Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Second Year of Work

For Sally and I, our second year of service at site started last September. It has been a good year so far with a number of ups and downs that are consistent with Peace Corps Service.  Many Volunteers kick off their second year with extreme optimism about what they will accomplish. I was definitely in that group. I looked to the second year as opportunity to really achieve something great, but PC service is nothing if not a constant period of adjustment, change of perspectives, and re-evaluation of hope.

In many ways, the second year has been easier. I now know who I can rely on for help, how the school schedule works, and more than a years’ worth of experience with Mongolian culture. Yet for many volunteers, myself included, starting the second year with super high expectations can be a challenge. We jump into the new school year with the expectation that the difficulties we faced in the first year will be just a breeze this year. As the sports and dance competitions wash over us, as the annual parties occur, as students stop showing up to clubs or activities, it becomes increasingly apparent that we (the second year volunteer) are not free from these challenges. At this point, I realized that I needed to revisit my expectations for service. I started the second year believing that many of the big projects I was unable to accomplish would be possible with my experience. What I’ve come to realize is that to measure the value of service in large, visible, exciting new projects is a fallacy that a PCV must logically set aside.

So after a mid-service crisis and a change of perspective, I have come to realize the value of the small stuff. This does not mean that the daily frustrations of PC service- the lack of attendance, the miscommunications, the sudden schedule changes- do not bother me; rather I have reached a place where all is expected. My expectations have become realistic. I now know that I will not be single-handedly bringing Special Olympics to my city, because my city and the organizations involved are not ready for this. And that is okay. I realize now that the hours I spend with one person trying to improve their English, so that they can study aboard is equally valuable in terms of service.  And here lies the beauty of PC service. We continue to lay a foundation, so that even if we are unable to bring about the changes and improvements we desire, then the community members and future volunteers can build off of our legacy. The students that we work with can become people who help future volunteers bring about better changes and improvements. 

My second year has been a continuation of a number of projects and clubs that I started last year. I have English speaking clubs and English movie clubs for both high school and middle school students. I also go to my dorms on a weekly basis to watch a movie with the students there. For my English teachers, I offer an advanced English class that meets multiple times a week. This year I have also started holding regular office hours in which students and teachers can meet with me for one-on-one assistance or just as an opportunity to chat with a native speaker.  As a Community Youth Development volunteer, my job is to try to focus on soft life skills, so I often us my clubs as a platform to have discussions on empathy, planning, etc.

Sally and I also do a number of projects together. On Mondays, we offer a number of classes to adults in the community. These include beginners English classes at the Emergency department and the Courthouse, an English teachers methodology class for teachers in the city, and a trio of community speaking classes with separate levels of advanced, intermediate, and beginner.

I have also recently started an advanced speaking community class for high school students. I’ve been rather proud of this class because it cuts across schools and allows students of similar skill level to meet together to play games and improve their English.

The cutest class, by far, is a ballroom dancing class that I assist Sally with at her school. She has a number of young students that worship her and love the opportunity to spend time with her outside of the class room. So far we have been able to teach a large group of excited 5th and 6th graders the basics of western waltz, swing, and salsa.

So while the second year of service has brought on a number of challenges both old and new, it has still been a worthwhile one so far.


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