a time. Progress is excruciatingly slow. I hope I feel that I have made a difference in my community by the time my service is finished. Maybe I will have to be content with having touched a few people in a meaningful way. I can’t expect to turn the world upside down, after all.

(The opinions expressed are my own and in no way reflect the views of the Peace Corps.)

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