Teacher orientation began on Friday, January 15th here in Costa Rica. Most of the new volunteers were flying in from the states on the day before. I met up with a few of them in San Jose and we were driven out to El Centro Espiral Maná in El Imbu de Peñas Blancas de San Ramon, just south of La Fortuna. On the first day we met with Marta Blanco from the Presidential Office, Aitor Llodio from ALIARSE, and our new leader/teacher trainer, Emma Torres. We discussed the project, it's goals and mission, and how we would play an integral part in achieving those objectives. I felt inspired to know that I was going to be involved with such an important program for Costa Rica, and that I might play a role in improving the lives of my students by helping them get better jobs. Through this work the program also aims to improve the economy of Costa Rica by making it a more appealing place to develop international businesses - with more English speakers more jobs will be brought here. And how exciting to know that each one of these teachers here will become a part of some small community or another, reaching out to the locals and making an impact on their education.
Lodging at Centro Espiral Maná
For the next 5 days we worked on preparing ourselves to teach. We covered topics such as lesson planning and objectives, learning styles, ECRIF, and cultural issues. Emma was great about answering all of our questions and addressing any concerns we had about the program. We also enjoyed delicious home cooked meals made by two lovely tica cooks 3 times a day. They even made us snacks for our breaks and desserts too (the class favorites included coconut cookies and rice pudding...YUM!) On Sunday we had the morning free so we took a trip to La Fortuna. We hoped to visit Volcán Arenal but as is often the case it was really cloudy and we couldn't see much. Instead we opted for a relaxing visit to the hot springs which was really nice. We spent some time walking around La Fortuna and meeting some of the locals there as well. It's a beautiful little town with stunning views of the Volcano as a backdrop, definitely a must see here in Costa Rica.
We did some practice teaching on the last day with the local students in El Imbu and the class went really well! We all felt good about getting up there in front of the class and realizing that we weren't as nervous as we thought! The Costa Rican people are usually super nice and easy to work with, and I think we all got a little more excited about all the wonderful people we will be getting to know in our respective communities. Connecting with the locals and making new friends will be one of the most rewarding parts of this program. And we've already begun to experience that with each other. The last night at training we had a little party, danced and played poker, and drank (maybe a little too much) Flor de Caña, a delicious Nicaraguan rum. It was a great ending to our orientation session!
Fiesta de Despedida
Yesterday we headed out to our sites...Montezuma/Mal Pais, Turrialba, Uvita, and Puerto Jimenez. I was super excited to finally arrive in my community and get settled in, but it was a little sad to be parting ways with the other volunteers - we've all become good friends and naturally bonded after spending 5 days together. We do plan to keep in touch and possibly take trips to visit eachother on the weekends so hopefully we can make that happen. And with the internet we can keep each other posted on our progress and share lesson plan ideas. Are we ready to teach? I think we're all feeling a lot more confident and prepared now, definitely a little scared about those first few days, but ready to jump in and start swimming. Becoming a great teacher is an ongoing process and we will always be making improvements to our methods and critiquing ourselves. I think the best we can do is just to trust our instincts, embrace our mistakes, and strive to constantly be better. How exciting to have this opportunity to teach and to learn so much about Costa Rica and about ourselves! VAMOS!