The Index: Round Two

20 12 2011

Last month, I included a link for a short piece I wrote for my parents’ newspaper, the Homer Index. I have since discovered that the link (obviously) doesn’t work after a while because, even in the small town of Homer, the news changes. So for the soon-to-be-published second installment of the series, I have chosen to just include the text below. I will be writing new content for the paper every 4-8 weeks (tag: index), so keep your eyes peeled.

(PS – If you live in the Homer area, you should just subscribe to the paper. Don’t make me feel guilty for posting this online for the other blog readers with no connection to my hometown.)

Downtown Homer, Home of the Index

Here it is.

The first couple of months in a new host community can be some of the most difficult for Peace Corps Volunteers, who are trying to settle into their new lives despite a language barrier, striking cultural differences, and an ambiguous job title. It’s a time for exploration, asking questions, making mistakes and recognizing potential.

My husband Tim and I have been at our site for only two months, but we’ve experienced all of these things already. As Peace Corps Volunteers, the expectations of us can seem vague. We know we are supposed to support the community’s development and facilitate cultural exchange, but what does that look like on a day-to-day basis? It can be a complicated question to navigate.

Fortunately, at the request of the Royal Government of Cambodia, the Peace Corps has given us primary assignments to help focus our work, particularly at the beginning of our two years of service. My title is Community Health Educator at our town’s health center, while Tim is an English teacher and youth development worker at the public high school.

Tim has found his job at the school to be straightforward and enjoyable. He teaches seven sections of English, alongside two Cambodian teachers. His job is to simultaneously help the students improve their English skills, while building the capacity of the full-time teachers to effectively and creatively plan and conduct English lessons. He also leads an optional English club that supplements the official Cambodian curriculum by using inventive activities to help the students improve their conversation skills.

While Tim is busy teaching classes, I spend my mornings at our local health center or doing health outreach in nearby villages. My role is to provide education on issues like maternal health, childhood nutrition, and water and sanitation. Because I have no set classroom or group of students, I have begun teaching the patients in the health center as they wait for a consultation or to receive their medications. I also work with a group of volunteers who have committed to being the liaison between the health center and the surrounding communities. Soon we will coordinate regular health classes in the villages together.

These assignments have provided us an entryway into the community, allowing us to build relationships with our coworkers and learn more about our new home. However, these jobs currently require only 20 hours a week, leaving us with plenty of time and energy to commit to secondary projects that can help our site.

For now, our secondary projects consist mostly of teaching private English classes to our coworkers and friends in the community, but they will likely transform into wider-reaching projects as we learn more about the desires and skills of the people who live here.

Even though we have found ourselves busy with our primary assignment and our private English classes, we have still found enough time to explore our new home. Afternoon bike rides through the rice paddies, wedding receptions and community gatherings have all given us insight into the warm, rich culture that we’ll be surrounded by for the next two years. If these first two months of service are any indication of how the rest of our time here will be, we are in for quite an exciting time.

Katie

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2 responses

20 12 2011
kbergen

Lovely as usual!

21 12 2011
timkatstravels

Thanks, Kaija.

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