For those of you just tuning in, FBT is a PCA (Peace Corps Acronym) for “Field Based Training.” It is also the entirety (plus one day more) of Week Four of PST for Peru 31. Picture a lush and sweeping Andean landscape – and at the base of an unforgiving precipice is a muddied run-off alpine river.
Eleven out of 22 Peru 31 CED trainees were assigned to a town in the departamento (think, equivalent of a U.S. state) of La Libertad for FBT. Huamachuco is a provincial capital city at approximately 10,000 feet elevation and around 40,000 people – surrounded by visually significant mining for gold, silver, and coal. The population is a mixture of contemporary Peruvians and indigenous Quechua and the climate is typical high-mountain weather during the end of rainy season. (Cold, damp, or warm and instant sunburn… to sudden hail and/or delusional rain storm.)
- Trainees experience a cierra climate, where 54.56-66.67% of us will be placed (a “moving” estimate whose speculated average is around 12 spots). (Did I mention we find out Thursday?)
- PC Training Staff supports/coaches trainees who will in pairs/threes present a small business workshop to local students over the course of four days, culminating in a competition of formal business plans, a bank loan, and selling of products
- Continue ongoing language training and immersion in preparation for Week Five’s LPI (Language Proficiency Interview). Trainees need to meet or exceed Intermediate Mid to swear-in as a PC volunteer.
- Force trainees talk to strangers in the street to “simulate” the excruciating pain and embarrassment of trying to find and work with new partners (socios) at site. (Ex. Approaching locals trying to enjoy the sun in the plaza to help you with your Spanish homework, such as “Excuse me. Good morning. Can you show me how to play Marbles?”) As one might be expected to do in “real life” at site.
- Inform trainees to prepare curriculum to teach 30+ 16&17 year olds who just happen to turn out to be eleven to 13 year olds and just for fun, add ten to 20 new students half-way through the course, without warning. (Si se puedes!)
- Ask each individual CED trainee (in pairs) to present the Peace Corps and the CED sector to small, local professional groups and inform said trainee/s 30-seconds before there will be 80-800 more people attending the presentation (also super valid real-site training)
- Trainees may develop many new, loudly silent, facial scowl skills. Feed them ice cream before they mutiny.
- Break any aspirantes remaining habits of having any version of emotional attachment, preparedness, courteous professionalism, or expectations for weeks five, six, seven… through Week 118.
Saturday, April 7:
Travel: Double-decker, 180-degree massage chair sleeper bus. Not a terrible way to get through ten to twelve hours of travel from capital cities, Lima to Trujillo.
Sunday, April 8:
In Trujillo, the 22 person CED group split into two vans. Group #1 went to balmy “foothills” of Tembladera in Cajamarca and Group #2 headed east up up up around up into big mountains and wet cold.
We arrived to Huamachuco in the late afternoon, unpacked in our hostel rooms, and continued to work on our lesson plans for the week.
Monday-Thursday, April 9-12:
Meet for group breakfast at local café at 7am. Language class from 8-10am. Visit local potential business partners such as municipality, directors of education, local colegios (primary and secondary schools) artisans, technical schools, etc.. An hour for additional prep time to make papelotes (think old school analog version of power point on brown paper sheets). Group lunch (ensalada, chifa y arroz) from 12-1, more presentations, and teach students from 2:30-5:30. Debrief until 6:30, go back to hostel and prep for the next day’s three-hour class. Figure out dinner somewhere in town. Or eat all the cookies you accidentally added to your bag before leaving class.
Taller de Emprendiendo:
My partner in taller (workshop) crime was Preston, a fellow volunteer and neighbor in Chosica, with bright energy, enthusiasm, and kindness. Where my strengths lay more in lesson planning and activities (*ahem* IN ENGLISH *cough*) his strength continues onward into Spanish. We learned rapidly how to cooperatively co-facilitate on the fly with initially a group of 12 students
that grew to 22 on Tuesday and then shrunk back down to 18 on days three and four. At one point I looked at Preston with sky-high eyebrows asking him to translate one student’s thorough response to a question and Preston just said “I have no idea, I just said ‘Yes.'” Eso. And we team-exhaled and moved on.
Truth: After three weeks of training I did not feel anywhere near prepared or ready to teach a week-long technical class in Spanish, let alone to teenagers. I felt forced to make a very deliberate internal decision to let go of any hope or expectation I would have any glimmer of success or satisfaction from competency.
Fine. Throw me off the cliff. Count the bones.
Yet the short version of a rigorous, emotionally whiplashing week, is that the moment I sat down with one of our student groups at the bank, I got it.
I got the reason why we were forced into (again, my perspective, my choice of words here, my learning) this horrifically uncomfortable situation, often resentful I didn’t feel supported or set up for success. For me, it was first about what and how I wanted to teach (expectations further amplified in English) versus what I am currently capable of to do.
But it turns out it wasn’t about me.
It had nothing to do with if I feel / am ready. It has nothing to do with how well I spoke to a class of “scary” teenage students. Surprisingly, it even has little -to-nothing to do with how well I understood the workshop content.
It had everything to do with what happened on Thursday.
In this business workshop, our students created one-day-business ideas to execute for two hours on a Thursday in their community. Wednesday, when they sat down to apply for a loan, they understood the components of their 12-page business plans (executive summary, community needs/solutions, competition, financial analysis, marketing, and loan-sequencing) and answered the banker’s questions.
They received their loans (about $10 worth of US currency in Soles) and coordinated with their groups, went shopping, made their products, made signs, and traveled the mercado, plaza, and schools for customers.
We found them in the market. We asked them about their products. We asked how much they had left. We asked about the point of equilibrium and how much more they had to go to return the loan at 2%. We asked them to pose for photos we will carry into our future sites.
The look on each of their faces (and their bright, bright lights) when they returned to school after successfully selling and re-paying their loans changed the narrative I was dragging around.
I am pretty sure these students aren’t going to remember our grammar.
Friday, April 13:
After trying to explain April Fool’s on Easter, I skipped mentioning Friday the Thirteenth. We returned via van to Trujillo and reunited with the other CED group Thursday night at a hotel with hot water and a roof terrace.
Friday was another day of programming (presenting to GRELL, Generencia Regional de Education La Libertad and coastal debrief (and omg CEVICHE) before returning to the bus station for a return overnight trip to Lima. We divided up into taxis per neighborhood group and I am guessing most of us took a long nap after fifteen days straight of training. #weekfive
Stay tuned for the results of Week Five where Thursday I have my LPI (results likely not instantaneous) and we find out where we are placed for the next two years.
In the meantime… some of you have asked: