|Peace Corps Volunteers with US Ambassador's Wife - Bogota|
Every day people ask me why I am here in Cartagena and how long I plan to stay. I have a few one liners to explain my presence. "I am an English teacher... the US and Colombian governments are working together to improve English instruction... at least 9 months..." If someone is really interested, I explain the Peace Corps, and if he or she is really, really interested I tell them it has three goals:
• Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
• Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
• Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
I find it funny that no one ever asks me if I accomplish these goals. I have #2 down. Sometimes I feel like Uncle Sam's niece as I am humming "You're a Grand Ole Flag" and teaching how to pronounce the words "United States of America." I'm on my way to completing #3 via this blog, Facebook, and YouTube and giving presentations when I get home. Hopefully, followers are getting the idea that Colombia isn't just drug cartels and kidnappings. But most importantly, what about goal #1? Am I meeting the needs of the Colombian government and its schools? Are its teachers being trained to suit the need of better English instruction in public schools? In a month, I will hand in an Excel spreadsheet to my boss stating, "Yes, I am fulfilling Colombia's needs and more." It will have a list of our English project goals and objectives and I will have typed some numbers and comments next to them that will make my work look exceptional. That's easy to do since, I am working with a very talented Colombian teacher. Gabriel has been teaching English for 16 years, speaks it fluently, and is far better trained in language instruction than I, even with my master's degree in ESL Education. He can make illogical English grammar make sense and 18 year olds laugh while reciting irregular past tense verbs. Gabriel is already the trained teacher Colombia and its schools need.
So, where do I come in? Am I simply the cheapest diplomat the US has ever every hired? On July 1st, I will have completed my minimum 9 month service and be proud that I helped with Peace Corps's reentry into Colombia after 30 years. I guess accomplishing 2 out of 3 goals ain't bad, right? 33.3% of me says, "No, now it's time to help Colombia."