Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rehashing that Last Monday

Bare with me, this one is long.

Sunday night we slept at Hanna's place in Apia. Monday morning brought Cale phone calls from both of his star pupils. Cale joked that neither of them had figured out that school had ended and had shown up on Monday morning like usual.

However, it was a gold star ending to Cale's service. The one student who Cale trained in Linux (and who Cale hopes to help go to school overseas) took it upon himself to ask at a local internet cafe if there was any part-time work for him. It was the cafe that Cale had been watching over while the owner was out of the country in the previous few months. So the owner knew Cale and Cale had talked up the student and introduced the two of the previously. The student was calling because he had been offered work to set up a Linux lab for this cafe owner and wanted to get into the school computer lab to get the how-to book he and Cale's other star pupil had written together on setting up the computer lab.

Cale was bursting with pride over this kid, who in addition to being smart and well-trained, also showed the initiative and self-confidence to go out and get himself a job immediately.

Cale also had the opportunity to talk to the director of the school board on Sunday. The director specifically asked about the student he had trained to talk over teaching next year. So Cale is feeling slightly better about the possibility of the school board actually hiring this student. There is still some worry, since JICA is advertising for a computer volunteer to teach either at my school or Cale's. I am having a hard time with that. There are three computer teachers at my school and enough classes for three teachers. How can you ever find out if they can do the job themselves if you keep sending in volunteers to do it?

Monday we ran lots of little errands around Apia and visited with our host family one last time. Things are a little rocky for them now. The father of the family just returned the private van he was driving for the owners. It was costing him $300 talal a week for the use of the van and because it wasn't a licensed taxi, he couldn't really make that much money on the car. So now our host mom is supporting the entire family with help from the oldest daughter in Samoa, who has a job at a restaurant. Hopefully our host mother will still find time to finish the classes she was taking on scholarship in adult education at the National University. She is interested in teaching. We told her to keep an eye out for available Peace Corps trainer jobs in October of next year when the new group arrives.

We also had our exit interview with Dale. It's a pretty short debrief where the country director asks about your service. It was interesting to me because walking out of the interview, I know we had been very negative, yet we had still insisted we would do it all over again. A lot of things that we are negative about are hopefully things that will change in the new program that Group 82 is piloting. It's a waiting game to see how things turn out for them.

My two biggest complaints with my service was the lack of appraisals for volunteers and the lack of accountability for host country agencies. This is the first time I have had a job that doesn't have at minimum an annual appraisal when some one sits down with you to assess your work and offer constructive criticism. Especially as someone who has never taught before, it would have been nice to have someone look at what I was doing and let me know if it was ok or not.

My other issue is a school can say just about anything necessary to get a volunteer and then not be held accountable with following through with any of those things. For example, there is a school that knows the Peace Corps sends vocational instructors for trades, so they request those, knowing full well that they have no intention of using the volunteers in that way and instead have them teach Social Studies in the secondary school. Very few of the teacher volunteers in country have true counterparts. We are all trained in co-teaching and told this is something we will do and then none of us have anyone to co-teach with. There's no sustainability if you don't partner with someone in country while you are here.

Because this blog is so long, I am going to break it up. Tune in next time when Sara writes about their last meal at Italiano's and the trip to the airport.

— Sara

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